Saturday, January 10, 2015

Salting the Water


Not to criticize my wife publicly, but she did forget to salt the water while cooking the brown rice. One spoonful and I knew there was no hope. You can douse it with heaping helpings of soy sauce or sprinkle salt atop the grains and sprinkle it yet again, but none of it will make it right. There’s something about the way the right amount of salt in the water from the beginning permeates each grain and brings out its whole flavor from within. Just a little at the right time saves on overdose after the fact.

You can guess where this is going. “Get it right the first time” is my fantasy motto for a healthy culture that raises admirable human beings. Babies with natural births bonded with the mother, held often, spoken and sung to, danced with, kids who are wanted, sheltered, fed, clothed, protected, loved, challenged, understood for the delightful beings they are at each developmental stage and patiently nudged toward the next level of maturity.

Of course, the world rarely follows such utopian agendas and most of the stuff of the human drama, the thing that makes for good books and movies, are the lucky ones who didn’t get what they needed and rose to overcome it, the people who made every mistake and finally didn’t, the ones who were lost and now were found.

Yet still our duty as parents, teachers, elders, culture-bearers is to try to get right with our children what others didn’t get right with us. In my own field, my formal music lessons were far less damaging than an alcoholic abusive parent (thankfully, didn’t have one) and gave me a few gifts (musical literacy and Bach). But still, my life’s work is to give children a music education that “gets it right the first time” and allows them to feel their musicality as natural as their speech, gives them tools to play with others as a casual, intimate and occasionally profound conversation that is a universe more musical than simply decoding symbols and pushing down the right keys to please someone else. My job is to salt the water of each music class so the full flavor is brought out.

And then to pass on overarching visions and small details of a more complete musical—and humanistic—education to the next generation of teachers. This past week, I taught seven joyful classes a day to kids, two afternoon workshops to 20 young teachers-in-training and a full day (today) workshop to 35 teachers of all levels of experience. By any standard of work, I should have been exhausted. I wasn’t.

Well, maybe a little tired after six days straight with barely a pause. I think I can sleep in a bit tomorrow without guilt. And then enjoy an oatmeal breakfast. Properly salted, of course.

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