The great educator Maria Montessori thought that young children were graced by an inner guide that knew precisely what they needed to grow and develop. And so she created carefully designed materials to put on shelves that would call out an inner potential—puzzles, building blocks, sandpaper letters, musical bells and such to stimulate the different parts of our psyche. She insisted that children have the freedom to choose what to take from the shelves and trusted their instincts that they would take precisely what they needed. Over and over again until something signaled that they were done with that for the moment and could take out something else.
I think we all have such inner guides, some magnetic compass always searching for our true north. We stand in front of the refrigerator shelves, our closet of clothes, our CD collection, our shelves of books, searching for the thing we need at the moment, the thing that calls louder than its neighbor. There are voices inside of us that guide our hands to this thing and not that and if you stop to think about it, isn’t that a grand mystery? From the micro level of choosing a shirt to the macro of choosing a mate or a career path, it’s the same principle at work. Some invisible conductor waves his/her baton and insists that now is the moment for the violin to enter and the trombone to take a rest and so choice by choice, our grand symphony plays itself out.
But the problem is—and there is always a problem with us frail mortals— that we need to be listening. That conductor may be flailing away, but if we’re checking our text messages, we’ll miss the cue. It takes a certain quality of silence to pay attention and there is a lot of static out in the airwaves. We open the refrigerator and our body knows “carrot,” but our mind is confused by the glitzy Pepsi ads promising to solve our dismal sex life. So much of modern life is a conspiracy to shut those needed voices down, to overpower them with what corporations and governments want you to think you need for their own power and profit.
And yet in the face of it all, the unseen hands and quiet voices and orchestral conductors keep working away and if we’re listening carefully enough, we start to build a life, choice by choice, surround ourselves with the food, the music, the stories, the art, the friends that we are meant to have and keep an eye out and an ear cocked for what’s next.
With my concert tomorrow night, I’m still thinking about what is to be my opening piece and stumbled upon a new one I’ve never played that caught my attention. It appears random, but I do believe that these unseen hands have brought me to this song and I’ve had the good sense to listen to them. Now I just have to learn it.
And so goodbye to words this morning and off to the language of crafted tones. Bye!