Saturday, April 13, 2019

Perseverance

"And have you decided that probably nothing important is ever easy? 
Not, say for the first sixty years…"            -Mary Oliver: Halleluia

My sister just sent me a flyer for her upcoming show titled: APPROACHING 70: 50 Years of Life in Dance. And this got me thinking about longevity, about perseverance.

In my own life, I've spent 61 years playing piano, 46 years keeping a journal, 46 years practicing Zen meditation, 45 years in the same marriage, 44 years at the same school, 43 years giving Orff workshops to teachers, 35 years in the same house, 30 years traveling worldwide and teaching, 30 years meeting in the same Men’s Group. I would say that perseverance and long-term commitment runs deep in my blood. And my sister’s too, still dancing after all these years. The riches of longevity, the gifts of staying the course. 

All of it vulnerable to entropy, some sense of winding down, of becoming mere habit, of a  flame slowly burning out with no new sparks to re-ignite it. But at least in my teaching, piano playing, writing, the enthusiasm has not waned, indeed, the flame feels like it’s burning brighter than ever before. I spoke about this yesterday in the workshop. A pool of water will be stagnant if there is no spring feeding into it and no outlet flowing out from it. (Okay, the writer in me aware that I’ve mixed metaphors moving from fire to water, but hey, I’m teaching in an hour and no time to fix it! Let’s stay with the water for now.)

The outflow is sharing the ideas, processes and material I’ve spent a lifetime developing so that it will flow out to teachers who in turn will help allay the thirst of their students with its refreshing waters. And the spring feeding into it all is the habit of asking, “What else can we do? How else can we do this?”, that creative act of imagining and re-imagining a world of possibility. Even if I repeat the material (and I do—often) and even if I repeat more or less the same way of presenting it (also fairly often), I’m still searching for different ways to talk about it, different contexts in which to place it. And occasionally a new twist and turn appears and I’m happy to follow it. 

The spring itself is connected to a larger cycle of replenishment in the Water Cycle and thus, is perpetually renewed. Thus, art and that sense of tapping into an unending flow of perpetual possibility that refreshes and keeps it all alive, new, and vibrant. Not to mention the energy of the people themselves in the workshop reacting to the material and giving back their own excitement and enthusiasm. Recently a student commented that she was always surprised when an activity ended and she realized we had been working and playing for an hour and a half. Wholly immersed in the flow, there was no sense of time passing. That’s a good sign that springs are flowing.

Yesterday, passion. Today, perseverance. Tomorrow? Pepperoni Pizza?

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