Monday, October 21, 2019

Any Size

Out of the millions of words daily spoken, read or written, some are precisely what you need to hear at the moment and some stay with you a lifetime, guiding you through your vision of life well-lived. I was always struck my Gary Snyder’s Zen Master’s advice:


“Sweep the garden.
Any size.”

“Sweeping the garden” is the way we care for the world and show our care for the world, pulling out the weeds, dusting the cobwebs, making some beauty out of apparently random chaos. “Any size” means that it doesn’t particularly matter whether it’s a tiny plot of land or an immense acreage—it’s the act itself that brings the healing to a broken world and some pleasure to our efforts. 

Still, when we are on track and in the zone and have made a particularly lovely garden, we are happy to share it with even one friend, but don’t we wish that more can see it? Yesterday, I gave a workshop at my old alma mater, Antioch College. Since this was where I first stepped through the door of my life’s path when I met Avon Gillespie there in 1972, it felt like a satisfying circle to come back to where it all began and see if I might get some future karmic wheels spinning for another college student. When I first contacted the folks at Antioch, they suggested a Sunday afternoon workshop, made a flyer and assured me that would distribute it to the appropriate places. However, with the phrase “Just show up” on the flyer and no committed pre-registration, I suspected it might be a small crowd. And I was right. 

My class consisted of one elder person from the village of Yellow Springs who noticed the flyer somewhere, a woman who sang in the choir  my college friend who still lives in the area also attends, an Orff teacher who noticed me mentioning this on Facebook and having missed my Columbus workshop yesterday, came here instead. And the Antioch Registrar who helped organize the event. Four people. Not a single Antioch student or teacher. Of course, the college is struggling, quite small (around 100 students) and a walk through the campus feels a bit like a ghost town—literally didn’t pass a single student walking through to the workshop. But still. 

Nevertheless, I persisted and ended up giving a three-hour workshop that blended the game that Avon played with us 47 years ago, some old Antioch stories, live demonstration of the roots of jazz history and videos of my kids at school, grandchildren, mother showing what it means to be musical in the way that I mean it. I had a great time and so did the four people.

I should just accept that my “size” seems fated to be intimate and small. My TED talk viewers, blogposts, book buyers, CD buyers, concert goers, workshop attendants are in the hundreds or thousands (over time) instead of the millions and truly, it’s just the right amount of fame and fortune to satisfy any personal feelings of worthy work. But between my deep revisioning of what music and music education can be and the equally thought-out and lived vision of what education can contribute to our humanitarian promise and progress, why not a bigger audience? Why not speak at Nourse Auditorium like Ta-Nahesi Coates just did or be interviewed by Terry Gross or Oprah or get thousands instead of hundreds reading my blog or listening to my talk or reading my books? Just asking.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep sweeping the garden, any size, and happily so. 

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