Sunday, May 17, 2020

Impossible Mastery

The 10thweek of sheltering begins, but who’s counting? (Whenever anyone writes that, the answer is obvious—“I am.”) It’s raining in May in San Francisco, more proof that normal has changed its address. April to November used to mean no rain and you could count on it. And yet we always need it, so there’s no complaining, even if it means long hours of being housebound with no bike ride in sight. 

Now some friends are saying that this is it for a year or so. My wife worries about when she’ll get her teeth cleaned and my daughter wonders where to get hugs. I maintain my “one day at a time—let’s see what the morning brings” attitude and continue the making of lemonade and searching out silver linings and walking on the sunny side of the street even when it’s overcast and raining. 

Today is the only day of the week I have no appointments on the screen, that glowing rectangle that used to be my work room and is now virtually the house I live in. Yesterday was a Zoom greeting with the 100 plus people I won’t meet this summer in the Orff Course, just a chance to connect a bit after sending the “course cancelled” letter. Later that day, my 90 minute Orff class with a few hundred teachers in Canada, not only the pleasure of sharing my work in ways that actually are useful, affirming and thought-provoking, but a chance to scroll through the 19 screens and see the lovely faces of so many people I have worked with in that lovely country. 

This would have been the week leading up to my long-anticipated retirement party next Saturday.  Maybe the mice will be there, but the men have abandoned those best-laid plans. I maintain an upbeat “oh well” attitude and it is sincere, but I know that great expanses of grief are lying in wait to rise up someday. Not just about my tiny personal disappointment, but gathering all the havoc of death, pain and suffering. And always just below the surface the profound, profound disbelief and astonishment that people in my country willfully elected, maintained, excused, supported (and at least 1/3 who still do!) this most vacuous incompetent soulless leader and his cronies. 

But I pull back from that rabbit hole and instead look up the origin of that term—ah, so, it’s reference to Alice in Wonderland! Perfect metaphor, as the White Queen is now the Orange King playing golf with upside-down flamingos crying “Off with their heads!” to the people he’s willing to sacrifice to the economy so he can maintain power. Oops, I’m down that Rabbit Hole!

Okay, Bach’s Goldberg Variations awaits me on this rainy day, with it’s constant invitation and challenge. “Yes, you’ve kept at this instrument for 63 years now and are getting a little bit better, but here are Variations 5, 14, 28, 29 to keep you properly humble and here’s Glenn Gould to either amp up your determination or confront you with the truth of “Why bother?” Well, stepping on the path toward a Mastery you will never achieve is still worthy, especially knowing you’ve achieved some mastery in other areas. Challenge Glenn Gould to a teach-off with 3-year-olds and see what happens! (Yes, I know he passed away a long time ago and that makes it easier. But you get my point, yes?)

Thank you for bearing witness as I step into the day through the doorway of language, another practice that promises a mastery impossible to achieve, but uplifting to attempt. If it is raining where you are, take a listen to Glenn Gould while figuring out your next inch of progress in mastering the field of your choice. If it’s sunny and warm, by all means get out of the house. Whether we step into it or not, summer is still around the corner. 

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