I met a renowned musician last week and we shared a laugh – one of those incredulous laughs that mask the fact that you actually want to cry – when he told me that he was asked by someone he was working for at the time why he had to practice so much. Hadn’t he already learned how to play his instrument? I had the same question asked of me several years ago by someone who really should have known better and I didn’t have a good comeback then, though I’ve thought of a thousand since. Should a professional athlete forgo practice and just show up for the games? Should a lawyer read up on new laws and court decisions or just wing it? Same for a doctor? And shouldn’t we all just be able to sit quietly in a comfortable seated position for extended prayer or meditation at any given moment?
There’s a reason we use the word “practice” for musicians and athletes, medical and legal professionals, and even yogis. Anything we want to do better requires us to practice, and these pursuits are lifelong commitments for many of us.
To practice something which we want to have as part of our lives was an idea brought to my mind again this week during a Rosh Hashanah service for which I was playing (I practiced quite a lot for it, by the way). The Rabbi talked about a practice he wanted to incorporate more fully into his life – that of thanking someone for the blessing of allowing him to perform a mitzvah, a word which can mean an act of kindness. He wants to make it a habit to thank those who allow him to be helpful. Habits don’t become an integral part of our lives without practice.
Does anyone remember the bumper sticker that was quite popular in the late 1980’s which read: Practice random kindness and commit senseless acts of beauty?
These things don’t happen without practice. The practice of lifelong commitment to being and doing better.
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Where I’ll be:
September 4 through November 20 – organist/choir director at Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church (1 Chevy Chase Circle, Washington, D.C.) while their Music Director is on sabbatical. http://www.chevychasepc.org
Also in October, I will be playing for the High Holy Days (a first for me) for the Bethesda Jewish Congregation.
November 6 – 4:00, playing for John Rutter’s Requiem with the choir of All Saints Episcopal Church, Chevy Chase.
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This blog represents my attempt to put thoughts together on various things that seem to connect – in my mind anyway. More often than not new ideas first involve reaching back to what was and I can only hope that the prehistoric San cave painting at the top of this page inspires all kinds of new connections between old and new.
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