The Tao of Mandolin
"Where are you going?" my wife asks,
as I start up the stairs to my "room."
"I'm going to play."
I love to say that. I love that I am a musician
so that I can get away with saying, "I'm going to play." Few
adults get to say those words! Kids say them all the time,
and we think nothing of it; in fact, that's what we expect
them to do.
I was teasing a five-year-old boy several years
ago. I like to ask kids adult questions, very seriously,
and watch their reactions. "So, are you married?" I'll
ask. "Do you have any kids?" They love these teasing
questions. This little boy was a visitor in my house. I asked
him, very seriously, "So what do you do?" He looked
at me like I was insane. "I play!" he answered,
very seriously, his tone implying that I was stupid to ask
such an obvious question.
What a great answer! At five, play is indeed
our job. That little boy is now about 23, I imagine. If I
asked him that serious question now, his answer would probably
be a very serious one about work.
Unless he is a musician!
What do I do? I play.
Almost everyone allows some play in their lives.
We all must work and have discipline, but we all realize
that we need play. As Deng-Ming Dao writes in his book "Everyday
Tao," followers of Tao treasure fun and play.
"Through play," he writes, "the
letting go of our restrictions, the lighthearted association
of disparate and 'irrational' elements, the turning over
of established order, we open the way to our own creativity." We
should take play seriously, he says, because we can find
Tao outside the borders easier than inside. "If you
want to be with Tao," he concludes, "it is better
to put aside all that is 'important' and 'significant' and
just play. Be natural. You'll arrive at Tao a lot sooner
than if you make a 'special effort.' "
I have times when I work hard at playing the
mandolin. And I grow a lot when I do that, conscientiously,
with focus, with discipline. But I also grow by letting go
and just playing.
We should not feel guilty that we play. On the
contrary, it is a blessing that many adults deny themselves.
Play is there for the taking, just as it was when we were
children, when playing was our work.
Play your mandolin today, as innocently as a
five-year-old boy at his play.
(quotations from Deng-Ming Dao, "Everyday
Tao," HarperCollins, 1996, p. 144)
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