Life is Practice

September 4, 2013

I’ve never really been a musician. Oh, I’ve dabbled. I played guitar as a kid and teenager for about 8 years or so, but then dropped it. I picked up the drums when I was 40, then kind of stupidly sold them to make room for a partner to move into my place at 41. (She moved out when I was 42, but I never did get another set of drums.) I do have a guitar mostly collecting dust in a corner of our living room, and a couple of small African drums in my study. Like I said, I’ve never been a musician.

But I know a lot about practicing. Practicing life is a lot like practicing playing an instrument. It takes a lot of work and attention. And sometimes you’ll make a horrible racket, and other times you’ll come out with a beautiful symphony. And the cool part is just like playing an instrument, the more you practice, the better you get. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the practice isn’t work.

This is the great thing: whether you are making a horrible racket or are coming out with a symphonic masterpiece, you can still have joy. In fact, it doesn’t even matter. Right now, I feel like I am in a moment of cacophony – the horn section is out of sync with the strings, and the timpani – oy – it’s an unholy mess. I’m re-assessing recent decisions, re-evaluating priorities, and it’s messy, and the future feels uncertain. But I’m happy anyway.  I know, it’s kind of strange. It’s even surprising me.

The reason I’m happy is because I don’t have to identify with the cacophony I am creating of my life. It’s just the racket that comes with along practicing. None of us has to. Making mistakes in life means learning and growth. It’s all good to be a student of life. And I know that somehow, there is a symphonic masterpiece happening right now, even amid the cacophony and mess.

And underneath it all is a truth – like the musical essence of a guitar, or a drum, there is an underlying foundation for us to find – our true life’s purpose.

For a while, I thought that I must have some specific life’s purpose. Some specific vocation, or specific set of tasks to accomplish before I leave this planet. But the recent racket I’ve been making has taught me is that my purpose is a lot simpler, and a lot more difficult. My life’s purpose is to simply to live my life, in every moment, with compassion and generosity. It doesn’t even matter what I do, as long as I do what I’m doing with compassion and generosity. It’s both mind-bogglingly simple, and mind-bogglingly difficult.

That out of tune timpani you are hearing in the background? That’s me. I’m tuning. Just wait for a bit.



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