Practice Logged: 20 hours
I don’t want to demonize my poor little violin by blaming it for my recent lack of creative energy, but honestly I think I’m devoting a lot of mental cycles to figuring this thing out.
The speed of learning can’t hold, though. I’m not even remotely suggesting I’m preternaturally inclined towards this instrument, but I think that dedicated and serious practice over the last three weeks has resulted in a solid accumulation of foundational skill and basic knowledge. But like anything, there are the easy things to learn… and then there are the tough things to learn. There are the skills that let you play a violin, and then there is a whole lot of experience and practice to learning to play it well.
I think I’ve worked my way up to the lower basecamp of Mount Violin, done a bit of a mental gear check, and noted that yeah… I’ve figured out the notes, I’ve worked out how the grips should be, and sound erupts from this hunk of wood when I move my arm: but I haven’t even really started my climb. I guess what I’m trying to metaphorically imply is that if playing the violin were Everest, I’m still pulling the labels off my hiking boots and negotiating with my sherpa.
It’s a long climb ahead.
About as often as you’d expect, I’ve been asked a pretty standard question: “why the violin?”
Why climb Everest?
Why run a marathon?
Why do something difficult, at all?
Why challenge yourself in any way, actually?
Why not just park on the couch and binge watch Netflix reruns? Why not just nap on the couch in front of a hockey game on tv?
Well, when you put it that way…
my only audience for the intervening 9 years and 364 days might be no one other than me
At the same time, the violin, for me at least, is not about impressing anyone. I know I vowed to host a performance in roughly a decade, to showcase how good (or not) all this effort has made me. But at the same time, and I mentioned this the other day to Karin as we were driving, my only audience for the intervening 9 years and 364 days might be no one other than me… and I’m cool with that. I may just play the violin for myself, like the most difficult to operate iPod on the planet, or as a way to chill to some live music: myself.
I read this article recently –after I started this violin effort, oddly enough– and it put this into a kind of perspective that totally aligned with my mental state on the energy I’ve been devoting to it. Simply, we spend our lives working towards acquiring things that make our lives easier: phones with simple and easier interfaces, meals that are pre-cooked, cars that drive themselves, robotic vacuum cleaners, and loads of other things that take away the thinking part of living our lives. I’m not saying we’re not obligated to think about things, but those things that are left are more abstract: parenting, politics, culture, identity, and taxes. I find myself craving a connection with the real world, with real work, with real effort: looking after a garden with real dirt and bugs and weeds, cooking food on cast iron pans over real fire, building stuff with my hands, feeling the air on my face and the rain on my neck as I run through rough trails and push branches out of the way and… And now, learning the move my hands in careful, precise unison across a piece of wood and steel and plastic and fibre to create music: it’s because it’s difficult that it’s worth doing, that it fills a bit more of that space in my heart.
Because it requires my precious mental cycles.
Because it drains my creative energy into something so intangible and fleeting that it vanishes into the air the moment I stop.
That’s worth the effort.