Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sending out a world wide hoo-doo

She is really digging these tunes, is she not?

 There's a lot on my mind that goes beyond the borders of this blog -- sad news from odd angles, and trains of thought too long and sooty to examine here. It is making it difficult for me to focus on this and, as the saying goes, be here now. The temptation then is to avoid being here at all, to put the blog on hold until suddenly everything seems easy again and I have just the right anecdote. But that defeats the purpose. The purpose is to make this a practice and a practice is not something you do only when you feel like it.

When I write the word "practice" I think of many things. I think about music practice, which my children are truant from just as I am truant from this blog. I think about the practice of law or medicine. I think about religious practice - specifically zen practice sticks out in my head. I think of the phrase "practice makes perfect."

Music practice with ZandO has been a learning experience for me. As a kid, I was terrible at music practice, as most kids are. I played the flute, which was all wrong for me as an instrument, and I didn't much like my band teacher (partly because he wouldn't let me play the saxophone, which is what I really wanted to play -- that and piano), so I had both those things working against me. But I was also a perfectionist, and the eternal imperfection of the practice session was very difficult for me. I wanted to play something and play it well enough and be done. But I see with my kids that the value is in the time spent with the instrument -- the repetition, the endless mistakes and corrections, the exploration. This is how a musician learns what is possible. (There is all kinds of research about this that I desire to cite, but again, that is outside the bounds of the blog, at this particular moment.) Watching music practice in this way has made me better (though always imperfect) at my writing practice ... In some sense, regular writing practice is the same as music practice -- most of what happens at the writing desk is not "performance level" but instead part of the constant going over and going over.

According to the OED, "practice" is the sense of "an established method of legal procedure" dates from the early 17th century. However, the slightly more general sense of "the carrying out or exercise of a profession or occupation" goes back to late Middle English. This all relates to the more philosophical distinction between practice and theory. (For the true word geeks among us, note that the OED has separate but similar entries for "practic" and "practise" -- these and many related words deriving ultimately from Greek, through Latin and French. So we can assume, I think, that this is something humans have spent a lot of time thinking about; not just me.)

And religious practice, zen practice. I have no zen training. But I like the idea of being present, of mindfulness and non-attachment. I appreciate the appreciation of impermanence. There is a famous passage from the Diamond Sutra:
A shooting star, a clouding of the sight, a lamp,
An illusion, a drop of dew, a bubble,
A dream, a lightning’s flash, a thunder cloud—
This is the way one should see the conditioned. (from a newish translation by Paul Harrison)
And finally, "perfect," which at its root means "to complete" or to make whole, not necessarily to be flawless, which is how we tend to think of it in common usage. So "practice makes perfect" = repetitive application of a skill or way of being is the means to wholeness! OK, well, we'll keep working on it. Right?

Reading: Yes, although having provoked my mother to read Carry the One, I fear she is now outpacing me (reading as competition?). I am still really enjoying this book, and also longing to get on to a new book to read too.

Writing: Oh, who the hell knows. Not enough. As I said, I am truant. And I will return. David's lovely Aunt Dede asked me about the book last week, and told me she keeps looking for me on the Times' list. This was meant as support, and I took it that way.

Dinner: Last night we had microwaved "baked" potatoes with butter and cheese and a lettuce salad. In the car on the way back from our adventures in mid-Ohio, David and I were talking about Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals , which he is listening to on CD, and contemplating changes to our eating habits. This something we revisit and readjust time and again -- going more towards the ideal and retreating from it. A kind of practice, if you will.

Soundtrack: When I got music out of the library for my recent solo drive to Columbus, I picked up a Chuck Berry CD, because I like Chuck Berry. I didn't realize at the time that Chuck Berry's Golden Hits is a disc of his classic Chess tracks he re-recorded for Mercury in the 60s. It is like bizarro Berry.  The version of "Brown-Eyed Handsome Man" is a very interesting re-interpretation (and this is one of my favorite of his songs), but the version of "Rock and Roll Music" is just plain looney. (PS the title of this blog post is from the song "Thirty Days")

Random thing: On our weekend trip, Z had opportunity to spend time with a cousin, B, she only sees once a year, if that (it's been probably two years since they last were around each other). B is actually my cousin, but a year older than Z. (Second cousins?) They are fun to watch together and have a ton in common, despite their very different places of upbringing and all the weird distance between them. It made me happy to see.

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