“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” ~ Eartha Kitt
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to learn to play the cello. There’s something about that instrument that ravishes me every time I hear it. I feel it first in my belly as its notes swell with passion, then it traverses the length of my body as if I were being played by the master as well. Holding its curved wood and taut strings is like caressing a lover, hands and legs leading the dance of pizzicato and crescendo. It’s a sexy beast. Think of the cello’s climatic role in The Witches of Eastwick and you get the idea.
Of course learning is not mastery. I know that at my age I will not become a cello virtuoso; in fact it’s likely I will be a dismal hack. That’s not a self-deprecating appeasement. It’s just true. The older I get the more I know I don’t know and feel quite content residing on my know-nothing estate. The days of feeling like the mistress of my domain or even wanting that burden have ebbed with time so that I can barely assuage my surety of knowing anything anymore.
There’s an old adage offered up to many a fledgling author: write what you know. If I were a bee keeper compiling a book on the care and maintenance of bee hives that suggestion would get me started, but if I’m engaged in the world there’s always more to learn and more life to add to my apiculture offerings. Limiting myself to the menu of writing what I know would lead me to starvation as well any readers I may have invited to the table. Stephen King in his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, offers some salient wisdom concerning the art of wordsmithing and that particular axiom. What’s fair game to write about? “Anything at all…as long as you tell the truth.”
Most writers I think will say they were puzzled as to where their stories were leading them, gobsmacked at what opened up for them in the laying down of words, humbled by the thread of divinity coursing through the pages of text that added their name in the end. It was embers of truth and kindling of what they knew that ignited and stirred them, transforming them and their writing in the fires of learning.
The same goes for us all in life. To know is to exist in a closed cell, exorcised from all that life can teach us. To learn opens us up to storehouses of wealth that can enrich and deepen our human experience. Knowing is the nail in the coffin. Learning is the phoenix rising time and again. One of the reasons I admire and follow the Buddhist way is that it calls itself a practice. Not a knowing or a doctrine, but a hands-on, get your heart dirty practice. The Buddha himself said (in so many words) “Don’t take my word for it.” He encouraged his followers to learn for themselves what it means to be living in presence, experiencing each moment in exactitude and letting it all go in the next breath. How do you get to Nibbana? Practice, practice, practice.
Cello lessons await. I’m open to learn and make ear flinching mistakes. I may grow tired or frustrated with it all or I may one day share the reviews of my recital when I sat down and played something discernible and resembling music. In the interlude, enjoy my favorite cellist, Yo Yo Ma, along with some of his friends, who are all ever learning, never knowing and I’m pretty sure always practicing.
Cello Photo – Microsoft Office Images
Home Page Feature Image – Screen Cap From Video
Video: Helping Hand, from The Goat Rodeo Sessions
Quote by Eartha Kitt from ThinkExist.com
Excerpt from “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King, copyright 2000, Scribner,
a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., p. 158