Play

I like to play the piano. And when I say “play”, I don’t mean perform. I like to do something I call “noodle doodle”. I don’t have a particular place to go or a particular song I’m trying to re-create. I just enjoy moving my fingers around on the keys and listening to what happens.
How do songs get created? Just like this. Not by trying to perform other people’s compositions. Instead of re-creating Beethoven’s music, I’m creating Betsy’s music.
There is something interesting about how music is taught these days. We are taught how to play other people’s music rather than discovering our own. We are taught the basics of how to operate the instrument and then given sheet music (another skill to be learned) in order to perform someone else’s music. There are several skills that have to be learned before you can even begin to make music. Then there are the dreaded recitals, where you must perform in front of others.
Writing isn’t like this. We don’t expect writers to learn how to hold a pen and then have them copy out the text from “Dick and Jane” as a warm-up. We don’t have recitals where they handwrite or type some famous author’s work in front of an audience. With writing, you write what is in your head and heart. Playing a musical instrument should be the same.
For many people, a musical instrument inspires “blank page fear”. They see it and don’t know what to do. Where to start? Then what happens next? How will it sound? One way around that fear is to play when other people aren’t in the house so they can’t hear what you are doing. Another is to use headphones with an electric keyboard. You can delight in your discoveries all you want without worrying that other people are hearing everything, including the parts that don’t sound too great.
Playing music is like driving on a road without a map. You are guaranteed to find new places that you like. But you are also guaranteed to find a few dead-ends too, and you’ll have to back-track to get out. This isn’t a mistake – it is part of the process. Give yourself the permission to play and discover your own song.

Kid only

Many children want to grow up fast. They don’t like being told that they can’t do some activity because they aren’t old enough. Yet there are things that adults are discouraged from doing –

Going trick-or-treating. This stops when you are about in your teens. The only way to keep going trick-or-treating is to have children and go with them. Some adults have parties, but it isn’t the same. Dressing up in costume is half the fun – getting a huge assortment of candy from all your neighbors is the other part.

Having a big birthday party. After about 10, you are expected to have a more sedate gathering. Presents are discouraged. Only when you get to be 50 can you have a big celebration. What if you don’t live that long?

Fingerpainting. (Actually, creating art in general.) It is seen as “play” – and not something that adults do.

Reading picture books. They are still good, even if you are an adult.

Having stuffed animals. I’m of the opinion that a bear is better than a beer.

Taking naps. Mid-day, we all need a little down time to recharge.

This is all unfair. Adults should continue doing these things. Perhaps then we will have healthier and happier people.

Dolphins are intelligent because they play a lot.

The students were showing their projects one day last week. They got to teach me instead of me teaching them. They had just been to the zoo and each student completed a project about her or his favorite animal. They were to say where the animal lived, what it liked to eat, and any interesting facts about it. After that, the other students could ask questions. Now, remember these are kindergartners so sometimes the questions are a little unusual. Also, half of the kindergartners don’t have English as their first language so sometimes the questions are even more unusual.

One of the students did a report on dolphins. At the end, another student asked “Why are dolphins intelligent?” She thought about it for a while and was stumped. I understand – it’s kind of an unusual question. The teacher thought about it and she prompted “Well, what makes you intelligent?” to the student who was showing her project. She thought about it and she said “Because they like to play a lot.

I was stunned at how amazing an answer that was. Play makes you intelligent. She’s got it. That’s the answer. I immediately had to find a pen and a piece of paper so I can write that down.

A second student asked “Why do they like to play a lot?” She thought about it and answered “Because it takes care of them.”

This kid at five has the answer. Play makes you intelligent and it helps you. The sentences don’t make a lot of sense but there is so much truth hidden within them.

Jigsaw puzzle

I did a jigsaw puzzle for the first time in so long that I’ve almost forgotten. Well, I helped some kindergartners do one a few months ago, but that doesn’t really count. They did most of it. I was just there to direct traffic and stop them from fighting. Something about not being able to share was part of the fight. They all wanted to work on the same parts or some were hoarding pieces.

Another lady had started a puzzle. It had 500 pieces. Most of them were green or pink, it looked like. The image was of a butterfly.

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This looked too complicated for me. I think it was too complicated for her too because she left it on the table and moved to something else. She found all the edge pieces and put them together. Perhaps she was leaving it for another person to work on.

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I was cruising around the tables to see if there was anything else to work on. There are all sorts of art supplies and things to work on.

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There are essays and books and poems to read too.

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It is all optional, but I like to take advantage of what is offered. I want to get my money’s worth, and I want to open myself up to new experiences.

I came across this cute bag. It is a recloseable puzzle for travel.

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And it is of space. And it is a cartoon. And it only has 100 pieces. I’m there.

Nobody had opened it yet, so I ripped off the top. I’m glad that I don’t have a problem with this. I’ll totally go first at a buffet or a recital. I’m not afraid of claiming something as mine.

I started finding the edge pieces but then I didn’t know how big the finished puzzle was going to be. Would I have enough room? I was sharing the table with a painter. I didn’t want to get in her way. Then I started to see pieces that obviously went together.

My inner squirrel started to take over. What do I do next? Do the outer stuff or the inner stuff?

This is so like my spiritual journey it isn’t funny. Well, actually it is funny. It’s always funny how God works things out and I’m almost always the last to know.

I never have the map. Nobody does. We wander around, like the Jews in the desert, moving from camp to camp, from call to call. We go where we are sent. We don’t know where we are going until we get there.

So instead of focusing on the outside, the limits, I chose to focus on the inside, the images. Make a planet. Then make another planet. With this puzzle, as with life, I found myself heavily relying on words. The names of the planets held me together. I used them as a guide.

At times I felt I was cheating by looking at the picture on the bag.

This is the same person who complains that God doesn’t give me a map.

Here’s a map and I’m balking at using it.

There’s a lot to be understood there.

God doesn’t give me a map because God knows I’d rather figure it out on my own. I’d rather be happily surprised when I see the pattern coming together. I’d rather do it my way.

Also, it doesn’t matter if I work on the inside or the outside, as long as I’m working. It will all come together in the end. God’s got the pattern. It is just to me to work on it, and with it, and trust.

(Written on retreat, 1-18-14, 4 p.m. Finished on 1-20-14)