About a week ago during my morning writing, it occurred to me how much more I’m playing music these days. Perhaps that sounds strange, but outside of rehearsals and performances, our touring schedule allows for very little playing of music. The myriad tasks that go with this career take far more time and energy than one might think. We usually find ourselves scrambling to get in rehearsals before the next set of shows all the while lamenting how much we’d like to develop certain areas of our playing and writing — if only we had the luxury of time to do so.
As the pandemic worked its way into our lives and we began to adjust to whatever this new “normal” would be, Lauryn and I both found ourselves adrift much like everyone else. And while I can’t recall a moment or a turning point where that changed, we’re now both deeply immersed in those elements of our music we longed to be able to address. At the time it struck me last week, I also found it significant, because there’s no real pressing or pragmatic reason for us to be doing so. It’s just what happens when we’re left to our own devices. And it filled me with a sense of self that I’ve not felt in a long time.
Every morning, we both read from a book called The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and The Art of Living and the entry for that day was “What’s on Your Tombstone?” Anecdotally, the message was about workaholism and the costs our professions have on our lives, the drive for success or fame or stature working us to death at the peril of other things in our lives, ambition unchecked leading to a regretful ending. There was a quote from Seneca that day that stated, “Is it really so pleasant to die in the harness?”
Like every morning, I mulled over the entry and considered it from different angles so that I could apply it to myself in whatever way I feel it fits best. But on this particular day, I challenged the entire notion of a harness as it applied to music. For sure, there are aspects of our careers that feel harness-like. But at this moment, the sense of purpose and completion feels more like home than a harness. There’s a nagging anxiety about the uncertainty of the world right now — the pandemic continues to run its course through a haze of hyper-divisiveness and partisanship while a civil rights movement struggles to be heard and understood in a way that affects meaningful and lasting change, through that very same haze along with a literal cloud of smoke and tear gas. These are very trying times indeed. But I’m reminded of the story regarding a traveler who came upon St. Francis of Assisi working in his garden. The traveler asks him what he would do if he learned the world were going to end tomorrow and St. Francis replies, “I’d finish hoeing this row.”
Whatever your row to hoe is, I hope that you’re tending to your garden right now. If not, I invite you to do so. Allow this time to grant you access to that part of you that you’ve been putting off. We need all hands on deck right now, each of us tending to our own individual purpose for the benefit of us all. We’ll gather again when the time is right. Until then, stay safe and look after yourself and your loved ones. And finish hoeing that row.
August 10, 2020