Thursday, January 06, 2011

On living the one-buttock life

If you're a regular reader, and you have an ounce of insight into human character, you will have surmised that I am going through a rather discouraging period, right now. And being who I am, my lows can get pretty low...after all, my highs are somewhat stellar.

Knowing this about myself, I have had to learn over the years to take myself in hand, to put myself in the path of waves of inspiration, instead of wallowing in the Slough of Despond, as I am often tempted to do.

Sadly, one can learn some rather hard lessons about people when the going gets tough. Where one expects to find a 'Barnabus' (an encourager), one sometimes finds an accuser, or a lecturer... which is no help at all, you can take my word on this! Sometimes, even the Barnabuses have a grace period: when the solutions they have suggested, or the advice they have given, or the succour they have offered yields no change, they move on, unable to bring themselves to stick around for the long haul when things don't turn out as they expect.

One of the places I can usually find something to lift me, is TED talks. Yesterday, I was reminded of this one by Benjamin Zander, and I have been immersing myself in Zanderness ever since. I have been tracking down everything of his that I can find.

I find myself affirmed in the passion with which I approach my life. I am compelled to acknowledge that the heart on a sleeve must inevitably take more knocks than the guarded heart. But I remember that I do not do what I do because of what it will or won't mean to my own heart, but because, as Zander puts it in this and other clips:

  • Our job is to awaken possibility in other people. Who are you being that your people's eyes aren't shining?
  • We are about contribution. That's what our job is. It's not about impressing people.
  • The voice that says "No," is actually not very interesting.
  • In contribution, there is no 'better' and that is all.
Zander says on his website:
The best review I ever got was not from a music critic, but from my father. He was 94 years old at the time and completely blind. He attended a Master Class I gave in London and sat there in his wheelchair for about three hours. When it was over, I went to speak with him. He lifted up his finger in his characteristic way and said, "I see that you are actually a member of the healing profession." It seemed to me the highest accolade.
I agree. These are the accolades that I long for. And - bless all your lovely hearts - I get a few that bear some resemblance. The tragic reality is that I can't take the good will and the encouragement that so bouys me to the bank. But, at a time when I find myself inclined, out of desperation, to make compromises in order to pay the mortgage, Zander reminds me that I am already doing my job. Like so many of the other worthwhile jobs I do (wife, mother, local community member), it doesn't come with a salary cheque. But, also like those other jobs, perhaps it can co-exist alongside one that does. Let's hope so, because I am simply not designed to lead a two-buttock existence!

This is the man who gives all his students an A at the start of the year, on the condition that they write him a letter as if from the end of the year, that begins "I got an A because...." describing the person they could and would become if only their enxiety and the little voices that say "No" didn't get in the way. How's that for a radical and empowering approach?

There is just so much I could say about Benjamin Zander, but you have access via your search engine to all the very same materials I have watched and read over the past 48 hours, and, because you're in a different space from me, perhaps you might find inspiration in bits I didn't even notice. But I encourage you to carve out a little moment of Zander-immersion for yourself today - especially if you're a discouraged member of the learning profession.

Let me know how that goes...

1 comment:

David Bennett said...

Nice post Karyn. Loved the bit about "I got an A because...". Will check him out :)