February 24, 2013

Cold, cold, cold



IT IS SO COLD.  It is the 24th of frelling February in southern England and when I got up this morning it was SNOWING.  Snowing and lying.*

It has not been a good week for peace of mind so I determined to get to the monks extra-early for the Saturday night silent-contemplation-before service prayer so I could have a long enough sit (I hoped) to produce some insight.**  In pre-contemplation mode I considered the weather.  And took a BLANKET with me.  The blanket, indeed, in which I wrap myself up in my own sitting room when I do my Zen Christian zazen thing.  There are DRAUGHTS at floor-sitting level, even with an Aga on the other side of the wall, and while I’ve discovered I can sit*** in jeans I’m usually sitting in my dressing-gown, which was not made to keep you warm sitting on the floor with the central heating turned off and the snow falling outdoors.

I was very glad to have a blanket last night.  As well as the two cotton turtlenecks, the two woolly jumpers, the leather jacket, the two pairs of socks and the longjohns under my jeans.  And the fleece-lined leather gloves.  My circulation has always been rubbish—arguably I’m a fidget because I’m trying to stay warm, and not all the hurtling part of the daily hurtles is for the hellcritters’ sakes—and sitting still, I swear the blood all withdraws to my liver and has a party.†  And I’m going to be very glad to have my blanket next Saturday morning when I try yet again to go to Aloysius’ frelling early silent prayer service.  He says the chapel they sit in is COLD.  Where has spring got to?  Drinking Mai Tais in Hawaii?  What?

* * *

* I thought, okay, get thy tail to New Arcadia tower this morn, they will have need of thee.  Like horsefeathers and bulltiddly:  they had ten ringers.  I should have stayed in bed.

** Nothing like upsetting your own apple cart.  I didn’t think I was observing all that challenging a Lent.  Evidently the personal status quo disagrees.

*** That is, cross-legged on a cushion.  I did yoga fairly seriously for a while too and while I could (for example) do the splits with what I fondly believed to be a straight pelvis, I never quite made it to full lotus, not to stay anyway.  I could sit in half-lotus however and it’s a nice stable base when you’re settled, and you can forget about it and concentrate on your breath.  The books I’ve been reading lately insist that you must learn to sit properly—and the accompanying photos are of course of rows and rows of utterly calm and centred-looking people sitting in PERFECT full lotuses with both knees firmly against the ground and their laps perfectly level—and therefore their curved hands are perfectly level too.  Well I decided I ought to be able to get my half-lotus back.  And promptly pushed it too hard MCKINLEY THIS BODY IS SIXTY YEARS OLD CAN YOU TRY AND REMEMBER THAT and have managed to outrage one hamstring so seriously I can barely sit at allArrrrgh.  I told Aloysius this tonight and he tried hard not to laugh, but he also said that at the very serious zendo he sat at before he came to St Margaret’s everyone had a different assortment of pillows on which they sat differently with different props and supports.  Speaking of good enough.

I was planning to pull some of the comments out of the It’s All Performance.  Isn’t It? thread and the Good Enough. Mostly. Sometimes thread . . . but they’re all good, some of them are too complex to cut intelligently^, and it’s also a conversation so if I tried to haul any of it out here I’d have to haul most of it out here.  But let me recommend that anyone interested in performance, in the arts, in human creativity and in being good enough should go read those threads.^^

So just a random thought or two to be going on with.  I’d like to think EMoon’s and my generation^^^ will have been the last to get really mired in the If You’re Not Amazing Don’t Bother mindset, but that’s probably naïve.  But Shalea reminded us of that excellent old adage:  Perfect is the enemy of good.  Yes.  And blondviolinist, who is a professional musician, added that the concept of ‘perfect’ makes her nuts, because it makes it sound as if there is One True Way . . . and there isn’t.  She adds:  I’m blown away by the rich possibilities for creativity as individual people bring their own imagination and heart to their music. (Or visual art, or dancing, or writing, or….)  And someone else somewhere—sorry, I can’t find you right now—quotes Mahalia Jackson:  God don’t mind a bum note.

I do have a slight Well she can say that she’s Mahalia Jackson reaction to this last.  But all of this (and other comments I haven’t mentioned) point to what I wanted to say further about my own need to believe that I’m allowed to engage with—in this case, music, from the making it side as well as the taking in someone else’s making side, live in a concert, live in your sitting room, on the radio or CD, or Met Live at your local cinema.  Performance at any level, I think, changes your relationship to music—broadens it, deepens it, makes you go oh wow in a whole new thrillingly-more-informed way when you listen to your favourite Beverly Sills CDs.  For this alone it’s worth trying to play or sing, however badly, even if you have to send your husband to the pub and leave your critters at the other house while you practise.  Which, because I am very fortunate, I don’t.#

The other thing—the big thing—is that if you can really ENGAGE with the music—if you can inform it, inhabit it—express it—well, God won’t mind the bum notes, and, chances are, neither will your audience.  When Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau died last year, there were millions of words of obituary about what an astonishing singer he was—a lot of people think he is the greatest lieder singer who ever lived—at least since recording equipment got good enough for comparisons to be made.  I knew that.  What I didn’t know is that quite a few people also say that he did not have, by nature, a first rate voice.  He had a very good voice, obviously, a professional-quality voice, but it wasn’t absolute top value:  what he did have was overwhelming commitment and insight, and an unmatched ability (yes I’m a fan) to get inside the music he’s performing, and give it to his audience.  Perfect isn’t only the enemy of good, it’s also the enemy of fabulous.

. . . Okay, I want to get to bed tonight, so I Will Continue This Later. . . .

^ At least at this time of night when intelligence is getting a little thin on the ground anyway

^^ Note that if you want to comment yourself you do have to join the forum, but anyone can read the threads.

^^^ I know there are few more 60-pluses out there but I don’t want to drag anyone out of the shadows who doesn’t want to come.

# Peter continues to insist he likes hearing me sing, and the hellterror has mostly stopped erupting when I try.  Chaos may still leave the hellhound bed to walk over to the piano and stare at me earnestly—especially on evenings when the high B is considering making an appearance—but he doesn’t make an issue of it.

† As I like to say, probably too often, I’m cold all the time, except occasionally when I’m too hot.


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