Thursday, August 02, 2007

Follow the path

"When we look around at what other people have and where they are going, we lose focus on what's important: what we have and where we're going. Yes, there is more than one path to the top of the mountain. But the only one that will get you there is yours. Do not look longingly at the paths of others. Give yours your undivided attention and keep your focus." -Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

It's easy to look longingly at the paths of others this week. There are so many accomplished, or at least highly skilled, guitarists wandering the campus. There have been three staff concerts over the week where our teachers have shown their skill. One student remarked that he'd either burn or sell his guitar when he got home because he'd never be that good.

Well, he'd certainly never be that good in the way the teachers are that good. The teachers are not even that good in the way the other teachers are. We all have our own path. We all have our own style. We all have different levels of dedication to our instrument. Some of us play part time, after work, on the weekends. Others, like our teachers, have made music their entire lives. They eat and drink music, sleep it and dream it. That is their path.

My first day here I was tempted to give up my own pursuit of the guitar. I'm an after work and weekend player - 30 minutes a day, tops. Will I ever be as good as any of my teachers? I don't know. I suppose I could be if I dedicated myself to learning what they know. But, I don't want their path. I want my path. I don't do anyone any good by envying another person's life. That's just a distraction away from the fear of living my own life. Looking longingly at the path of another means we fear our own path. We're afraid to find our own heart, our own style, for many reasons. What if we're simply not good enough, not talented enough, not dedicated enough? So? If this path isn't working for you, find another one. Keep searching until you find the path that speaks to you.

You may play your guitar "in the style" of another player. But, you'll never play just like them. You don't have their heart. You don't have their style. You're not on their path. Emerson says our lives are the accumulation of the experiences we've lived. We can't live someone else's experience and we can't walk their path.

There's no use in envying anyone else. If someone else is doing what you want to do, pursue that goal - but realize your path to that goal will look different than theirs. Celebrate their path, uplift them as they travel. But understand, you're on your own path. Stick to it - put the force of your accumulated life behind it - and you'll soon find yourself staring at the world from the mountain top.

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