Recently, my son shared some troubling news: he no longer was interested in playing classical guitar. What do you mean? The kid’s a natural, a genius! He could be the next Julian Bream, Christopher Parkening, Andre Segovia! But no, he’s had enough. Too busy texting his friends. Ahhh teenagers! More than angry, I was terribly saddened. I still remember when as an eight year-old he announced he wanted to play guitar. Sure, I said. Up until then I had no inkling of his artistic inclinations. He loved math and science, doodled a little, and had a lead foot capable of landing a goal from the other end of the little league soccer field, but a musician? Who knew? Well, after about the second month of taking private lessons, his teacher – a musician himself and an instructor who’d seen a lot in forty years – informed me that he was, well, you know, a natural. He grasped the notes, the chords, even started creating his own music. Pretty soon he was performing in recitals and winning over anyone who heard him play.
You should have seen this kid! He thrived under pressure! Anyways, it’s all over now. He’s lost interest and, of course, I’m devastated. Not that I expected him to make a living off his music necessarily, but I do love and respect the arts (H-e-l-l-o, I’m a writer!) and music is very dear to me. I always thought that, if nothing else, this instrument could be his pal, his buddy, the one to turn to during hard times: you know, college exams, first rejection, crash of first car, etc. Everyone needs a beer, a song, etc., right?
But after careful consideration, I realized that 1) as I always preach, you can’t lead your life based on other people’s desires, and 2) who knows if this is a bad thing or a good thing. And I remembered this short Chinese story*:
Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away, and all the neighbors came around to commiserate that evening, saying “So sorry to hear your horse has run away. That’s too bad.” And the farmer said, “Maybe.”
The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it and everybody came around that evening and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky! What a wonderful turn of events, you now have eight horses!” And the farmer said, “Maybe.”
The next day the farmer’s son tried to break one of these horses to ride, but was thrown off and broke his leg. And all the neighbors came around and said, “Oh, dear, that’s too bad.” And the farmer said, “Maybe.”
The following day the conscription officers came around to draft people into the army and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. All the people came around again and said, “Isn’t that just great!” And the farmer said, “Maybe.”
So! Moral of the story: If you’re down and out because you just lost your job, or worse, it’s been a while since your layoff/resize and you’re getting desperate, just think about the Chinese farmer’s wisdom. Sit yourself down, grab a cold one, and strum a few bars. And remember, good or bad, it all comes down to “Maybe.”
*Play to live by Alan Watts