Musicians are no stranger to isolation. It is what we do. Find quiet spot, alone and work on the instrument. We do this for hours at a time. We are used to solitude. We embrace it. We use it to make us better, stronger and more capable players. We find inspiration and motivation in the hours in the practice room, digging into the details.
Now the world is being asked to slow down, to isolate and to find a quiet spot. As a planet we are being asked to be still. Stay home, we are told. Do your work in solitude. Stay away from large gatherings and only go out if it is necessary. Reduce time spent shopping, running errands and doing the thousands of tasks that eat our daily hours.
The good thing is, we musicians know that out of solitude comes the potential for growth and even greatness. We spend time listening to great musicians and being inspired. We spend time reading great books about our art and imagining making a contribution ourselves one day. We spend time dreaming. In short, making music requires solitude to grow, and of course, so does making a quality life.
Today I plan to spend some time thinking about education. Not reading about it or discussing it or writing about education. Just thinking about it. I also plan to spend some time making dinner with my beautiful partner, walking dogs at a safe distance with my 78 year old dad and learning a new Celtic tune on my mandolin. All of these things are slow, considered activities, and all of them combine to create for me a beautiful life.
Maybe out of all of this we remember what we already knew: Speed is not always the answer. The proud statement: "I am really busy" is not necessarily a sign of success, but rather a sign of imbalance. Maybe our natural rhythms return to a reasonable tempo. A tempo we can manage, and in which we might even thrive.
I know that I am privileged to be able to take this time and not worry. I am still being paid. I am safe, secure, warm and dry, fed and watered and perhaps most importantly loved deeply by many people. I am speaking from a place of security that many do not have. So, maybe this is a time for us as a society to slow down, have a look at the social imbalances that are created by the systems we strive to maintain. Systems we maintain by working ourselves quite literally to death.
All over the internet I see posts that state "The Canals of Venice have dolphins in them again" and "Pollution in China has dropped exponentially because of the lack of movement due to isolation." I don't know if this is true, but I would like to believe it. The earth might be letting us know that slowing down is, essentially... kinda good. This insight comes at a high price, in money, upheaval and most importantly lives.
Maybe we need a little upheaval. Maybe we need a little more time to think, to learn, to pray, to dance, to talk, to be still. Maybe we need to spend a little more time in life's practice room, digging into the details, finding out what is important, dreaming of a more perfect life and what that might look like.
Maybe if we did that, when we all get back to making music and living with one another we might do it with a stronger sense of gratitude. Gratitude for each other, for our planet and for life itself.
Maybe we might find a little gratitude for isolation as well.