Monday, April 22, 2013

Joy In The Journey

I have an awful habit - when I write, I can be a little preachy. I think language is one of the great mediums through which humans communicate, and I've always enjoyed writing since I was young. I think language can be really beautiful when the words are carefully chosen, and it can be yet another art form for us to express ourselves. However, I give anyone reading these posts free reign to tell me to cool it if I become too philosophical, too deep, or if I sound like I'm giving a sermon rather than writing a "Piano Doctors" blog post (wow, did that just sound as lame as I think it did? Might need to rethink that title...)

I've been taking a class on opera in the 19th and 20th centuries this semester. I know so little about opera, and many of my teachers talk about it as the epitome of all art forms. It combines voice, orchestra, dance, acting, staging, and many other elements that are quite different from a solo piano concert. So, I decided to give it a go. It has been quite interesting, and I really like my teacher. She goes into underlying themes and deeper meanings that are not immediately evident upon viewing the opera, and makes overarching themes that help musicians in all fields of study. Having said this, I always dread the tests, because all of the singers in the class are like, "Oh yeah, when I sung this part, ______(fill in the blank with a "I'm such a deep thinker"-type sentence)," and I'm sitting here thinking, "Wait, what's the name of this thing again?" I've never been good at preparing far in advance, so my short-term memory has had to become razor-sharp over my years of study, in regards to homework and tests. Last night at around 5 p.m., the thought occurred "Okay Josh, you have a little less than twelve hours to study all of the underlying themes of 6 major operas (Parsifal, Pelléas et Melisande, Salome, Tosca, Wozzeck, and The Rake's Progress) and listen to about 10 hours of selections...nice work." So I set off to studying. I'd give myself small breaks to send Lindsey texts, and you know, watch an episode of "Friends". I managed to get through everything by about 2 a.m., then got up at 7 a.m. to study for another couple of hours before the test.

The test didn't turn out to be too bad, but a thought occurred to me during the test - just a few hours ago, less than one day ago, you had forgotten all of this stuff, and here you are, writing about all of it, talking of the deep musical meaning behind some of the greatest works of all time. What the heck? As humans, I believe deadlines are great motivators, because even though they can stress us out, they push us to be better, to finish things. I find myself so often thinking, "Man, when school is out, it's going to be so nice to_____." But today during the test, I actually enjoyed what I was writing about. All of the stuff I had been dreading fascinates me. Why am I such a complainer? I know it will make me a better musician. This led to further thought after my test was done, making me think "Why should I ever complain about learning anything?"

A few nights back, I was watching a few crazy documentaries on YouTube about foreign countries, one in particular being about Liberia. Wow, I am so lucky to have grown up in America. The thing that struck me more than anything was that every native was commenting about how poor the education systems were, and how that leads to higher crime rate, higher unemployment rate, and an overall demoralization of society, both sexually and mentally. The kids that are lucky enough to go to school love it, and cherish every moment. They have a purpose. They have a vision for their future, and they are no longer strictly in "survival" mode.

What I'm getting at here is that every chance to learn should be seized with great zeal and be considered a great opportunity for self-improvement. We can find joy in just about anything when we put our minds to it. 

I'd love to make this blog more a place of discussion in my "anti-sermon" endeavor. What are some experiences you've had that have made you come to the realization of finding joy in the journey? What are some obstacles you are trying to overcome? In this last election, one of my greatest friends, and an individual I respect more than almost anyone, told me this, "Josh, even though we share differences in opinion about our political views, I still respect what everyone has to say, and I think deep and thoughtful discussion - even when both parties disagree with each other - is one of the best learning environments there is." Thank you for the great wisdom Zsolt Bognar (everyone should go check out his stuff on YouTube, as well as his writing...he is incredible). I look forward to hearing all of your comments. Thank you for your support :)


  1. "What I'm getting at here is that every chance to learn should be seized with great zeal and be considered a great opportunity for self-improvement. We can find joy in just about anything when we put our minds to it... What are some experiences you've had that have made you come to the realization of finding joy in the journey?"

    You had me laughing reading this, Josh. Cramming and doing well on tests only to forget everything I learned - that was me all through college. I remember my first thought as I drove home from taking my last final for my degree was, "Wahoo! Now I can really learn!!" (This was after rolling down the windows and screaming for joy).

    There's something to be said for agency in the learning process, isn't there? And not taking so many classes you can't possibly absorb anything from them?! haha. That said, I soon learned to regret that I didn't choose to learn more while surrounded by great teachers and mentors. Glad to hear of someone becoming aware of that while still formally in school :).

    How do I find joy in the journey now? I take one class per semester (not going for a degree, different schools and campuses) and soak it in and saturate as much as I can (using writing as a tool to do that like you are). The result? I'm loving to learn again. It's changing my life.

  2. Hi Katie - great to hear from you! I really loved reading your comments. That is so cool that you are continuing to take classes. I think I will probably do this in different fields after I graduate as well, because as soon as we stop learning we stop progressing! I really admire you for doing this. Thanks again for sharing :)