New Year’s 2018 – Notes on Focus

One year ago today, I published my 500th post on Musical Me.  Today’s post is my 545th.  I started this blog both to chronicle my project to learn to play the violin, and to foster disciplined writing.  The twin pursuits emerged as an epiphany one Monday afternoon back in October of 2013, each conceived as a mechanism holding me accountable to the other.

My desire to write in a more disciplined manner has been with me for a long time – far longer than the desire to become a violinist.  Perhaps it goes without saying, considering I took up the violin in my late 30s, that I am a more naturally gifted writer than I am a musician.  But I do love working hard at both – there are some similarities in their grittier tasks that bring me joy.  Poring over a sentence structure that isn’t coming out clearly, replacing one choice word with another – these are not too different from running through the same small set of sixteenth notes until the fingers cooperate, or replaying a note ten times until it sounds perfectly in tune.

Four plus years of diligent practice at anything will bear fruit.  I am undoubtedly a better writer now than I was in 2013.  And I can now play the violin.  While I’ve long known I possess a knack for stringing words together, I have less clear expectations where musical output is concerned.  I do know I’m no prodigy; a big part of what I’ve wanted to accomplish with my music is grinding a new lens through which I can appreciate this universe.

Ideally, that’s what all learning does – bring the universe into better focus.  The more I learn about the world, the more I find myself wanting to focus less on what I have to say about it, and more on what it has to tell me.  In some ways, I think this development is a normal byproduct of maturation (2017 was also the year in which I succumbed to the call of eyeglasses!).  But one outcome of my listening versus speaking has been far fewer posts here on Musical Me.  I noted above that I published 45 blog posts in 2017.  On average, that means I posted less than a third as often as in years past.

New Year’s Day is for reminiscing and for gazing into the future.  In 2017’s New Year’s Post, I did express some hopes for making the year ahead count – hoping for progress in my music, in my martial art, and in deepening my interpersonal relationships.  Happily, I uttered not a peep about numbers of blog posts!

I do think I managed to squeak by on most of those hopes.  Though I didn’t see it coming, in the martial realm I competed in a karate tournament – my first in probably 10 years.  The outcome was a great reminder of the need to accept full-hearted participation as the measure of martial excellence, versus performance.  In the musical realm, I have continued to make steady progress of the type that comes from steady practice.  The final and most concrete goal I expressed in the post – to do justice to the Jay Ungar composition Ashokan Farewell – is the goal I worked hardest at, practicing quite diligently.  It’s coming along, and I’ll keep at it in the new year.

The one milestone I’m aware of approaching in 2018 involves that final, most important hope from 2017 – interpersonal relationships.  Specifically, April will mark 20 years of Michael and me.  With impermanence reigning as the one overarching law of the universe, it’s our deepest relationships that add the most value to our lives.  As the dust of one moment scatters with the winds of the next, I hope to spend 2018 appreciating what matters most.

Thanks for reading.

Ryan

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