Analysis is important to the performing musician, just as it is in most professions and fields of interest. But does our analytical temperament cause us to over-think other aspects of life too?
Are we musicians particularly prone to wasting mental energy? And is it any coincidence that musicians are so often so focused on political and social issues?
At times of distress, uncertainty and turmoil we are more prone than ever to errors of analysis and judgement than usual, because our emotions multiply with our thoughts to create unrest and distress.
We allow “two plus two to equal five”.
We struggle with the realisation that we simply do not understand, and it’s a sensation which is alien to our aims and goals as musicians, as “teachers”, and in life. Our anxiety combines with our need to understand, and in order to make sense of the events which so trouble us we are prone to rush to judgement, to false conclusions, and to division.
The ancient Daoist sage Lao-Tzu wrote these words, which are worth returning to for their wise advice, especially when we are most troubled:
“Nothing in the realm of thoughts or ideologies is absolute.
Lean on one thing for long, and it collapses.
Because of this, there is nothing more futile or frustrating than relying on the mind.
To arrive at the unshakable you must befriend the Dao.
To do this, quiet your thinking.
Stop analysing, dividing, making distinctions between one thing and another.”
Lao-Tzu, Hua Hu Ching (translated Brian Walker)
This quiescence of the mind, this sense of connectedness and acceptance, is neither fatalism nor submission, but an act of claiming power over our own anxiety, our fear, our uncertainty.
Instead of fixating on analysis, we engage with reality. We embrace simple truths – and can then move on.
Turning away from the temptation to analyse and categorise is ultimately a decision to shun rash judgements, alienation, and to return to our own sanity.
It is the pathway that leads to life and peace.