The Way We Believe

Pause • Reflect • Sundays on Pianodao

“It is not so much what you believe in that matters, as the way in which you believe it and proceed to translate that belief into action.”

Lin Yutang (1895-1976), The Importance of Living (1937)

I have long subscribed to the view that, as the old saying goes, “as a man thinks in his heart, so he is”. It makes absolute sense that our beliefs about ‘life, the universe and everything’ will significantly impact and mould our daily behaviour. Indeed, self-esteem and understanding of our place in the world must surely have a huge impact on our reflexes, responses, and attitudes.

Lin Yutang offers a more nuanced, deeper insight. He points out that it is not so much what we believe as how we believe it: the way we go about acting out our beliefs.

It is easy to see how this idea might apply to our religious, political and social beliefs. Do we use our beliefs to divide, or as a means to bring people closer together? What action (if any…) results from our beliefs?

But I think that Lin’s words are still more profound. It seems to me that they can be applied to any and all aspects of our lives, including our piano journey.

What do we believe about ourselves as piano players?

Could it be, for example, that we think our personal approach to piano playing favours certain composes or styles? And if so, does this belief help us to select Active Repertoire or does it limit our willingness to try new music?

Could it be that we believe our talent is limited, and that our playing will never rise above the mediocre? What the pianist believes about his or her limits is important. Do these beliefs help us enjoy playing without competing, or do they rather limit our fulfilment and leave us frustrated?

There are perhaps no ‘right or wrong answers’ here, but taking time to consider Lin Yutang’s words, and to question the way in which our beliefs are manifest, could prove fruitful as the starting point on a fresh journey of reflection and discovery.

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