Music holds a unique place in my life. I don’t listen to music much apart from the offerings of Fine Music Radio on my daily commute. But music and liturgical worship are somehow inextricably linked in my soul. Perhaps the best experience I have had of the integration of music and liturgy was in Taize. The music is easy to sing but there are layers of complexity which can be added. And I continue to yearn for the richness of the deeply meditative liturgy which was carved out by the combination of music and silence.
I continue to make my contributions on my flute to the church band with my thoroughly mediocre musical ability. I enjoy playing in the band, and I play well enough to make a positive contribution. But somehow music making is an area in which I am totally comfortable with my own level of performance. I am surrounded by much more talented musicians but I feel no need to try to raise my game. It is both a space of incredible freedom to simply be myself as I am, and yet the absence of the desire to improve means that my standard of playing will not improve.
I am tremendously grateful for the freedom that affords me. It means I can give my humble offering without shame, guilt, embarrassment or self-consciousness. It is probably the only space in my life where I have that degree of freedom. But at the same time, I am aware that I have no motivation to improve. I don’t practice on my own, and I have no desire to. It is a space in which I am also completely unambitious.
I find the juxtaposition of those two ideas interesting. It makes me realise that for me the will to improve or to expend further effort usually requires some kind of driver. When I was younger the main driver was the desire to prove myself. Now, I think the driver is shifting to something a little less fear based and a little more positive – the desire to make a meaningful contribution.
Maybe in the context of the church band I feel I don’t need to expend any more effort because it wouldn’t make all that much difference to the quality of my contribution, and so I can simply relish my contentment. Nonetheless I find it helpful to look at the things which motivate me and to recognise that there has to be a desire to do better for any change to occur. The question I will need to return to periodically is whether the desire to do better has its roots in fear (in my case trying to make myself acceptable) or love (in my case making my contribution).