Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Unsung Hero of the Rest Stop

In music not every second of a song is filled with notes. There are also rests, little pauses or spaces between the notes. We don't often notice the rests, but they are every bit as important as the notes are. They set the pace, they prepare us for the next swell of music, they trigger our brains to expect something more. So it is in any kind of art. There are visual pauses known as negative space. In writing we have commas, periods, and paragraphs. On stage there are breaks between scenes and acts. There is a kind of structure created in taking a moment of time for... nothing. That nothing has great power in the context of the piece. Silence resonates.


We forget, at least I forget, just how much this principle should apply to our daily existence as well. We rush around trying to accomplish as much of everything we can without allowing ourselves a pause. I'm not talking about taking a break, which in the work world means spending 10 minutes getting coffee, making a personal phone call, or chowing on something to "perk" us up - breaks end up being just as busy as working is. I'm not talking about flopping in front of the TV for two exhausted hours every evening - banal stimulation. I'm not talking about sleep, which is usually on the back-burner of everything else we need to do. I'm talking about a true waking pause. I'm talking about standing or sitting still, being quiet, and doing absolutely nothing but breathing for a few minutes.


Lately I've found myself being constantly busy, not necessarily because I have tons to do (although I do), but because I have this inner urgency to not stop. Lazy people sit still. Uninspired people sit still. Bullshit. It's almost as though I fear losing momentum. Also bullshit. I need the pause between the string of notes that make up my life. I need that glorious moment of nothing that, in truth, is poised to actually take me into the next indicated thing. We all do. What was I thinking? Going at anything non-stop is a sure way to land head first in exhaustion and burnout.


I've been frustrated with not being able to accomplish as much as I want to in a day and feeling guilty for neglecting the things I thought I was going to get done. My thoughts end up as scattered as the dandelion pods in the field. Not good. Not good at all. This morning I recalled the lecture my old piano teacher gave me about the importance of rests. I was always trying to rush them because I felt I had to fill every second with music or it would be boring. My teacher taught me otherwise, that the rests are the unsung heros that actually carry the piece.


I'm going to allow myself that rest, and I'm going to wait patiently to see where it takes me. But I know this much, there is brilliance in a well placed rest.


~Moonlight Sonata, Ludwig von Beethoven

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