This afternoon my two-year-old daughter wanted to play my two-string dotar. She plucked it. It twanged. I tried to guide her pudgy worms toward gentle strokes so it might purr, but no doing. Then, she wanted to pull out her mini-ukele. Similar deal. She set it down on her lap like a steel guitar player and pick in hand began plucking. It twanged. After a few minutes of random ting-tangs, I suggested another way to hold the instrument and strum it. She stood for my guidance for about 2.5 minutes and then said,
“No.” Not in the typical defiant explosive two-year-old way. Just in the resolved and clear-minded way.
“Put away,” she said. And that was that.
It dawned on me that for now it’s good enough for her to have fun with music and not fret (oh, the pleasurable pun) about getting things right.
What is that balance for you – having fun or enjoying something and getting it right? It’s different for toddlers, I think, whose brains and biology have not yet fully developed the joys of mastery. But for adults things get more complicated. Sometimes getting it right gets replaced with pleasing others, and we lose all joy of what we’re doing. A guitarist who gets it right but has no joy in her strumming is a sad hack perhaps. An adult who enjoys his picking but isn’t especially apt or skilled is, well, that would be me. But there are other things – from the art of every day living to the aspirations of a career – in which mastery deepens gratification. It’s that optimal play between joy and mastery I’m wondering about.
At least that’s what I’m thinking.
For now, though, I’ll back off my girl’s picking and wait for her to ask me, if she ever does, how to hold a guitar and strum with some modicum of ease.
What about you? Any reflections on fun & mastery? Regardless, let us know what your Monday’s three highlights were and where you’re writing from.
See you in the woods,
The Three Highlights Guy