I used to take piano lessons. For over a decade. According to Malcolm Gladwell, I should be an expert pianist. But if you listen to me play now, you probably wouldn’t guess I had that much training. While I enjoyed making music, I hated the work that it took to get to the end product. Practicing was just so tedious. I’d rather play something I was already able to play than have to learn something new. And the building blocks of scales, chords, and arpeggios? Boring.
Until the end of the year piano recital, when I saw fellow students, my age, some younger, who were able to play amazing pieces. Or, after seeing my first Broadway play, realizing that if you practice really hard for a long time, the music you make can cast almost a magical spell on those listening.
Thus, after every piano recital, stage show, or orchestra concert, I had new inspiration. I was sitting at the piano all day. Repeating those scales and songs like they were going out of style. For about a week–maybe two. Then it was back to my old habits of doing just enough to get by without getting scolded too much by my piano teacher, until the threat of my next performance reared its head and forced me to learn a new song to share with the community. I think I still probably don’t have 10,000 hours in on the piano yet.
Last night, PBS began airing a three-part series, God in America. Earlier on yesterday, I’d been attempting to work on my thesis, which is apparently due on December 16. But I was finding it “too hard” to locate the statutes I needed online, and dreaded the thought that I may have to actually go use the microfiche in the library.Why hadn’t someone else already compiled this information so I could just use it to advance my argument?
But when I turned PBS and started watching the series, I was blown away. It’s fantastic. And all those commentators, sharing their knowledge of American and religious history–I knew most of them, by name that is. I’ve read their books. They have graduate degrees in history–just like me…if I get this thesis done.
Thesis! Inspiration hit. I tried to go to sleep right after the program, but I was too excited. I too am a historian of American religion (and law), I thought. And I want to add to the conversation. I pulled my notepad and a couple of books out ready to take another stab and getting towards the finish line with this project.
But then I thought about my piano days. Perhaps watching God in America is a little like going to a concert. A great source of inspiration. But will it keep me going until the 16th of December? Or will I give up on the microfiche before even ascending the stairs to the second floor of the law library?
I’ve been thinking a lot about faithfulness recently. And the thing that keeps coming back to me is this: the test of faithfulness isn’t whether you keep at something for five minutes, a day, three weeks, two months, or a year or two. Just because I’ve been faithful for a certain amount of time does not give me liscence to stop being faithful because I get tired, or bored, and would rather do something else. As long as the duty to be faithful to a cause, a person, a task remains, there is no excuse for breaching that duty. And just because I lack inspiration doesn’t mean I can stop “keep on keeping on.”
My thesis is important. So are a lot of other things in life. I need to learn to be more faithful with them. If there is one thing that I have learned from the failed experiment that was my musical education, it is just that. I need to learn how to be more faithful.
May the next two months and four days working on this project help teach me how.
Ten years later, and I’m still learning from piano lessons.