Please Do Not Shoot the Pianist – February 5 2018

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.
Attributed to Philo
 
In 1882, Oscar Wilde, on a lecture tour, spoke at the Tabor Opera house in Leadville, Colorado, at the time a major center of silver mining.
Wilde later recounted a visit to a local saloon, “where I saw the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across. Over the piano was printed a notice – ‘Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.'”
Leadville, Colorado. (2013, December 2). In
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
 
When we fall out of present moment awareness and into speculation, we end up living in our thoughts about the world, rather than in the world and available to the world. We will find ourselves in reaction to our thoughts and judgments about our fellows, rather than living in response to them and the situation at hand. This is what we call being ‘self-centered.’ Not in the judgmental sense of ‘it’s all about me,’ but rather in the actuality that everything is being processed through my sense of self as this mind and its opinions, its beliefs, and its beliefs about the opinions of others, rather than through my inner connectedness to the whole of life. If I’m having a conversation with you and listening to the running commentary in my mind about what you’re saying, rather than simply listening to you, my mind will spin stories about you, about our relationship, about what I need to say next. I will be writing a subtext to your dialogue that may, indeed, be telling me exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to tell me. In short, I’m not really even with you. I’m only with myself. This is loneliness.
 
What also is inherent in self-centered communication is that I will by definition be identified as the ego self. From the ego self, whenever any of my safeguards and self-protections feel threatened to even the slightest degree, I will have a reaction of fight or flight. In my mind I will pass some judgment on you, a comparison of you to me, of you to someone else who I think is doing it better than you are, or of you to some perfected version of yourself I think you’re not living up to. And I will become angry or defensive or hurt or scared. And whether I show it or not, you will feel this in me and then you, too, may start down the same road.
 
We are not meant to live like this. We are not meant to be ‘against’ each other, at odds with each other. Communication means ‘to share.’ Communication, sharing with each other, leaves us feeling enlivened. ‘Opinionating’ with each other leaves us feeling drained.
 
It is a given that everyone always is doing the best they can in every moment, given the circumstances of their life at that moment and their level of consciousness (or how many piano lessons they’ve had). Most people are not trying to be rude; and the times they are, it’s a given that they have some reason in their own speculating mind about why they’re doing it. Ask yourself. If ever you find yourself being rude or uncaring with another, is it because you’re an ass, or is it because they somehow ‘deserve it?’
 
Everyone always is doing the best they can in any given moment. When we insist on living outside the speculations of our own mind, we can begin to not be at the mercy of when their best maybe doesn’t feel quite good enough to us. We can maybe give someone a pass for having a human moment. We can let someone off the hook for a momentary lapse into bad behavior. And when we do let a potential problem moment with another pass without engaging, we may find the other is able to set aside his shield and weapons as well. We may find ourselves able to share. And from sharing comes the opportunity for love, the opportunity for life. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to find?
 
Today I will listen to my friend, rather than to my thoughts about her. I will pay attention to the world, rather than to my thoughts about the world. I will bring myself to the moment, knowing that the past and the future by and large will take care of themselves.
Bathing, Kumbh Mela 2013, Triveni Sangam, Prayag, Uttar Pradesh, India
All original material copyright © 2018 Jeff Kober