I’ve known Luke since September 1964, the beginning of third grade. We were busy in our youth, building models — planes, tanks and battleships, primarily – toying around with chemistry sets and playing ball. During attended high school, though on very different academic paths, we still had some hang time during the regular meetings of our “lunch bunch,” a group of five of us who ate lunch together. During college, our paths parted a bit and the gap grew more over time what with careers, families and the other diversions of adulthood. I’ve always appreciated his take on life and the world, and in a recent email he did it again. It pays to listen to people for their golden wisdom, whether it comes in streams or nuggets.
The remainder of the “lunch bunch” – there are now four of us since John died many years too soon – has had a rejuvenation of communications as of late via email on the topic of music. The string of conversation took a bit of a detour on the topic of playing music.
My attention was piqued; I have always wanted to play a musical instrument, and the conversation energized my interest and with more discipline and wisdom than I had when I was 16, my last attempt to learn to play the piano. Luke began teaching himself how to play the bass guitar decades ago. In the group chat about music, he commented on his friends’ critiques from the perspective of the discussed songs’ bass lines and whether he has learned them. Amidst his sharing, the nugget.
“Playing bass has made me like so much more music than ever before. Not enough time left to listen to it.”
We lunch bunch members are not spring chickens. There is definitely much more (life) time behind us than in front of us. Luke’s comment touches on many important lessons about life, but particularly when you realize that time is short.
There is no end to learning. Whether it is learning to play music or how it the instruments are made; whether it is fishing or cooking fish; whether it is the practice of or the theory of…anything. Never stop learning. My dad would often say, “You ain’t gonna learn any younger” as a response to my comments about trying something new. That expression has carried me into many adventures, successes and “failures,” all of which taught me something to prepare me for my next adventure. One never gets too old to learn. “You ain’t gonna learn any younger.”
Luke’s musical preferences were clear “back in the day.” He likes more now. Now is also a good time to knock down boundaries to see the expansiveness of the horizon, even if you remain in your current vantage point. Expand your view into various types of music (or cooking, traveling, reading, etc.), or step over to something you’ve never considered trying before. I’ve been convinced all my life that I can’t dance. My wife disagrees. We occasionally dance and we will take country dancing lessons in a few months. It is never too late to expand your horizons; likewise, reveal horizons to young folks, too. The legendary actress Betty White first found her affection for animals in remote backpacking trips with her mom and dad when she was young; Ansel Adams was a teen when he first photographed nature on a family vacation with a camera that his dad gave him. Not that new horizons must turn into legendary careers; expand your view and adventure because you can. Climb the mountain because it is there.
People spend incredible amounts of time stressed about the future while staring intently in the rear-view mirror. The only time that matters is the moment you are in. Try to eliminate the “I’ll get to that later” mindset, as well as the tendency to keep looking over your shoulder about past actions, decisions and choices. You cannot walk forward straight when your head is turned to look to the past. Use the wisdom learned through the experiences and choices of the past to provide you most courageous, joy-filled future possible. (To learn more about how to do that, check my book, LIFElines: Empowering All Aspects of Your Life.)
Be active, not passive
Instead of just listening to music, Luke chose to learn to play it. A passive life robs us of much. Learn, create, immerse yourself. There is a time for observation and contemplation, but we spend too much time watching, being entertained, being mesmerized and numbed by media and other influences. Be active in life; engage your brain and creative potential; life is to be lived, not merely observed.