In our last lesson, we watched the film Tous les matins du monde (All the mornings in the world) starring Gerard Depardieu and his son Guillaume. The film is about the Viola da Gamba virtuoso Marain Marrais and his relationship with his teacher, Monsieur de Sainte- Colombe. The teacher, a rather harsh person, tells Marrais that he is a good player but would never become a musician. He explains that although his fingers move fast and his bow moves elegantly, He plays no music. At a certain point, Sainte Colombe is upset because Marain Marrais plays in front of the king and in a burst of rage breaks Marrais’ instrument. He then gives him some money and sends him away.
In the book Zen and the Art of Archery which I have mentioned in an earlier post, the master also sends his student away at a certain point, after the student finds a way that helps him release the arrow effortlessly. The master feels cheated by the student, who has sinned against the Great Doctrine.
How can we ask our students to be themselves, to think freely and at the same time insist on what we think is the right way? How can we ask the student to see or feel in a certain way? When things come to that point, I remind myself of my first driving lessons.
One time, I arrived at an intersection and was about to continue driving when my teacher stopped me and asked: “where are you going?” I pointed at the yield sign and said: “I have the right of way, they have a yield sign.” My instructor said that yield is something you can only “give” and never “take”. That was hard to understand at the age of seventeen, but I have since learned that this is equally true with other things. We can never take or force things such as respect, love, understanding and empathy. We cannot even ask for them.
Although Marin Marrais has become a successful player, towards the end of the movie he comes back, hides under Sainte-Colombe’s cabin and listens to him practice. Only now is he ready to absorb, only now is he ready to GIVE himself up.
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