Walter wasn’t a student of the famous cello master. He was a teenager attending student recitals. At the conclusion of each piece, Casals would…
“sit there patiently, simply nodding. Now, his eyes would roll back into his head. After a pause long enough to undergo a root canal, he would explain, “Beautiful!”
Casals’ praise prepared the student for the critique that would surely follow.
I hope Prof. Walter doesn’t mind if I put a finer point on this “beautiful” business.
In the aftermath of “Beautiful!” who would not feel affirmed, even blessed? Our defenses dissolve. The ego melts. What a wonderful feeling. It’s the lightness of being unburdened. Unburdened of what? Of dubious strategies and interfering belief systems. In other words, of who we think we are.
The master is a kind of death.
Pablo Casals, the master, is cultivating this process of “dying”. Now, the student is “no longer there”. No longer in her own way. The way is cleared for a more profound understanding of the art to take root.
Welcome to the Zen of learning.
HOW OFTEN DO WE RISK LEARNING IN THIS WAY?
When I was training to be a writer (I was no spring chicken), I signed up for every non-credit course available. I was particularly excited when a writing guru came to town. Richard Walter was one such.
I thrilled to his iconoclastic notions of the screen trade. “Entertainment”, “commercialism”, “voyeurism”—these were not dirty words, he insisted. No, these words were just misunderstood. At every turn Dr. Walter dashed conventional wisdom.
“Beautiful (or something equally encouraging)!” was what he wrote on Page One.
And then with his red pen… the teaching began.
What’s my point? Do I even need a point? Perhaps the point is just to point you in the direction of Richard Walter’s latest newsletter so you can read his Pablo Casals story for yourself:
Okay, here’s another point:
Find a master/mentor if at all possible.
“Dying” is virtually impossible without trusting a teacher utterly. I’m afraid your husband or wife’s blessing doesn’t quite cut it.
We need a Pablo Casals. We need a Richard Walter. We need to hear the verdict from a master of our chosen art.