Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Beginner's Mind

Beginners mind: “One of the interesting things about having little musical knowledge is that you generate surprising results sometimes; you move to places which you wouldn’t do if you knew better, and sometimes that’s just what you need. Most of those melodies are me trying to find out what notes fit, and then hitting ones that don’t fit in a very interesting way.: - Brian Eno, from a 1979 interview with Lester Bangs

Zen appreciates beginner's mind. As Shunryo Suzuki famously explained, in the minds of experts there is only one correct way of doing things, only one possibility, but to the beginner, the possibilities are endless.  It is only after training in the subject that the beginner starts to "learn" that some of these possibilities aren't appropriate.  It's really more a loss of innocence than knowledge of a craft.

"This happened the other day in this session," Eno explains, "when we were working on a piece and I had this idea for the two guitars to play a very quick question and answer, threenotes-threenotes, just like that, and Fripp said, ‘That won’t fit over these chords.’ He played it slowly, what that meant, and it made this terrible crashing discord. So I said, ‘You play it, I bet it’ll fit,’ and it did, and it sounded really nice, too. But you see I think if you have a grasp of theory you tend to cut out certain possibilities like that. Because when he explained it to me I could see quite plainly that technically it didn’t fit at all. Each note was a discord with the chord that was there, not one note fitted, in the whole six notes almost."

The experts will try to tell us how to live our lives, where to invest money, what we should do with our time, what we should eat, and whom we should obey.  Don't listen to them.  Don't listen to me.  Invent your own life, and marvel at the original and unique results that only you could create.

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