Freedom. It’s an important word, with many clashing choruses of interpretations. I have been thinking about freedom lately through my music and my movements through it.
I feel free in one sense when I nosh on the amazing fish n’ chips n’ beer at the small Irish pub that’s down the road. I feel free when I stay out late, eat triple dark chocolate ice cream, lounge in bed. I don’t discount or dismiss these experiences; they’re wonderful; I do them with great relish and with full appreciation.
But I feel free in a different sense — I’d even say a deeper sense, although I am still timid using the language of value judgments here — when I am gasping, sweating, running in the morning when I’d really rather be in bed and feel like crap and really want that ice cream and missed a movie last night because I went to bed early so I could get up and hit the gym. When I grit my teeth and step painstakingly through scales my fingers have forgotten on the piano, when I slow my playing tempo to pay attention to each — individual — phrase — instead of letting the new sonata fling as fast as it can go. When my legs start wobbling in grand plié but I stay there and watch my knees and hold it, hold alignment.
Because I have the joy of mastery and growth of self then; not a beating-into-submission, but a setting-free to follow better impulses, to improvise more fully in the moment.
Because my legs grow lighter and lighter in the running, and strong and stable, and can leap benches and swing from lampposts and I can just decide to spring to the floor and leap up and yelp with joy because it feels good and I want to. And the music spins out through my hands and I can twist the phrases wry or lyrical or maelstroming, no gap between my orchestral imagination and the real sound, hardly a gap between the dreaming and the doing. And I stand straighter in the dance studio mirror, and I smile and think: I look tall. And: it’s easy.
I know the scientific words for much of what’s going on. I know the myelin is wrapping through the cortex of my brain, the musical phrases chunking, the muscle fibers tearing and rebuilding. I know it’s both me and not-me reshaping who I am; the healing, growing powers that the universe is saturated in, the free will we are granted through a gift of love, my choice to use that will to become… me. It’s not that I was not myself before, or that I was inadequate; it never was. But we are always in the process of becoming.
All these examples are from physicality, from things my body does — I know it happens in my mind and heart and soul as well; I want it to be easy to be good, easy to do right. But oh, the discipline is hard, if you would have something be easy!
But that is the freedom I would go for, and the freedom I would have and share. The hard is what makes it good, because the hard is what makes it easy. The freedom to be good and right and you, to fluently and fully express that as the calling strikes you. And the yoke is easy, and the burden is light, and both are soaked in sweat and tears… which are what make the feeling of refreshing coolness when the wind blows.
Yep. Freedom is important to me. And I want to keep on learning how to chase it better.