Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Paul is Paul Because We are Not

A while back, I was sitting in the van, listening to Paul McCartney play some song, and lamented, as I have many times over the past 40 or so years about my own guitar and piano abilities. I lamented the fact that had I only practiced and put more time into either, or both, of those instruments, I’d be as good as he is…and maybe even halfway as famous.

In short, I was a loser.

But then a thought occurred to me that I hadn’t considered before; and this thought changed everything. What was this thought? Well it’s really quite simple, and it’s so simple that I can’t believe I missed it all these years…

It’s not just me.


I’m not the only one.

Come again?

For the first time, I realized the very obvious fact that I’m not the only person in the world to ever pick up a guitar and not become a Paul McCartney, a Les Paul, or a Pat Donohue. I’m not the first person to ever sit down at a piano and not eventually become a Stevie Wonder, an Elton John, or a Billy Joel. The world is littered with millions of guitars, abandoned by people who picked them up with such good intentions, and such enthusiasm, only to find that it was too hard, they weren’t as interested as they thought, or that there were other things in life that interested them more.

The same goes for the millions of pianos around the world, abandoned by people who tried it out, but just didn’t have the real desire…or talent…to stick with it after reaching a certain plateau.

We can’t all be losers, can we? Despite our many hours with Music Minus One and other methods of self-instruction; and who knows how many teachers, we can’t all be losers…after all, we gave it the old college try. Or as I said in the report card comment about a student who desperately wanted to become a computer programmer, but had abysmal math skills:

Perseverance is a trait that is often to be admired…but only up to a point. There does come a time, however, when one must admit that no matter how much arm-flapping is done, the hippo will not fly.

Does this mean that this particular student was a loser because he couldn’t program his way out of a paper bag? No…it simply meant that perhaps his skills and talents lay elsewhere.

And what about those of us who have picked up an instrument, tried it for a few years, and came out something less than a virtuoso at it? Are we losers?

By no means. As I said before, we tried it…we tried it, and found other things we were better at.

More important though, and this is the biggie…if we were all as good as Paul, then Paul wouldn’t be Paul. Imagine a world where everyone was Gershwin, or Marsalis, or Ma. If everyone was that good, then being that good wouldn’t be special.

In short, Paul is Paul precisely because most of us aren’t.

But there’s another side to this that we don’t often consider…as good as Paul is at what he does, there are many things that he’s not that good at…and that some of the rest of us are. So, conversely, you could say that because Paul is Paul, the rest of us get to be who we are, and good at what we’re good at.

There is one more thing though, one very important thing that I had to stop to consider…

Because I’m not as good as Paul…or Elton…or Billy…

I met my wife.

And that’s better than being Paul any day.

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