Life has a way of bringing you the answers you seek in the most unexpected ways. It has a way of presenting things that you didn’t even know you were searching for. It has a way of leading you to discoveries in the simplest, most mundane, most every day kinds of things.
Once near the end of summer, I was wandering through the city. I had no particular destination in mind, I was just walking and taking in the sights and watching all the people. It was a classic summer day. Warm. Sunny. Enough of a breeze to keep things pleasant and it seemed as though the day was a magnet, drawing people from everywhere out to wander. I had no idea that a great teaching was about to come to me.
As I rounded a corner, I came across a young woman sitting on a small fold-out camping chair and playing a ukulele. She had wild purple hair, a mass of tattoos, numerous piercings on her face and body and she was dressed in combat fatigues, sandals and bedecked with all kinds of bangles.
She was rough looking and I didn’t pay much attention.
Then she started to play. I’d heard ukulele music before, but what she played was far removed from anything I was familiar with. It moved in strange rhythms. It had a weird beat. The chords were complicated and jazz sounding. I listened to her song and at the end of it was prepared to move on and forget her.
But then she started to play another song and I found it impossible to move. I stood there on the sidewalk with streams of people moving passed me and found it impossible to take my eyes off this woman. She was wonderful. She bent over her instrument like a mother comforting a newborn. She caressed it. She coaxed sounds out of it that were haunting and memorable.
Then, she stood up and raised her face to the sky and closed her eyes. She strummed the ukulele and then began picking individual notes to augment the chords. She wove the elements of that song together into a tapestry that hung over the street and called everything into its centre. It was a music that was rich, complex and beautiful.
I fell into the spell of it. I closed my eyes, too, and let that music carry me wherever it would. There was the sensation of being moved closer to my own centre. It was amazing.
When she was finished I fumbled a bill out of my wallet and laid it in the ukulele case on the sidewalk. Then I shook her hand and thanked her for the song.
I fell in love with her music that day. I learned to love the strange, off-kilter rhythm and the diverse elements of what she played. I became one with this odd style of music and I wanted more of it.
What I learned from the experience was this; sometimes you have to watch someone love something in order for you to learn to love it, too. There is so much stuff to life that we can’t possibly experience everything. But when we find someone who holds a joy, a passion, an overwhelming exuberance for the activity that they’re engaged in, it has the ability to become our joy — if we let it. Such people are beacons for us.
They become our leaders leading us back to our essential selves.
You don’t have to be native in order to have an experience like that — just human.