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Is it the Destination or the Journey?

music miscellany Oct 23, 2016

“What stop please?”

When I was growing up in Philadelphia, I used to love to ride the public transit. I was too young to drive, and I needed to go from the suburbs into the city each week for my harp lesson. Each way my trip required one bus, one elevated train and one underground trolley, plus a nice six block walk. I felt so grown-up and free being able to negotiate the transit system by myself. And I loved being able to confidently tell the bus driver which stop was mine.

Because while the journey was fun and exciting, it was really all about the destination. I was going to my harp lesson, the most important part of every week. Getting off at the right stop was critical.

I was in a gift shop last week and a little framed saying caught my eye. The framed quotation was one of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s: “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

And as I found myself acknowledging the truth of his words, I was reminded of how, in our endeavors, the journey is determined by the destination. More simply, if we know where we want to go, we can figure out how to get there.

This is one of the reasons it has been important to me to know what I want to do with my harp playing. Some people would call it goal setting; that always feels a little lofty and intimidating to me.

I like to think of it more like the stops on the bus route. All of the stops hold possibilities; they are all headed in the same direction. Once I get on the bus, each stop takes me closer to my goal, at least up to a point – the point where I get off.

Having a destination in mind helps me to choose which stop will bring me closest to my goal. Or I could decide to choose a different stop and take a different route to my goal.

But the destination itself shows me the route to follow and the stops are steps along the way.

I use this imagery for daily practice and for longer term projects too. Once I know what I want to accomplish, I can visualize the route. And the route, just like the bus route, has stops, waystations, places where I can check where I am.

I remember occasionally being distracted (or more likely absorbed in reading a book) and suddenly looking up and out the window in the subway wondering if I had passed my stop. What a relief it was to hear the bus driver call out the next stop and realize that I was still headed in the right direction and my stop was next.

So ...what’s your stop, please?

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