Today I was practicing piano, one of those beautiful pieces by Ludovico Einaudi called Nuvole Bianche. He doesn’t have the mathematical and musical precision as say, Beethoven or Bach or Mozart did, but he makes these clear, ethereal melodies that have a feeling of fragility and richness at the same time.
And I was getting lost in the music and being sucked in by the perfect harmony of the notes and then…
I made a mistake.
An ugly one.
It was a slip of the key, an accidental sharp or flat, but I cringed at the same time and at that moment multiple thoughts were running through my head, like Ugh! It was supposed to be perfect! You ruined it! How could you even ruin such a pretty piece with just a wrong-placed finger? Why couldn’t you play it just like Ludovico Einaudi did?
And I sort of had this little epiphany, I guess.
What if Ludivico played it wrong, too?
I know that sounds really stupid, but it changed a lot of things. I kept asking.
What if Ludovico also cringed at a wrong chord?
What if Nuvole Bianche didn’t come out perfectly the first time? What if it was a mess of chords and then, slowly and slowly, it became beautiful?
And that’s something I’ve struggled with a long time since my childhood; my expectations of myself. Call it perfectionism or something, but when I was a kid, I would have fits and these mini-tantrums…at myself. I wanted to give beautiful art art and music justice.
That’s why I would have the fits, the times where I actually broke down and cried at the piano, because I could not get this beautiful piece torn apart by my clumsy, mistake-prone hands.
And then I remembered this old Chinese saying; Lotuses bloom in mud.
Lotuses had long been the symbol of purity, but its roots are firmly anchored in ugly, brown mud. And I realize this is how beautiful art comes, just like in writing; fast and ugly at first, torn with mistakes and mired in messes, but with careful hands and devotion, it can become stunning.