Eldest Weed spent six hours yesterday at the piano trying to master the final movement of Rhapsody in Blue. This morning he's at it again. It's not one of the pieces he's actually supposed to be polishing for his piano teacher; those he's not touching.
Yesterday I mildly suggested he should tell his piano teacher he wants to learn it so he could have her help, but he was adamant that he wanted to work on it for pleasure and not "have" to.
I know exactly what he means. I remember my own piano lesson days and how 20-30 minutes of required daily practice seemed onerous --like a heavy blow of tyranny against my precious freedom. But I could turn around and spend hours at the piano working on a piece that just got in my head somehow. Sometimes in the midst of my fiddling around with it, my mom, a superior musician, would want to come work on it with me. She wanted to join the fun or perhaps just correct some sloppy mistake to help me have more pleasure, but "have to" ruined the thing for some reason.
Heck, I'm still like this. I have deadlines and projects and books I should read to fulfill them, and they're worthwhile and not boring, but somehow I can't face them and here I am blogging and thinking about ancillary matters.
I think Walker Percy has an essay about this phenomenon in Message in a Bottle. Don't recall the point of it, but I do recall his only half-kidding suggestion that if we really wanted kids to fall in love with academic disciplines, we'd have to make the work catch them by surprise somehow: surreptitiously "hide" a poem near the microscopes in biology class or tattoo an equation into a desk in literature class so the kids could discover the beauty of the things themselves while day-dreaming through their daily lectures.
Why are we like that? Is it a product of the fall -- the dis-integration of the human faculties such that imagination and memory no longer work in harmony with intellect and will. In other words, we can't focus on what we ought and we sort of rebel against "ought" in the first place? Or is this a dimension of Wordsworth's observation, "We murder to dissect"? Beauty has to catch us by surprise -- like a melody that suddenly sticks in the senses--in order for us to be swept up in it?