So at work today I got to spend some delightful time unpacking an Arthur Hull set of drums...the big one...the one that provides instruments for 50 participants in a drum circle. My employer graciously indulged my vision of creating a rhythmaculture in our small Midwest town and purchased the drums. I had been keeping a 10 inch Remo ashiko and a 14 inch Remo djembe in my office on an unused part of the desk. I share the office with the massage therapist at the hospital who has become a dear friend. Actually we consider ourselves to be "work married." She is my work wife and I am her work husband. She has infinite patience with my lack of organization of the instruments and song books I have tucked into almost every available space in our cozy office.
I decided that I would like to take the ashiko and djembe back home to our music room (some people have a living room, we have a music room). After work today, I pulled my car up to the door closest to my office so I didn't have to haul the drums two blocks to the parking lot. As I walked out to my car, with my backpack filled with song books and instructional books, a harmonica, an ocarina and various everyday carry items with a bag holding my riq and the Remo Healing Drum kit strapped to it, carrying a large hand drum in each hand, I must have been quite a sight. A coworker, whom I recognize but do not "know" walked out behind me. She said, "You look like you're ready to do battle!"
"Always" I replied.
I explained that I was taking the drums home and preferred not to lug them all the way to the parking lot. She agreed with my choice, we exchanged a few pleasantries on went our separate ways.
Something about her initial comment really struck me. I was ready to do battle.
For a long time now, any time I would add a new instrument to my collection, I would tell people that I had added a new drum or penny whistle to my arsenal. Some people refer to a "bag of tricks" or other cute phrase, but for a long time I've used the word arsenal.
Someone pointed out that it brought to mind rather violent images, and I began to be a bit more subtle in using the word in reference to the tools of my trade.
I had an epiphany a few weeks ago in regards to how I deal with my ex-wife. I don't always agree with choices she makes for our children when they are with her. I keep trying to figure out how I can counteract the harmful things she does. I saw it as a conflict and took an adversarial position in the situation.
I remembered a lesson learned during a training session where our group of martial artists were learning how to disarm someone with a rifle. The instructor for the session is a hapkido practitioner, and kept talking about the concept of harmony (how musical!). At one point in the techniques we were learning, the instructor said, "At this point, you want and your opponent both want control of the weapon. You are trying to take it away, and you opponent wants it back...so you give it to him." The instructor then proceeded to show us from that position that we could use the stock end of the rifle to strike our opponent in the face, thus maintaining the harmony of the situation. The person holding the rifle wants to keep it, so we give it to them!
I applied this concept of harmony to my dealings with my ex-wife. I changed my mindset from an adversarial one to one of trying to maintain harmony.
All of this, coupled with that simple statement "You look like you're ready to do battle" brings me to the concept of the warrior musician.
I do battle every day as a music therapist. I battle against depression, anxiety, pain, grief, behavior challenges, brains damaged by strokes or Parkinson's, loneliness. I battle against people's self doubt. I battle against the idea that "I'm not musical."
So many martial arts have destructive and healing elements to them.
In the Indian martial art of Kalaripayattu, practitioners go through a series of weapons and empty hand combat training. After 20 years or so, they are allowed to study the healing aspect of the art and many become healers.
What of the Shaolin monks from China? Shaolin kung fu is legendary the world over. These monks are some of the most deadly people in the world, as well as the most peaceful. These warrior monks train for years in kung fu in order to seek harmony for themselves.
Anybody who has ever been touched by music therapy knows it is a healing profession; a healing art. I now embrace the other side of our profession. The side that seeks to find the harmony with the things affecting our clients and our patients. Harmony through strength of action and skill. Harmony that can only come from the determination to leave a situation better than you found it.
You may think it sounds rather abrupt or militaristic or violent, but I will continue to do battle. I will battle against the things that detract from the quality of life of my patients and coworkers.
I do this, because I am a warrior musician.