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The artist's dilemma and the meditator's are, in a deep sense, equivalent. Both are repeatedly willing to confront an unknown and to risk a response that they cannot predict or control. Both are disciplined in skills that allow them to remain focused on their task and to express their response in a way that will illuminate the dilemma they share with others. And both are liable to similar outcomes. The artist's work is prone to be derivative, a variation on the style of a great master or established school. The meditator's response might tend to be dogmatic, a variation on the words of a hallowed tradition or revered teacher. There is nothing wrong with such responses. But we recognize their secondary nature, their failure to reach the peaks of primary imaginative creation. Great Art and Great Dharma both give rise to something that has never quite been imagined before. Artist and meditator alike ultimately aspire to an original act.
--Stephen Batchelor, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. IV, #2
I like this passage for a lot of reasons. I have often likened practice to a meditation, in fact Matt Otto has some great thoughts about that here. But I especially like the parallels that can be drawn between the faith required to sit every day and the faith required to go to the horn every day. Neither discipline has much to offer in the immediate gratification department. At this point in my life I don't hit plateaus in such a way that I have big breakthroughs after each practice session and I certainly don't feel any more enlightened after chanting (I currently practice Nichiren Buddhism)for 15 minutes (although I do feel more relaxed and centered) but yet I keep going back. I have faith that the act will manifest positive results over time.
Another parallel I like is that both disciplines place you squarely in the present tense. Bergonzi says playing jazz makes you addicted to the moment. This is so true for me. The more I do it the more I stay in the moment - this goes for both music and meditation.
I am thankful that Dan posted this today. It was a beautiful gem of wisdom.