September, when it was back-to-school, always reminded me of structure, a strict schedule, uniformity, and days regulated by hours. This is in sharp contrast to the recently departed summer which could be unscheduled, free, and mostly without structured hours to contend with. Beginning in September your time is not your own. You are a part of a system with many parameters. Most of the time you are indoors with artificial light, rather than outdoors in the sunlight and with fresh air. Words like restrained, boxed-in, claustrophobic and fettered come to mind.
I don’t think I was ever in a classroom either as a student or a teacher that I didn’t stare longingly out of the nearest window. I was always drawn to some point in the distance from wherever I happened to be at the moment. This can be restful, but not very good classroom management no matter which side of the desk you are on. Most of us would say that this is daydreaming, but I draw a different conclusion. Daydreaming is not constructive. It is being lost in another dimension and also vulnerable to those around you who are alert, whether students or teachers. In other words, you can get caught at daydreaming and have no idea as to where you are in the topic at hand. This can be embarrassing or at the very least disorienting.
Looking through windows, on the other hand, is perfectly safe as long as you don’t slip into the daydream state. The “window” state is where I spent most of my student classroom consciousness. I planned my after-school time, I practiced trombone slide positions mentally, I arranged and composed music and worked with keyboard intervals so I could hear the note relationships accurately. This was in junior high and high school, even before I knew how much this would help me in college music courses where I discovered that there were actual systems that others had invented for the refining of technique in these areas. But I was thankful for the ground-work that I had previously laid. All of my classroom notes had musical doodling of one kind or another, and it never seemed to affect my grades which were good, and as I look back, I am very thankful for that.
This thought process became a life-long habit; I thought of it then as “split thinking.” I always seemed to be able to think of several different things at one time. Before it became “multitasking.” This split thinking blurred the imaginary lines between reality and thought, letting me occupy both at the same time. The thought process, instead of being a one-way street, became a highway with potentially many lanes. Sometimes these lanes would intersect, and sometimes not, but the option was always there. Whatever situation I was in whether classroom or some kind of job was reality and I was always alert to the task at hand. But my mind also was being developed to follow a train of thought, or even several lanes of thought through a logical process to sometimes, an acceptable conclusion. A window usually helped to focus, especially when the premise was faulty and drew incorrect conclusions. In these cases, I would have to start over in different lanes and with different configurations.
Music and writing in general are made up by their nature of many lanes or lines or layers which, when not parallel, can cross or intersect or even abut. All of the arts have this fundamental nature. Learning to control the lines or trains of thought is the purpose or goal of every artist. The mundane in any of the arts is the tedious process of traversing many lanes and highways while striving for the profound, or deep, or just perfection in execution. But, as important as these are, they don’t guarantee success. And success, to me in this area, is the addition of feeling or emotion into the work or project.
Adding feeling or emotion into any of the arts is the goal, the highest achievement, the pinnacle, and becomes the difference between basic construction and the art itself. Looking through the window (traversing the highway, and daydreaming (adding feeling and emotion) are both necessary, but expressing feelings and emotions through perfection in execution is the goal. So, as you look out of many windows, in your search for answers in the world of thought, dream on. Look out the window for the creativity in your thinking, but, for infusing feeling and emotion, access your dreams. Look out of a window, then fill your mind with daydreams, and dream on and on…..!