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Heaven and Hell 天国と地獄

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On June 8, 2019, there was a RCCO members’ pipe organ recital at St. Mary’s Kerrisdale, and I played Mendelssohn’s organ sonata #6. I worked at it so hard hoping that I would play well and would be happy.

The reality was…..it went relatively well for the first 70% until a big accident happened. I had a person turning pages and pushing buttons to operate the general (pre-set registration) pistons for me. When I was at a very quiet place, by mistake, the loud pistons were pulled and I literally jumped. The unexpected loud sounds shocked me and my head went blank. At the same time I heard the other person uttering “oh shit!”

I didn’t know what to do.

I corrected the button myself, went back to the quiet part again, then carried on to the end. My heart was pounding like a storm, and my performance thereafter was messy. I just couldn’t focus.

OK, OK… accidents could happen. I have had so many accidents in my life of piano and organ playing. However, how could I lose focus after what happened? Why couldn’t I just keep my head calm and carry on? What a disappointment, I felt extremely angry for myself.

You know….I practiced so hard. I put so many hours into this piece for this concert. And this is the result. In fact, I am having this result over and over. Shouldn’t I give up my organ if I can’t even play a piece satisfactorily?

Looking at our front and back yards everyday full of weeds grown as high as my knees, I had been saying to myself, “well, never mind, I can do weeding as soon as my concert is over.”

Night after night, so exhausted but forcing myself to put on headphones and practicing one more hour, what did that do?

The sacrifice and efforts I made were all waste of time…why do I keep doing this? Indescribable anger rose inside me and exploded. I shouted. “I am going to quit organ!” Yes, I declared that to my teacher and colleagues and friends.

Two days later, I went to my Zen meditation class. During the meditation my teacher Hoben told us a story. He didn’t know what happened to me at the concert…..so it was truly amazing.

This is the summery of his talk.

When do we feel unhappy or unsatisfied? It is always when things didn’t go the way we wanted, when we didn’t get the results we wanted. The question is what do you do when that happens? Do you get angry, get emotional, shout, blame other people, or even hurt other people? Or….?

What’s important is how you live that moment. Just because you practice Zen meditation, it does not mean bad things don’t happen. External hazards, undesirable things fall on everybody equally. However, how do you live that moment when that happens? That’s where Zen meditation can make difference.

….shocked….he is talking about me…..

There is a story, Hoben continued.

A man died. He woke up in a beautiful field. He thought, “wow, what a beautiful place! My afterlife is not as bad as I thought! But I don’t have a place to sleep.” Then, instantly, a beautiful dream house appeared before him. He was ecstatic. Then he found himself to be hungry. As soon as he thought of foods, beautiful dishes appeared on the table with all his favorite foods. Everything was like that. He had everything he wanted the moment he thought of it.

One day, he met an elderly man on a walk and was asked, “so how do you like your afterlife?” He said, “fantastic. I love it. I wonder how it is like in hell…”

The elderly man said, “how do you know you are in heaven and not in hell?”

So….he was in hell. Having everything he wants, the way he wants, without any obstacles, is a life in hell.

Working with purpose, failing and trying and yet failing, is actually the real heaven – that’s what this story tells.

I was ashamed. What an arrogant attitude I had, getting angry, declaring I am quitting, just because I couldn’t play the way I wanted to play. At that moment, my gratitude for the gifts given to me had totally disappeared from my mind. I am fortunate to have music in my life, to have opportunities to learn and perform. How could I forget that?

How stupid, how pathetically stupid I was…..

6月8日はパイプオルガンのコンサート、オルガニスト協会のメンバーリサイタルだった。私はメンデルスゾーンのオルガンソナタの6番を弾いた。私なりに一生懸命練習して、今度こそは上手く弾けることを期待していた。小さな失敗はちょこちょこあったものの最初の70%はなんとか無事にいった…と思ったら突然驚くべきことが起こった。譜めくりとボタン押しをしてくれる人が間違えて、静かな音の必要な場所で大きな音のボタンを押してしまったのだ。突然鳴り響いた大音響!「オー、クソ!」というその人の吠え声!私は文字通り飛び上がった。何が起こったのか一瞬わからなかった。動揺して心臓がパクパク。もう一度静かなところからやり直して最後まで弾いたものの、散漫ながっかりする演奏になってしまった。

それからがいけない。もうこれだけ練習してこんな演奏しかできないなら何のためにこんなことを繰り返しているのか、と怒りの気持ちがこみ上げてきた。

毎日家に帰るたびに雑草ボーボーの庭を見ながら「ガマンガマン、コンサートが終わったら庭仕事ができるから…」と自分に言い聞かせていたのは何のためだったのか。疲れて寝てしまいたいときにもガマンガマンでヘッドホンをつけて練習したのは何のためだったのか。全てが全く時間の無駄だったじゃないか、もうこんなことやめてしまいたい、カ〜とそんな気持ちがこみ上げてきて、私もう辞めます、と先生にも先輩にも友達にも宣言してしまった。

さてさて2日後、いつもの座禅に出かけた。瞑想をしていると座禅の先生がふっとこんな話を始めた。先生は私のコンサートの出来事なんて何も知らないから不思議としか言いようがない。以下は先生のお話の要約。

私たちが不幸だと思うのは大体において、自分の思う通りに物事が進まなかったとき、自分が思い描いた結果が出なかったときだ。そのときに怒って怒鳴って感情的になってときには人を傷つけるのか…それとも…?つまりその瞬間をどう生きるのかが大切なんだ。座禅をしているからといって思うように事が進むわけではない、災いに合わないわけではない。災いは全ての人に同じように降りかかってくる。ただ、その時、その瞬間をどう生きるのか、それが違ってくる。

…ドキっとした。まるで昨日の私ではないか…

こんなたとえ話がある。ある人が亡くなった。その人はあの世で目を覚まし、美しい草原に驚いて、こんなに美しい所ならあの世も悪くないなあ、と思った。でも寝る家がないなあ、と思ったら途端に素晴らしい夢のような家が現れた。その家で暮らしていたら、お腹が空いて何か食べたいなあ、と思った。すると素晴らしいお料理、大好物ばかりがテーブルにさあっと並んだ。全てがその調子で何もかもが思う通りに、サーっと現れて快適な生活が続いた。あるとき散歩に出かけるとあるお爺さんに声をかけられた。

「どう?あの世での暮らしは?」

「素晴らしいです。これが天国なら地獄の暮らしはどんなものなんでしょうね。」

するとお爺さんは言った。「これが天国だとどうして思うの?」

つまりこの人は地獄の暮らしをしていたんだよね。なんでも簡単に努力もなしで自分の思う通りになる生活は地獄の生活なんだってこと…目的を持って努力をして失敗を重ねて…それこそが幸せなんだ…

改めて2日前の自分を心から恥じた。オルガンを弾く幸せも忘れて、もう辞めます、だなんて偉そうなことを言ってごめんなさい。自分の思う通りにいかなかったからといって怒り狂うとはなんとバカだったんだろう。

Author: Haruyo Abramson

I'm a musician, mom, and grandma, living in BC, Canada with my husband and three dogs.

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