Practice Makes Perfect

By Will Randolph



Good Musicians know the value of a rest in a musical composition. Without it, Musicians could never complete a performance, especially if they play wind or brass instruments. The rest is an opportunity to “catch a breath,” or to collect the air to play the instrument. The rest serves as a counter balance to the beat, enhancing the sound which gives the musical score depth and meaning. Moreover, the rest helps emphasize the mood of a piece, which conveys the meaning and expression of the composer as well as the interpretation of the performer.

A rest is a moment of silence, a moment of tranquility, a pause or break. It can be a time of reverberation and fade, of silence and solitude, of transition and departure, of patience and waiting. These moments are just as important to a piece of music as the actual notes, rhythm, and key and may at times be even more important. They cannot be rushed over, skipped through, or changed without losing something in the performance.

Good aging actually is like a good piece of music. It has its own timing and it includes rests along the way. I have recently read articles about the differences found in “mature learning” which speak to how Older Adults learn compared to younger generations. It mentioned the need for moments of rest, quietude, and solitude. Older Adults do not learn by hurrying through material, but by reading some of it, reflecting upon what it means, walking away from it, and then picking it back up after they have internalized some of the new, rich insights it has given them. They learn better as an individual then in group learning situations the article says, and often learn best when they can walk away from others for deeper reflection. A rest in their musical scores so to speak.

I think what this tells me as a “maturing adult” is the moments between learning sessions, are very important, for this is when we approach our reflection with our whole being rather than simply our cognitive power. Just like old hymns evoke memories, great lyrics speak to our hearts, and our favorites tell our stories, moments of rest incorporate the spiritual side of us to help us learn. If we give ourselves moments of rest, a time where we seek peace, then our spiritual selves will beckon and call us out and our learning will become more complete and memorable. Silence and peace are not practiced commodities in our fast paced world, however. We desire instant gratification and rewards. We want hurry up and accomplish, where if it takes too long, we lose patience with it.

Aging I am told by others who are further along than I in the process, it has its own beat. Often our bodies move at a slower rate than they did when we were younger and we are forced to slow down our pace and rest more often. Borrowing the musical metaphor, when we are younger we are forced to follow 8/8 time but when we get older our beat is more like 2/2 time with rests coming frequently. But just as in music the rests in aging can be valuable; it can make or break the piece, if we do not try to rush through, skip over or change them.

In music as in aging and life, there are always those who are bothered by silence, solitude, or spiritual reflection. They seek to fill those moments with sound. Silence is not golden but uncomfortable for them. Those types of people never fully appreciate the silence. For them silence and solitude are temporary distractions at best rather than a necessary part of the experience. They have not yet experienced the richness of the silence or of the sound for that matter.

My Dad learned the value of rest, solitude, and reflection early in life and practiced it as long as he lived. He told me he began to have his quiet time in World War 2 when his schedule allowed a break after lunch for a few minutes while others were being served. He would begin his quiet time with prayer, because he wanted to get rid of the concerns of the morning, so he would “pray them to God” by turning them over or naming them to God. Then he would close his eyes and try to clear his mind of all thoughts and experience fully the darkness. Finally, he listened for not only what his heart told him, but what he felt God was telling him. When he completed this he reported he invariably feel asleep for a few minutes. He would always awaken a different, renewed person.

I could never do the nap-time thing as a child. This was probably because quietly resting, clearing your mind, and being at peace seemed of little value to me as a kid. However, as an adult, I, value taking a short break and having the ability to walk away from something and to rest. A rest helps me clear my mind, refresh my soul, and solve whatever is troubling me. It allows me to be spiritual instead of cognitive. It works like this that rather than impose into the silence what I want to say, I can instead listen for what God is saying to me. This is the one thing which getting older has taught me, the value of the rest. It is something in my Old Age I will continue to practice until I am perfect, or at least better at it.