How to do anything:
“Don’t try and don’t think.”
I went for a pleasant walk in the woods with Mrs. Rumm a few weeks back. During such excursions I like to travel off-path whenever possible …especially when someone with me hasn’t done so before. I find one discovers much more on the road less travelled, don’t you think? Or, if not more, at least different.
The only problem I find with this is in re-joining the main path. If another person witnesses this return their dirty silent judgemental mind throws a wobbly: “They’ve been having it off! Why else would they have gone into the trees!?”
Fear not, though, for before we go any further I shall reveal to you the secret to rejoining the path.
As I told Mrs. Rumm that day, “if anyone sees us as we come back to the path they’ll be searching for signs of a lustful romp” (honestly, we weren’t at it, but it’s OK if you choose to believe otherwise). “Anything we say or do will be assembled together in their minds in such a way as to ‘prove’ this snap assessment.
“So, as we return, if we meet anyone else just say Guten tag, then walk on.”
Well we didn’t meet anyone on that day, but I mention it because it happened on the same day as…
I had no breakfast or anything else before setting out that morning. As a result, we made it around three-quarter ways through when I started sweating and feeling dizzy. I know what you’re thinking -The guy’s a wuss! and I don’t disagree. It is a bit of a wussy thing to feel faint for lack of food at 10 o’clock in the morning, but what can I say? It’s true. I felt faint and I started sweating and the energy seemed to pour out of me all at once. It wasn’t the strain of the walk, it was just that the fuel tank sprung a leak. The engine stopped.
It took some time, but I managed to hobble out of there eventually, all the while with one thing on my mind: PANCAKES.
I don’t believe I ever cooked pancakes in my life outside Pancake Tuesday, but even then we usually make the thin crepes rather than the ones I was seeing in my mind now. These babies were chunky. My mind had them piled high with banana and oatflakes on top, with golden syrup flowing down the sides.
The type we normally make
We arrived home and I set to work. Mrs. Rumm asked how I knew what to do and I admitted I didn’t, but I tossed some ingredients in a bowl, flung it on the pan and 10 minutes later I was re-energising with the precise fuel I had been dreaming of.
Mrs. Rumm agreed they were perfect.
Now cut to today: Mrs. Rumm suggested I make them again. “OK,” says I and pulled the mixing bowl from the cupboard. Then the trouble started as I tried to recall what I had done previously. Flour -I knew that much, so I tossed some in. A little more. Is this the correct amount? I wasn’t sure. Now what?
An egg? I think I put an egg in there last time. So I cracked an egg and mixed it in. I had to call Mrs. Rumm back into the kitchen at this stage to ask her how to make pancakes. “Was it milk I used last time or water? Or fizzy water?”
Milk she told me. She was almost certain. Probably.
Erm -ah yes! I tossed in oatflakes -There!
Sugar? “Did I put sugar in?” I enquired.
“Good idea -I’ll sprinkle in some caster sugar,” she said, then did so. “Enough?” she asked me. “Maybe a little bit more,” I told her.
So I set to work and put the ingredients on the pan, chopped some banana slices on top, ET VIOLA!
The result wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite up to expectation. Perhaps I used too much flour for just one egg. I now think adding the sugar was not a good idea. The banana and the syrup have a better kick when contrasted with the non-sugary pancake itself. Also, now that I remember it, I had sprinkled the oatflakes over the pancake on the pan last time, not added it to the mix. This gave it a coarser, less-even, more interesting texture.
Anyway, my point is, I did it best when I wasn’t trying to think about what I was doing.
My daughter started learning to play the piano a couple of months ago. She was enjoying it, but for some reason convention dictates there are no piano lessons during the Summer months. Before she started the lessons she had been playing with her old Casio keyboard for seemingly hours per day. As soon as the lessons began she only practised enough to cover herself until the next class -a few minutes per week.
Once the lessons finished, she did nothing.
Aside: I can’t play the piano, but I wish I could. I remember my parents sending my older brother to lessons. He cried and cried every week. Then they sent my older sister. She cried and cried. Then, before I came of piano-learning age, my brother ran off down the road as he was being dragged in the door of the piano house. (I don’t recall the age, but I’d guess he was around eight or nine.)
As a result I was never sent, although even then I secretly wished I would be.
So anyway, I downloaded Ode To Joy sheet music last week and told Lucy I was going to learn to play this song. I find it hard to read even the simplest music, but once I know which key to begin with I can count the steps up/down from this key so I can eventually find the right note. Lucy helped, but soon took over to show me how to do it. Once I left her alone she gave up again.
A few days later I surprised her: I had been practising when she wasn’t around and now I knew how to play it better than she did (with mistakes and just one finger of course).
Pushing me off the stool once more she sallied forth and soon proved my inadequacies. Her poise and timing on the keys were especially better than mine. I tried harder and told her I wouldn’t be giving up until I could play it from start to finish (well the main section at least) without a single mistake.
Soon I found myself tinkling along without concentration, but whenever I began to consider which key to press next I stumbled, paused and began hitting wrong notes.
This is still the case, I find. When I hear the music in my mind as I play I find I can play it with little effort. When I try to concentrate on hitting the notes I soon go wrong.
I believe we all have innate abilities that we rarely use simply because we’ve ‘learnt’ that we need lessons or need to follow certain paths or instructions in how anything is done before we can do it.
I don’t offer the above as proof of this conclusion, but merely to provide some anecdotal evidence. I don’t mind if there’s not any ‘scientific truth’ in it, but in these two cases at least (and many more I could describe) I believe there is enough to support the belief that freeing one’s mind of objective thought can be a key to success.