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The grass is greener
Comparisons are not healthy
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The grass is greener
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Posted by Dylan Christopher, 2 years ago
Tags: comparisons, perspective, learning

The grass is greener

My grass is green, however, I will not be speaking to you about my lawn or comparing the varieties of grass that grow there (wanted and unwanted) despite the thumbnail accompanying this article.  I will, however, be writing about the age-old adage:

“The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.”

When taking up the study of a musical instrument, it is easy to end up feeling unsure of how much progress is made while studying over time.  This arrives from the perspective of the student; if that student is a child, then the parent also.

Learning is quite a solitary act; nobody can learn for someone else.  As a result, it can be difficult to gauge progress.  This causes us to look outside of ourselves for validation, qualification and quantification.

We are all different, or rather, it would appear to be that way when we are looking at other people, and not hearing their internal monologue, or witnessing the parts of their lives that we are not privy to.  It might surprise you how much alike we really are, despite our perspectives varying so drastically.

We are not islands; nothing exists in isolation.  It is unhelpful for anyone to promote this way of thinking; however, comparisons are equally unhelpful. The only time we can ever make a comparison or judgement of another person is when we have walked a day in their shoes, figuratively speaking; which is impossible. We simply do not know how they arrived where they were when we witnessed them.

A validated person exudes self-confidence; this manifests in real-time due to acceptance.  They are aware of their flaws, but, also aware of their strengths.  This clarity also allows them to view it in others meaning they see other people around them as human-beings battling their own personal struggles also.  For every aspect of themselves a person shows you in public, there are several hidden aspects they are not showing you; a validated person understands this and does not pass judgement or make a comparison.

We must also not fall into the trap of believing in symbols and idols in an attempt at qualification.  Forgive the connotation to paganism, however, these objects do have tremendous illusory power over the holder.  Qualification truly arrives by delivery of said qualifier not symbols, idols or talismans; meaning, we can hear and see when we are doing it right, but only if we are truly listening or viewing what we are doing in reality, not the ideal we create in our minds; you have skill so you received a certificate, you are not skilled because of the certificate. 

Lastly, we quantify our skill and knowledge by its depth and breadth.  If your knowledge was a tangible object in three-dimensions, it should fill the room you are in and erupt into the surrounding area.  Continuing this analogy for a moment, narrow learning would concern only the handle and perhaps surface of the door.

A person who plays a piece of music, but cannot express any contextual information, exhibits narrow learning.  Even small details such as key, time, timbre, and texture can all have meaning within a piece of music; not yet including the historical context.

When we witness a person who is validated and qualified, with quantifiably large amounts of skill and knowledge, we often look at them with admiration and longing; a direct comparison is made.  That comparison is usually along the lines of secretly, or not so secretly, gushing and pining over their perceived superiority or favourable exploits.

In the context of music lessons, this might arrive as making a comparison between a peer after hearing them perform.  It might also arrive when receiving examination results and comparing marks.  As an adult learner, it might arrive when witnessing a younger learner do both of these things.

All of these situations and resulting comparisons are unhelpful, not only because of the crippling, self-defeating feelings that are created through needless comparisons, but also the pointless act of comparing oneself to another person with different life experiences and perspectives.

I propose that when we see an individual who, for example, can perform their scales flawlessly, instead of comparing that “they can, and I can’t”, we consider that they have put considerable time and effort into accomplishing this feat.

“The grass is greener [where it is watered].”

This correction changes our perspective, from merely stating that someone is better or “has greener grass”, to creating a pathway to success, through obtainable means; “watering it”.

What’s the point in looking over the fence at your neighbour’s grass and simply stating “Well isn’t that green!”, why not asked the question “How can I get my grass that green?”  Accepting that another person has an attribute or quality that you would like to possess is the first step.  Questioning, contemplating and concluding comes next.



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Dylan completed his music training with honours at Colchester Institute, where he studied piano with Australian pianist Lesley Young, and composition with British composer Dr Mark Bellis. While studying, in 2009, Dylan won Colchester Institute’s Canon Jack Award for Solo Piano adjudicated by Andrew Ball.  A composer, promoter, and advocate of contemporary classical music, Dylan joined the membership of Colchester New Music in 2014.


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