The policy of the orchestra is to make no distinction between the various grades of ability and the various forms of music, or time signature. The RTO looks forward to a further lowering of standards, in order to underline its commitment to accessibility and relevance.
You can go to their website and listen (they’re not that bad), but that’s not the point. The point is this: if the Boston Philharmonic and the RTO both threw parties on the same night, the RTO party would kick The Boston Philharmonic party’s ass. Why? Because the RTO vibe, as I read it, is free and open. They’re looking to experience more than to be perfect. Their rule set for what music is, and what it means, is way more open than any formalized orchestra could ever be.
This sounds idiotic but I think being good, as in proficient, isn’t good all the time. No doubt being good is good: I’ll hire a good doctor or lawyer over a bad one every time. But as I get older I realize how important it is for my soul to be bad or awful in at least one thing I do, and to take pleasure in it anyway. There is a way to take pleasure in things independent of my ability at them and I’m convinced that cultivating it will make me a happier person. This works solo, but even in groups I’d rather spend time with other people being silly & bad, than boring and good.
And while children naturally have this ability since most toddlers are happy and talentless (despite what their parents say), I find as I age it’s increasingly hard to find peers who:
- Are willing to be bad in front of others, much less enjoy it
- Accept my interest in taking pleasure in my badness at something.
Perhaps I need new friends, or must ignore their judgments, either way, as we age there’s the assumption we should know better than to do things we’re bad at. If you’re 15 and dance like a hapless idiot, that’s one thing, but when you’re 35, it’s a different story. In my thirties now I find people my age take life so much more seriously than a decade ago and I don’t fit in so well. I’m still crazy. And struggle as I might, my peers have more influence on me that I care to admit.
Back to my original point, being bad is a requirement in doing new things. To start anything new I have to concede badness: the first weeks of learning to speak Greek or taming alligators will be ugly. And I’m convinced the increasing fear of looking bad has everything to do with the tendency for people to try fewer new things as they age. We lose familiarity with the uncertainties of the new. We forget the necessity of feeling like an idiot now and then to grow. And before we know it we resist new experiences based on our forgotten understanding of how we got our old experiences: we did lots of stupid embarrassing things to accumulate all the skills and life knowledge we have.
For all these reasons there is freedom and joy in being bad at something – often more than being good at something.
I’m considering adding a new heuristic into my life:
- Pick up a new activity that I’m bad at.
- Spend time enjoying my badness at that thing while trying to learn it.
- If I somehow get good at that thing, go to #1
I admit now I’m bad at being bad – much worse than I used to be, if that makes sense. But I’m making a point to get better at being worse – and we’ll see what happens.