Arnold belonged to a family of musicians. His mother was a singer, his father played the keyboards, and even his sister had learnt to play the violin. Arnold, however, was much younger than his sister, and although he was allowed to dabble on the keyboards from time to time, he really didn’t understand music at all. Except for the fact that he knew what he liked.
Some music he liked very much, whilst other music he didn’t like at all. And when he heard something he didn’t like, he would often think. “I could do much better than that.” So, one day Arnold opened the lid of the piano stool, took out an unused sheet of manuscript paper, and sat on the stool determined to write some music.
Now Arnold knew that whatever he wrote, he wouldn’t be able to play—he would need to get his father to do that. But Arnold was sure that despite that, he would still be able to write something really good, something worth listening to. But, as he sat there, looking at the blank piece of manuscript paper, pen in hand, he really wasn’t sure what it was going to be.
And then he had a brain wave. “I know,” he thought, “I’ll get some proper music out, and I’ll copy all the lines, squiggles, and tadpoles, and I will add them to my music.” So that’s exactly what he did. He got some manuscripts out of the piano stool, and began to copy all the lines, squiggles and tadpoles. But not necessarily in the same order—he wanted his piece to be different. Nevertheless, he copied all the symbols and arranged them somehow on the page.
Now despite that fact that he really didn’t know what he was doing, two hours later he was finished. He was happy. There were squiggles and lines and tadpoles all over the place. So, with a sense of contentment he leant back, and admired his efforts. And then being unable to play what he’d written, he waited for his father to come home, so he could play it for him.
A little while later Arnold’s father returned home. And of course, being in a musical family, his father was delighted with Arnold’s work; he was pleased that his son was interested in music. But when he looked closely at the manuscript, all he saw was a piece of music which was virtually unplayable. You see, Arnold really knew nothing about music. And the piece that he had written changed tempo two or three times in each line. One minute the tune was in sharps, the next it was in flats. Sometimes there were four beats to the bar, other times only two and a half. Sometimes the piece was written in the treble clef; other times it was written in base clef.
But despite that, his father was determined to play what Arnold had written—just as Arnold had written it. So he sat down at the keyboard and began to play.
Now fortunately it wasn’t a long piece. But by the end, even Arnold could see that there was more to writing music than just writing down lines and squiggles and tadpoles. But Arnold’s father was determined not to put off; he wanted to encourage him in his interest in music. So right there and then he told Arnold he would teach him all about writing music. So, even though the music had not turned out as he had hoped, Arnold was very pleased with the result.
Now of course the moral of this story is that from time to time we all get interested in something. It could be music, it could be painting, or it could be something else. And the danger is that we can think that we can do a better job than someone else. Indeed, right from the beginning, with little or no training, we can think that we know enough to create a masterpiece. Unfortunately, no matter how much we know, there is always room for us to learn more.
And that isn’t just true of music, or painting, it is also true when it comes to the Christian faith. Indeed, at times, we can think we know it all; that we understand every single aspect of the Christian faith. And that is why there are so many people that feel that they don’t have to mix with other Christians; there are so many people who that they don’t need to learn any more.
But of course, you can easily see what happens if we ever begin to think like that. It would be just like writing a piece of music, with all the lines, squiggles and tadpoles, before we really understood what they were all for—just like Arnold.
Posted: 24th June 2017
© 2017, Brian A Curtis