I play piano. Not too well, but enough to accompany myself when the need arises.
Today, the piano tuner was in to take care of my piano, and it was bad. So, so bad. It was painful. It was painful before he came in. I could hear the notes as I played them – out of tune, dissonant – for the average listener, there probably wasn’t a discernible difference, but I could tell. Oh…I could tell.
Then he started tuning – plunking away on my piano – thirds, fifths, octaves, – mercilessly inspecting every note and it’s resonance and harmony with the notes around it. Over and over, note by note he examined, inspected. Tuning fork tones resonating through the small room, then through the house, exposed each cacophonous chord. Even notes which didn’t seem inharmonious to me before were revealed in their traitorous strife.
I wonder how often I’m like that. Merrily, obliviously living my life as if there’s no problem, but there is a problem. I am so very out of tune with the beautiful music happening all around me. It usually takes someone else to observe my dissonance and point it out to me. Without that third party, I would happily walk on in my discord painfully unaware of the agony I am causing to those around me who would be a part of the melody of my life or who would love to invite me to join in their own refrain.
When I do realize the dissonance, it hurts, but not nearly as bad as the process of tuning. Sometimes twisting, sometimes hammering, sometimes plucking, sometimes measuring my harmonies within the framework of the various notes that surround – each step can seem grueling to the poor sagging string. Each moment of attuning myself, or being attuned, can be uncomfortable, scary, challenging, but each twist and hammer leaves my tone more beautiful.
Children can be a remarkable tuning fork for me. I begin to see my dissonance in their words and actions. As my patience wears thin, so does theirs. As my temper rises, do does theirs. As my voice gets louder…yep, you guessed it. I hear them yelling at one another. I am out of tune, and so are they, and our home becomes my out of tune piano. We have to tune up. Like the low E string of a guitar, if I am out of tune, it throws the whole thing off, and our songs are no longer beautiful. We are a cacophony.
So I tune myself, my attitude, back to the right pitch. I adjust my attitude so I can see the beautiful music they are making, and in turn, the music they make becomes even more beautiful.
Don’t mistake this for the type of tuning that some expect. Some would have everyone intoning the same pitch. Some would lead us to believe that difference is dissonant. It isn’t. Difference can be harmonious when we work together with symmetry and balance. So, while we may not play the same tone, we can produce beautiful music when we are listening to the tones of others, and when we are striving to work in harmony, rather than expecting each person in our house, in our neighborhood, in our world to twist and hammer until we are all the same pitch.
Life is musical. Sometimes the music is discordant and unsettling. Sometimes it’s meant to be that way. But more often than not, it is a delightful strain of harmonies filled with the rise and fall of pitch, crescendos, and decrescendos – the dynamics of life. We are given the joy of playing our own part in the song. Will we allow the discomfort of the tuning to help us reach the perfect pitch and make the melody all the more beautiful?