Fernweh

Wanderlust

photo courtesy of gdargaud.net

I’ve always felt that traveling can be like a dinner party if you’re not careful.

A traveler is a person who seeks new experiences in far off lands but, if that traveler is not firmly set within each experience that is occurring at that moment, then they are like the partygoer whose eyes wander away from the person they are speaking to, off looking for different experiences while a potentially great one is at hand. It’s also completely annoying and rude.

I bring this up because the same problem, this wanderlust, can afflict musicians as well. It happens when practicing your instrument and, rather than learning a piece in its entirety, you stop halfway through to start learning a different song altogether. It begins a cascading routine that leaves you with a repertoire of half-finished songs.

The same thing can occur with the instruments: an aspiring virtuoso may put down their alto sax to practice a tenor, in an effort to cure their boredom or expand their instrumental vocabulary.

Even listening to music can be a problem: have you ever played a song in your iTunes (or Songbird) playlist as you search for the next song you want to listen to?

Wanderlust sounds like a charming concept and is generally assumed to mean a “love for travel”, but it is rooted in inattentiveness, multitasking, and the overall diluting of experience. An activity or endeavor, in fact any particular moment in time, deserves your full attention. You need to keep experiences close to you, and not spend too much time looking for the greener pasture on the other side. Travel, new skills, and new experiences are crucial, but it is important not to let them hold back the vitality of your existing locale, skills, and experiences.

The German concept at hand here is actually called Fernweh, which literally means “an ache for the distance.” Fernweh keeps you far away from what is near to you.

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