After a recent performance and Q&A an audience member came up to me and asked the following question:
“If you are at the top of your craft, who teaches you?”
This question has at least three false assumptions with it:
First is the assumption that I am at the top of anything. Second, that there could be a top of a craft. And third, the assumption in the question that lessons are only taught in formal contexts.
First, even if you perceive someone to be good, never assume that they do. It is a false measure of value that doesn’t actually help anyone. They may be in the midst of learning and feeling like a beginner again. Be thankful for the gifts that they have, and have shared. Celebrate the gift, or better, the giver of those gifts. No need to measure the person.
Second, there is no such thing as being at the top of one’s craft. That’s why it’s called a practice. You’re either doing it or not. You might have more chops or less, might have more experience or less, might be more known or less known, but you’re never on top. There is always a lesson being learned.
Lastly, lessons come in many forms. They may come from teachers in formal settings like a classroom. They may come from peers (of any age) in informal settings, like a practice session. They may come from divine inspiration, through the seeding of a question, that sends you on a journey to find an answer. Your teachers may change, but there is never no learning.
This is all contingent on having a heart of humility and curiosity, and doesn’t preclude confidence in that which already has been learned.
So why pose a question that takes our focus off of the lessons to be learned just to assess where we might be on the journey? There is no need. The journey is enough.