I’m standing in a subway car heading to midtown Manhattan. The train is crowded and at a stop, I become aware of two short guys wearing cowboy hats, one with a guitar and the other with an accordion get on. I’ve seen this before, these guys work the trains for money. They play about sixty seconds of a song (what I think is Mexican music), they stop and then walk the subway car hat-in-hand asking for money. They then leave the car and move to another at the next stop. They’re self-employed. (smile)
As I continue reading my magazine I notice myself feeling a little annoyed at this. There was a kind of silence in the subway car, as silent as you can get in a subway car, and these guys were about to intrude on it. They are not doing this out of any love for their art or any authentic desire to share and move people with their music, I tell myself as I peer at them over the top of my magazine. I see them survey the car and prepare to play, and my IT (voice in my head) says “This is a racket. They’ve found their equivalent of shake the tree for fruit, so they go around from tree to tree shaking and picking up any fruit that falls down.”
They begin to play, guitar and accordion, and I direct my mind to return to my magazine. Then a curious thing happens as this music fills the subway car from these two young men who clearly are going through the motions, or at least giving no indication that they are loving what they’re doing.
I begin to smile – despite myself.
The music which I can only describe as Mexican music transforms my mood from irritation to joy almost instantaneously.
The guy with the accordion isn’t even playing well and his grim expression shows a passion for his craft similar to that for a long line.
But here I am; really smiling now.
This very familiar music was without question just HAPPY music. I often associate Mexican music from the old Westerns with horse-riders in black wearing big black Sombreros, drinking, laughing and shooting their pistols in the air Three Amigos style. Apologies to Salma Hayek and the Mexican people. All I know is I’m feeling happy. I let go of my resistance, drop my magazine and show my smiling face to the rest of the subway car.
My annoyance is gone now, and I can just listen and really appreciate how this music is making a difference for me, it really transformed my mood. I find myself reaching into my pocket for some change to give these guys. (Kind of silly to attempt retribution for making me feel good.)
But they’ve already passed by, hats-in-hand and are now waiting for the doors to open to proceed to their next gig. They don’t even have the heart to really engage with people, to locate and pick up the fruit their tree shaking just produced. Amazing.
I learned two things from this experience:
- First, it is possible for good to come from just going through the motions. Regardless of how you feel about the activity taking out the garbage does good in the world. I guess it’s the same for music, once you’re proficient at it. I would have thought that someone playing music half-heartedly, inauthentically could have never produced such a feeling in another, but that was clearly not the case for me.
- Second, Mexican music or at least this type of Mexican music makes me feel good, puts me in a happy upbeat mood. This is a great thing to learn as one of my fundamental practices is mood control.
I’m always observing my mood and seeking ways to alter it to one that has me be purposeful, cooperative, loving, friendly, optimistic etc.
There doesn’t seem to be a science to how this occurs and as this experience shows, some influence can bring you up or bring you down and there’s no explaining why – it just does. I just make a note of what brings my mood up and down and try to repeat the ones that bring me up, and avoid the ones that bring me down. I just put down Mexican music as something that brings me up.