“You don’t know from bagels.” That’s what you might hear on the streets of New York, meaning, as you may have guessed, that you don’t know anything about bagels, or, that what you do know is all wrong. So, it’s in that spirit, and with tongue firmly in cheek, that I tell you, dear reader, you don’t know from opposition, or at least you don’t know as much as my piano. It knows a lot.
I play a scale with my right hand or my left, one hand alone, while my other hand rests atop my thigh, thumb on one side, index finger pointing toward the knee, pinkie and neighboring fingers on the opposite side of the leg. The hand on my thigh is relaxed. I play with the other hand…a simple melody. The sound is not remarkable in any way. I stop playing. I put the hand on my thigh in play. I engage with it. I sense its contact with my leg, first with the epidermis, then with the endodermis, next with the spirals of muscle up and down my leg, and finally with the bone, the femur, the largest bone in my body. I move my hand toward my knee. I don’t attempt to move my leg. My biceps and triceps do not engage; they don’t contract. It is more a wish than a task, one that my back knows more about than my arm.
As I move my hand toward my knee, I turn my hand back toward my torso while the heel of the hand stays in contact with the leg. It does not lift off. I turn my hand and I play with the opposite hand, the same simple melody. The tone has changed. It’s fuller, warmer. You think I’m delusional. May be. But get Thee to a piano, an acoustic piano, one that you don’t plug in, or any other instrument for that matter. Yes, it’s going to be tricky playing your violin with one hand, but you’ll figure out another way of incorporating opposition in your playing.
Opposition—in versus out, up versus down—is the law of the universe. When you put your self in play, when you are in harmony with those laws, your instrument will know, especially that marvelous and most important instrument of the self. So, now you do know from opposition, but about the bagels, Oy!, I’m not so sure. Please tell me you’ve never ordered a bagel at Dunkin Donuts.