Sunday, January 8, 2017

Theology of Scarcity

I was having coffee with a friend recently and he introduced me to the concept and phrase "Theology of Scarcity." I had never heard this phrase before and ask him what it meant. As I understand it, it refers to limited resources. It reminds us that resources are limited, so we must hold on to that which we have. I did a quick Google search on the phrase and really didn't come up with a clear definition. It is clear that the concept grows from Biblical origins and is bounced around in church circles to some extent. I've been thinking a great deal about this phrase and related implications.

As I think about this concept, it reminds me of some of the precepts that I have laid for my career and life. First, let me say that I try to think in the opposite terms of this phrase. Through some light research, this would be known as the "Theology of Abundance." I have always felt like abundance is a better way to approach life, work, family, and relationships. I guess it really comes down to glass half full vs. glass half empty.  In music education, there are so many areas that we find abundance. I'd like to outline a few of the ideas here and see if you agree with them.

Just yesterday, I was we had a student recital in my piano and guitar class. We were talking about the concept of applause. I always remind my students that applause is free. Applause is essentially a thank you. It doesn't cost a thing to give and we can give it with abundance at no cost to ourselves. I feel like we live in a culture of tepid applause. One of my overarching goals in all of my classes is to encourage students to give applause freely and abundantly. This is a great example where the Theology of Scarcity has no place. Applause and gratitude must always be abundant. We can develop this as a habit in everything that we do in our work and personal life. We've all heard it said that thank you are free. And so it is with applause. It feels so great to receive the affirmation of applause and I will always encourage my students to give applause abundantly.

Another area that the Theology of Scarcity has no place is in that of ideas and approaches to pedagogy. I think about this all the time. There are an infinite number of approaches to teaching concepts in string education and music education in general. That's the beauty of it. We can give away our ideas abundantly and without fear of them being stolen. The fact is, all of our ideas and approaches to pedagogy grow from some other approach. We tend to take that which has been used with us as students and modify or refine it in ways that we feel are effective for our students. As a result, I always try to give away my ideas freely and in abundance. I encourage you to do the same. Share your ideas.  Don't hold them in. Give them away and let others try them. The fact is, that your personality is an integral part of the effect of nature of your ideas. Ideas are not proprietary. Personality plus ideas is. No one can take that from you. And, your personality is not scarce. It's what you have.

One thing that is in fact scarce, is time. I experience this everyday in my rehearsals, in my planning time, and in my family life. This is why I believe that efficient use of time is really important. And, if we can turn this idea on its ear just a bit, we see that efficiency is in fact abundant.   We can always be more efficient.  I am always pleased when someone asks me how I accomplish so much in a day or a week.  The fact is that I am an efficiency expert.  I have learned this at NCSSM for sure.  I have learned to be efficient in rehearsals due to short concert cycles and minimal rehearsal time in any given week.  I have learned that my students don't have time to waste.  We get in, get settled, and go hard for the allotted rehearsal time.  This has served me well in other conducting experiences.  I have to be efficient when conducting festivals, at camps, and in other environments.  Strong planning leads to efficient rehearsals.  Strong preparation leads to efficient rehearsals.  

So, the Theology of Scarcity is a really interesting theory.  So is the Theology of Abundance.   I think I will choose the Theology of Abundance.   How do these apply to your life, work, and family?

Let me suggest that in our lives, there should be no scarcity of

As musicians, there should be no scarcity of
Repertoire to practice, hear, and experience
Emotions to express
Enjoyment to experience
Satisfaction in the joy of music-making, teaching, communicating, and appreciation

Mark me down for the Theology of Abundance.  It is a better way to live.


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