Theordore Isaac Rubin on Musical Wisdom and Kindness

Tuesday Quotes are short explorations of music, life, and the daily endeavor of practicing classical guitar. Find more here. Enjoy!

“Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.”

Theodore Isaac Rubin

The great comic strip character Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy, and they are us.”

In guitar practice, this may also fit. We are often our own biggest adversaries, bullies and critics.

Learning guitar comes with inevitable struggles. To grow and improve, we must face and overcome challenges. And not only in the beginning, but forever. There will always be puzzles to decipher and solve.

Theodore Isaac Rubin also said, “The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.”

But our inner critics may convince us that something is amiss. We think, “It should be easier than this. And therefore something must be wrong with me. Other people surely don’t battle such currents.”

And this thinking poisons the creative well. As we scold and criticize and lament, our motivation wanes. Our enthusiasm falters.

Poet Ben Okri wrote, “Beware the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.”

Instead of the harmful, pessimistic narrative, we could try a bit of kindness. A touch of compassion for the part of us that’s showing up and trying. The part that’s wanting to contribute to more joy and satisfaction in our lives.

We can choose which of our inner voices to listen to, and which voices to thank kindly and excuse.

When we’re nice to ourselves about our music and efforts, we’re more likely to stay engaged. We’re more likely to take risks and experiment, because we’ve made it safe to fail.

Our enjoyment swells as our skills expand over time. Like nourishing a plant, we provide a hospitable environment and gently encourage growth.

Allen Mathews

Hi, I’m Allen Mathews. 

I started as a folk guitarist, then fell in love with classical guitar in my 20’s. Despite a lot of practice and schooling, I still couldn’t get my music to flow well. I struggled with excess tension. My music sounded forced. And my hands and body were often sore. I got frustrated, and couldn’t see the way forward. Then, over the next decade, I studied with two other stellar teachers – one focused on the technical movements, and one on the musical (he was a concert pianist). In time, I came to discover a new set of formulas and movements. These brought new life and vitality to my practice. Now I help guitarists find more comfort and flow in their music, so they play more beautifully.
Click here for a sample formula.

Thanks to you (you are my only teacher) in only a few months I've gone from very basic beginner pieces to having just completed learning Bach's Gavottes 1&2 in good form and execution. As a non-classical electric guitarist who has always used a pick and never his fingers, this has been no small feat!

-Gregg Olson

Allen Mathews was recommended to me as somebody who could help me expand my guitar vocabulary.  Allen started me on a really fun cycle of lessons and practice.  He is a very good,and very enthusiastic teacher, and I feel that I'm on the road to learning.  I couldn't be more pleased with my experience.

-Peter Buck (r.e.m.)

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