“On Being” rather than “on campaigning”: Yo-Yo Ma on working to understand the world and how he fits in it

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Yo-Yo Ma: Music Happens Between the Notes

This is a delightful conversation.  Mr. Ma is funny (the show begins with him imitating Julia Child), humble, friendly—someone I’d love to have dinner with.  (And a friend who personally knows Mr. Ma confirms that he really is a great person, a “hero” you can meet without having your heart broken.)

From the “On Being” website: Cellist Yo-Yo Ma is one of the most famous musicians in the world.  In this generous and intimate conversation, he shares his philosophy of curiosity about life and of performance as hospitality. With the Silk Road Ensemble, he traverses territory as vast and fluid as the world we inhabit.


In re-listening to this talk shortly after re-listening to Ms. Tippet’s conversation with Elizabeth Gilbert, I was struck by similarities between Ms. Gilbert and Mr. Ma.  Both are curious, passionate, comfortable with imperfection, and warm, gracious guests of the show.  I now strongly believe that if you (I) want to be happy, resilient, and “successful” (however you/I define “success”), being curious and open is imperative.

As a recovering perfectionist, I also took note of Mr. Ma’s perspective that whatever imperfections occur during a concert are okay because the artists and audience are at the performance for a greater purpose.  It isn’t about what goes wrong or about proving anything, Mr. Ma says.  We are there for communing and sharing something, “We want this moment to be really special for all of us.  Because otherwise, why bother to have come at all?”  And it can be special even though it isn’t technically perfect!

I haven’t yet seen The Music of Strangers, a move about the Silk Road Ensemble, but my mom raves about it.  I’ve added it to my queue (the digital release date is December 6, 2016).


Photos courtesy of Gimmeges at Pexels and Richard Revel at Pexels .

Alexandra Marchosky
Alexandra Marchosky
I coach individuals and organizations to do and be better by more fully living their values.
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