Recently I listened to a fascinating interview of the musician Bobby McFerrin (perhaps best known for his song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”).
During the interview he said something that really struck me as profound: when on a stage he doesn’t perform, he tries hard to simply be himself. He said that we spend our lives constructing and putting on various masks: we have our professional mask, our home-life mask, and many others. Children don’t have this. They are just themselves. He talked about spending a lifetime trying to tear down all the masks that we’ve built. He quoted Picasso: “It has taken me my whole life to learn to draw like a child.”
Here is a portion of the interview :
Bobby McFerrin: When I do workshops with students, we talk a lot about performance because they all want to perform. And I tell them to do their best — not to perform, simply be themselves: the same voice, the same self that they are when they are simply walking from class to class or standing in, you know, line waiting to get on the bus or whatever.
It’s extremely difficult to do because when you are on stage in front of a lot of people who are looking at you — and you are aware of them, looking at you and thinking about you and listening to you — it’s difficult not to perform or to do something that’s safe and easy.
Interviewer: In some ways, that’s what we all work to do all of our lives is just to be ourselves.
Bobby McFerrin: Yes, to be ourselves is to be childlike. Picasso said something like, he spent his entire career learning how to paint like a child again.