I think human beings are not the weakest ones of the animal kingdom. It is not an obvious statement when you look at the formidable tigers, panthers and other cats that are loaded with weapons. Or the way a butterfly can camouflage and protect itself from predators, not mentioning, of course, creatures like turtles or hedgehogs that benefit from tough or dangerous armors.
Humans have none of these attributes.
We don’t run fast. We don’t have any claws or teeth that can be used like Swiss knife to do pretty much anything we want. Our skin is soft, and no matter how thick our hair is, it doesn’t provide much protection.
But we are intelligent. That’s true, we are.
Although I would argue that this quality has been developed over a long period of time, with many trials and errors. What I mean is that before the humans, there must have been an ape that resembled us, but wasn’t as smart (Yes, I know there is a slew of them, and they all have names. I’m trying to keep away from scientific terms here). And before that ape, another ape that wasn’t as smart as our direct ancestors, and before that second ape there was probably another ape that wasn’t very developed intellectually, etc.
Our nimble mind took many many centuries to come to what we know it to be today.
So, what helped us make it? What kept us alive and relevant?
Of course, having opposable thumbs is essential. And being able to draw conclusions from what you observe is also key to survival. But I’ll venture another point, a point that relates directly to being a musician: human beings are extremely resilient. Their endurance is almost second to none. First of all, there are not many animal that live past 50 years old. So, combine that resilience with the power of deduction and you got yourself a very powerful species.
When you study music, you are at the heart of the matter. You practice, you practice and you are forced to be patient. Your body and your mind will take time to get the speed, the habits of the gymnastic you’re asking it to do. Eventually you will be able to fly through that piece of music, or that particular fill. You can doubt yourself, of course, but why would you? Humans have been growing precisely because of their incredible endurance and their ability to learn almost anything. It is just a matter of doing it and not letting go. That’s the core of our DNA.
There is a saying among people who actually study human endurance. They say that it is when you are absolutely convinced you can not go another step, that you are at the maximum of your strength and endurance, that, in fact, you are only at half of what you can do at that moment.
A dear musician friend of mine put it that way: “Hey Sol, I just did close to 7 hours straight on the same song! Who knew that when you are truly exhausted and fed up, you can still go another 6 hours?”