Dr. Gerry Turcotte


January 25, 2016

'I will solve my riddle to the music of the harp.'

Psalm 49.9

Several years ago, when my daughter decided she wanted to learn to play the piano, a good friend tracked down a used upright for us on Kijiji. Even though it was on its last legs, Sophie was able to spend almost two years learning her basic skills until a better instrument was needed.

When we discovered that the soundboard on the first piano was irreparably damaged, it became a large, useless, dust-collecting sculpture in the dining room.

Recently another friend sent me a website featuring creative ideas to repurpose otherwise dead pianos. One of these caught my fancy, so on New Year's Eve, my son and I began dismantling the upright and slowly converting it into a writing desk, built on the exposed skeleton of the once-noble instrument. It will live again.

The timing for this project is relevant. I always follow a number of rituals on New Year's Day. One is to engage in key priority activities, this on the unscientific premise that how you start your year will be a template for how the rest of it unfolds.

For me, this means spending quality time with my family, completing one important work task and starting a creative project. I also set aside time for meditation and prayer.

This, inevitably, compels me to review issues that matter, priorities for the year ahead, fears and successes, goals and objectives. It is always a time to say thank you for the blessings in my life, no matter how hard or how difficult the prior year has been.

I don't want to draw an overly long bow here, but it seems to me that the repurposed piano is a more useful metaphor for the new year than the cliché of "starting from scratch."

The reality is that we begin each new year by repurposing the last. We may acknowledge things that are no longer working for us and try to change them, but we inevitably build on the foundation of the past.

Reimagining possibilities

The start of the calendar year should offer an opportunity to expose our core, figure out how we're put together, to acknowledge the beauty of who we are and how God made us, and also to reimagine the possibilities for transformation.

Like our humble piano, we should be true to who we are, even while playing a different tune.

The important thing is to always look for the potential within every object, situation and individual, and then find ways to help that potential emerge. That's an upright resolution if ever there was one.

(Dr. Gerry Turcotte is president, St. Mary's University in Calgary.)