A new flute was invented in China. Discovering the subtle beauty of its sound, a Japanese music teacher took it to his country, where it gave concerts all over. One night, she played with a community of musicians and music lovers who lived in a certain city. At the end of the concert, her name was announced. He took the new flute and played a piece. When he finished, there was silence in the room for a long moment. Then the voice of the oldest man in the community could be heard from the back of the room: “Like a god!” The next day, when the master was getting ready to leave, the musicians came to him and asked him how long it would take a skilled musician to learn to play the new flute. “Years,” he replied. They asked him if he would take a student, and he agreed.
After the master left, the men got together and decided to send him a talented young flutist, a boy sensitive to beauty, dedicated and trustworthy. They gave him money to cover his expenses and music lessons, and sent him to the capital, where the master lived. The student arrived and was accepted by the teacher, who taught him a single, simple melody.
At first he received systematic instruction, but he soon mastered all technical problems. Now, he would come to his daily lesson, sit down and play his tune - and all the teacher would say to him was, "Something's missing." The student would try as hard as he could, he would practice for hours on end, day after day, week after week, and all the master would say to him was: “Something is missing”. He would beg the master to choose another song, but the answer was always “no”. For months and months, every day he would play and hear “Something is missing”. The hope of success and the fear of failure became greater and greater, and the student oscillated between agitation and discouragement. Finally, frustration got the better of him. He packed his bags and stole away. He continued to live in the capital for some time longer, until his money ran out. He started drinking. Finally, impoverished, he returned to his native province. Afraid to show himself to his former colleagues, he went to live in a hut outside the city. He still kept his flute, he still played, but he no longer found any new inspiration in music. Peasants who passed by heard him play and sent their children to him to give them music lessons. And so he lived for years.
One morning there was a knock on his door. He was the oldest master in the city, accompanied by his youngest student. They told him that there was a concert that night and that everyone had decided not to play without him. After much effort to overcome his fear and shame, they managed to convince him, and it was almost in a trance that he picked up a flute and accompanied them. The concert started. As he waited behind the stage, nothing disturbed his inner silence. Finally, at the end of the concert, his name was announced. He took the stage in a fury. He looked down at his hands and realized that he had chosen the new flute. Now he knew he had nothing to gain and nothing to lose. He sat down and played the same melody he had played so many times for the master in the past. When he finished, there was silence for a long moment. Then, the older man's voice was heard, sounding softly from the back of the room:
“Like a god!”
(History transcribed from Japanese folklore by Stephen Nachmanovitch. Book: Being Creative – the power of improvisation in life and art. São Paulo: Summus, 1993.)