Random thoughts on Sunday afternoon...

Wynton Marsalis once wrote:  Jazz sharpens your hearing because you are following musicians' ideas and trying to hear the human depth of their soul. The humanity in a sound - whether you heart it from your table in a jazz club or play it through your horn - it comes from understanding the soft and hard parts of life.

Maybe Jazz 101 should be part of Christian formation - learning to listen for and to the soft and hard parts of life - rather than always doing a solo?  About 15 years ago, I discerned that some spiritual wisdom is best taught through self-deprecating humor rather than dogma.  Laughter may be the only way to describe and celebrate humility and God's radical hospitality for even the worst SOB (myself included.)  Because if you can't laugh at yourself, you'll never have room in your heart to accept and welcome real people who aren't always lovable.

Now I'm thinking that Jazz 101 might be added to the course - careful listening in relationship to creating something beautiful - because we don't get much practice doing this in our everyday lives.  Oh, we could, don't get me wrong - but there isn't much encouragement for careful listening in pursuit of beauty.  No, we listen carefully to nail our argument, or advance our cause or beat our opponent.  But rarely to create beauty. So I'm wondering, maybe it would make sense to do an on-going workshop in learning how to listen while being creative for the sake of beauty and truth? (Just LISTEN to how carefully these cats have to pay attention on behalf of beauty:  OMG!)

Brother Marsalis again:

Playing reveals the authentic you. If you're impatient, it will show in your playing; you just won't wait. If you're slow, if you don't think quickly, everybody will hear it. If you're shy and it's hard for you to project your personality, you may have great ideas but they won't come out, or you might overplay to compensate. If you're self-centered, you can't play WITH other people - they have to back you up or lay out. Of course, you can survive like that, but it's not fun to play with you (especially if play the drums!)

Clearly some voices in our churches have never had to listen and create something beautiful with others: they just keep doing the same old same old over and over again.  And Marsalis is right:  it is NO fun to play with those cats.  But what would happen if part of our formation used music making and the arts to advance the cause of Christ?

+ listening and responding only when you had something beautiful to contribute?

+ keeping the groove going even when you want to cut loose - or take a nap - or coast or fake it?

+ encouraging others to make something beautiful for the Lord by both helping them discern their gift and then providing a solid foundation over which they can play their new song? (ok this is a bassman speaking but really!?!)

So far I've come up with three contemporary spiritual disciplines that seem to be more effective in this era than the old dogmatics:  a) humor, b) questions, c) feasting.  Perhaps the time has come to add d) jazz.  Maybe I need to start acting like the Thelonius Monk of the Reformed tradition - in my own voice of course - but there's something going on here, yeah?

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