What's more, unless I'm a hired player for a public gig, the work I do with my band mates is profoundly personal even when it gets shared in public - and there's the rub. Because what I share within the band is a vulnerability that is time-tested and hard won. It doesn't happen all at once, it takes years of listening, testing the waters, learning how best to share artistic concepts born of inner revelation and reflection. In a very real sense, what happens in the band is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. For me, faithful music-making takes place when creativity and imagination tenderly embrace and expose what is most real and essential in my soul. And because I can't always see or feel the full truth, this intimate act must be evaluated and even reshaped by artists who have found a place within my heart. It is the integration of the personal into a community of kindred spirits. What Fr. Richard Rohr calls the mystical truth of the Holy Trinity:
The fourth-century Cappadocian Fathers tried to communicate this notion of life as mutual participation by calling the Trinitarian flow a “circle dance” (perichoresis) between the three. They were saying that whatever is going on in God is a flow that’s like a dance; and God is not just the dancer, God is the dance itself! The Incarnation is a movement—Jesus comes forth from the Father and the Holy Spirit to take us back with him into this eternal embrace, from which we first came (John 14:3). We are invited to join in the dance and have participatory knowledge of God through the Trinity. Trinity is the very nature of God, and this God is a circle dance, a centrifugal force flowing outward, and then drawing all things into the dance centripetally. If this God names himself/herself in creation and in reality then there must be a “family resemblance” between everything else and the nature of the heart of God. Scientists are discovering this reality as they look through microscopes and telescopes. They are finding that the energy is in the space between the particles of the atom and between the planets and the stars. They are discovering that reality is absolutely relational at all levels. When you really understand Trinity, however slightly, it’s like you live in a different universe. And a very good and inviting one!
No wonder some are confused by the palpable love that is shared in some of our performances: in a culture that rarely goes deep, we not only take risks together in pursuit of beauty and truth we celebrate and cherish the times when true awe has lifted us beyond ourselves into something sublime. Call it being "in the zone" or simply buzzed by good vibrations, it is a sacred groove. It is how I would like to live most of the time even while knowing I must keep up my professional boundaries. There are wounded souls out there who will use you up - and soul vampires who will suck you dry - mostly because they themselves are so empty and afraid, not evil (although there are some evil mofos we need to be on guard for, too.)
Parker Palmer writes that because so many people in our culture live increasingly empty lives, "they have a bottomless pit where their identity should be - an inner void they try to fill with competitive success, consumerism, sexism, racism or anything that might give them the illusion of being better than others. We embrace attitude and practices such as these not because we regard ourselves as superior but because we have no sense of true self at all." The ancient Psalmist got it right in Psalm 139:
You formed my inmost being (O Lord.) You knit me together in my mother's womb... I am fearfully and wonderfully made and my soul knows that very well.
Music making with those I have come to know, love and trust unlocks parts of my soul to me - and others - that are my truest self. It is a holy encounter that I treasure. Palmer writes:
Philosophers haggle about what to call this core of our humanity, but I am no stickler for precision. Thomas Merton called it true self. Buddhists call it original nature or big self. Quakers call it the inner teacher or the inner light. Hasidic Jews call it a spark of the divine. Humanists call it identity and integrity. In popular parlance, people often call it soul.
I am ALL for soul-full living - and revel in the soul food it creates. At the same time I have come to know that I can't live this openly and vulnerably with everyone; not only because we don't share the level of trust needed for soulful living, but because some are so empty they will simply devour me alive and keep on moving.