Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Lay Your Comfort Down


Following my lifetime practice, I woke up this morning thinking about what song or game would be good to ritually close off a beautiful three days of Jazz with 50 Thai (and other) teachers. And my trust that something would arise proved once again reliable and off we went with the Georgia Sea Island game, Little Johnny Brown.

Little Johnny Brown, lay your comfort down.

 Goodness knows we all need comfort. Whether food, music or people, we constantly seek that which is warm, familiar, reliable, a steadfast companion to be by our side through the treacherous waters of the daily round. Our go-to choices, our routines, our steering toward still waters is what makes us comfortable. And this is good, as far as it goes.

But the first problem is that “as far as it goes” is often a short distance. That which makes us comfortable is often in middle of the dial, medium tempo, medium volume, all pretty chords with little tension. It can turn comfortable into complacent and keep us a safe distance from a beckoning horizon. Nobody gets to the rainbow’s end watching a show on TV about the color spectrum while sipping one’s favorite soft drink.

And even if you find your comfort closer to the edge, something akin to the sublime late quartets of Beethoven or Coltrane’s Love Supreme, without attention, such things can lose their luster and become commonplace. The window they opened that invited you to fly free can close with the shades drawn.

And so after three days of moving into the swamp and lotus fields of jazz, hitting walls and soaring through windows, singing palpaple pain and jubilant joy, Little Johnny Brown invited us to keep the momentum going, to lay our comfort down ( a scarf set down on the floor) enclosed in the circle of loving support we created for each other.

Fold up the corner, Johnny Brown.

No need to throw it away with disdain. Give it the care and respect it deserves and fold it up neatly. You may need it again.

Show us your motion, Johnny Brown.

Not your carefully rehearsed or clich├ęd disco move, but the motion that best expresses who you are in the moment in a style that is 100% you. That’s the next step the world is waiting for you to take and be it small or big, tentative or exuberant, we only want to see you take it.

We can do your motion, Johnny Brown.

We will show it back to you so you can see clearly what you look like when the world takes up your offering. One small gesture amplified 50 times over and a powerful view of how you can affect the world once you commit to your particular genius.

Take it to your friend now, Johnny Brown.

For one brief moment, you are the center of the known universe and gloriously so. But step out of the center and give room to the next miracle to be revealed. Rejoin the circle of miraculous beings, each wholly unique and each wholly just a small part of a yet more glorious whole.

And so we played our way to a glorious summary of three days of risk, renewal and restoration of our promising selves often put to sleep by the indifference of the world. We took the delicate butterflies of soul in our gentle hands and released them to flutter to the tunes of Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Charlie Parker, Milt Jackson, John Coltrane, the chants of children singing Mama Lama, Humpty Dump, Boom Chick a Boom, Criss-Cross Applesauce and more. 

Before this course, few could have imagined how Soup Soup served in Duke’s Place, One Potato fully cooked in the Pennsylvania Hotel, Lemonade sipped while wearing Little Suede Shoes are just the right dishes to satiate our jazz hunger. This the weird, wild and wacky world I had the good fortune to discover that keeps me traveling around the globe bringing jazz that uplifts the human spirit and awakens the human soul. And as long as I keep laying my comfort down, I believe it will continue to work its magic. 

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