Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Trouble with Inspiration

It’s the last hours of my 4-day Jazz Course in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I am hiding in my little “teacher’s room,” a place I’ve gone to rest during the lunch break. It’s a new routine for me, one born from the necessity of my sickness, but I like it. And with the European-inspired civilized 90-minute lunch break, it’s a nice block of time to just re-gather one’s wits and energy before entering the joyful fray that awaits.

I suspected that Jazz and Teaching and the energy of eager teachers and the particular exuberant energy of Brazilian folks would help heal me and carry me through my coughing-self. And it did. So beautifully. Today, one game and two hot Latin jazz pieces was just what the doctor ordered. With a half-hour before lunch, I had the folks sit in groups and reflect on their experiences and come up with a few “takeaways.” Then each group shared back with the whole group and me.

That turned out—and no surprise—to be so moving and touching. No surprise because we had moved and touched for four days, so the emotional body was active, alert and awake and ready to receive the lessons in deep ways. I am not looking for praise in these reflections—it’s not about whether they liked me or not, it’s about what came up for them and where they’re going to go with it.

But of course, my presence in the course can’t be wholly separated out from what they received and it was satisfying to here that they got strength from my determination to cough my way through the material, fight my way in sickness to offer the health of this work. I was satisfied to hear that they thought I was an excellent musician and though I joked about how I fooled them and told them about all my failures, I’ve worked hard enough all these years to feel glad that the work helped what music I have in me come out in coherent ways that impressed people who are real musicians. The acknowledgment of my dedication to children and to speaking on behalf of their needs likewise felt good.

But the sum of the takeaways was a sense of being inspired, given new breath for the work they have chosen and renewed determination to do it better. I acknowledged that I look for the same when I go to a concert or a workshop and that it feels good to be inspired. But then there’s that moment after when you realize: “Damn! I have work to do!!!” Inspiration without renewed determination to work harder and in a more effective way is just a puff in the air. So while inspiration can affirm and help us feel good, it can also get us fearful and trembling: “Am I up to the task that lies ahead?”

A heartfelt thanks to these 44 beautiful souls who have given themselves over to this glorious work, with such passion and humor and great musicality. May the inspiration keep us uplifted as we turn anew to the work.

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