Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Call and Response

“… the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That's the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. ‘Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?’” —Mary Oliver

And as this blog testifies, my daily answer is “Yes, I would.” But unlike Ms. Oliver, who started each day walking in the woods and marveling at the miracles of frogs, bugs, flowers and trees, my calls tend to be from e-mails, news items, books I'm reading, occasionally the night’s dreams. And then my responses (thank you, Blogspot!) have a place to land rather than circulating aimlessly in my mind. The last Post was prompted by a Facebook message from an old student, this one from another Facebook message from a teacher who took my Jazz Course in New Orleans last summer. She wrote: 

 

 “Presently, I am attending a professional development session on Racism. I am so grateful for our honest conversations, experiences and shared time where we explored this issue in a safe environment. Just wanted to take the time to say thank you to Doug for the opportunity to learn together and for all of you for sharing your time and experiences.”

 

And I wrote back:

 

“Thanks for your note! Talking about racism and social justice in the context of Jazz is a double-win— learning the necessary and important stories for us to understand our own history deeper alongside the beauty and triumph of this great music! Grieving for the world that has been and exulting in the new world we’re building, one based on the practices of a good jazz band—deep listening, responding , finding the next needed notes with a flexible mind well-practiced in improvisation, balancing our unique expressive self in our solos while celebrating our collective connected self in the ensemble passages— and all of it swingin’!”

 

 Ain’t that the truth. I keep coming back to Wynton Marsalis’s profound observations:

 

“Jazz is what American could become if it ever became itself.”

 

Without playing a single note on a single instrument—though a good idea to consider!— we all of us would benefit from living the jazz life. Not the late night drinks and smoking kind, but cultivating the ability to both call and respond. To the different qualities within ourselves, to the people around us, to whatever the world throws at us each morning. To constantly create— and re-create— a new version of our self that brings more intelligence, more beauty, more happiness to each and every moment. 

 

PS Pasting Ms. Oliver’s quote from a Website, I noticed that the font was one I had never used—Georgia. In honor of the political moment we’re in, I’m publishing this post in this font, responding to the call in this quirky way. Go Georgia!

 

 

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