What's Revealed in the Process

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I am married to a jazz musician. I have to admit that there was a certain romantic notion swirling around the thought of life with an artist. We shared a love and study of music, albeit two very different styles. I was a classically trained pianist whose concept of jazz was limited to the elevator variety. He was a be-bop fanatic who thought the Eagles were a group of ball players in Philly. Needless to say, through the last few years we have contributed much to each other's musical universe, but it wasn't until my husband convinced me to study a little jazz piano that my creative world was really turned inside out.

Of course, my first thought was that playing jazz couldn't be that different from how I'd played music all my life. Give me the music and an hour and I'll give you one fabulous jazz piano performance. My husband would discreetly pull at his hair and then gently remind me that I was missing out on the essence of jazz music - that the beauty is in the journey. That sounded like sentimental musical hooey to me, so I would nod and then continue on in the way I secretly knew was best.

Perhaps I do not need to explain at this point why those jazz lessons contributed to not a few tense marital moments.

At the end of laughing at myself, I realized that my husband was teaching me so much more than jazz theory. Learning this music challenged my concept of self-discovery. I had always considered myself an artist of a certain variety. I loved to write, to play music, to dance. Nothing gave me more pleasure than a finished project. And, to borrow from another creative soul: "Ay, there's the rub."

Our era has convinced us that productivity is the defining characteristic of the life well lived. Even inside of our Christian culture, it has become a secondary virtue of sorts. We are a people given to checking off boxes at the end of the day. Of course, there is a necessary value in getting things done, but I'm talking about something bigger, something deeper we crave inside of our being.

We use our creativity to finish a painting, to write a paper, even to organize our kitchens (by the way, those of you that have that talent are welcome to come to my home and be creative all day long.) Then we can point to our finished product and say, "Look, I was creative." But, perhaps, we miss out on something very life-giving when creativity is simply the means to an end.

Listen to an artist who volunteers his time to work with troubled teens. Listen to the musician who mentors young jazz players. Listen to the writer who teaches young girls to journal their lives as story. Very few of them will talk about the final product as the desired outcome. Rather, they will talk about what was uncovered along the way and they will excitedly tell you the story behind every piece of writing, every canvass, every composition. Without our subterranean journeys, our art has no life and we inevitably lose sight of the big picture.

August 07, 2007 at 11:58 AM

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