Jazz, Dance, and Being Created to Create

My wife and I attended a free jazz concert at our local public library today.  The musicians were music majors at a local university, so this also gave them the opportunity to get some live experience together.  We all got something out of the performance.

After the concert, we were given a few minutes to ask questions.  One person asked the status of jazz in our society today.  The director answered that by stating that jazz is an art form which gets passed from generation to generation.  A person who loves the music, and has practiced for years gets great joy in seeing a younger person catch the spark.  It is cyclical in that sense.

The director also went on to talk about how challenging it is to make a living playing jazz, but that also has not changed very much.  You have to be creative if you want to play it.  Those who love it the most find ways to play, compose, and teach.

The question and answer session went right along with what I watched in each of these players, none of whom could have been older than 21.  I was amazed that when I watched them all talking and getting ready to play they all looked and acted like regular, young adults.  When the music started, I saw a visible transformation in each of them.  They went somewhere else, mentally and emotionally.  I was just as amazed at this transformation as I was the music they were playing.  There was something transcendent in the performance.

While the music was playing, an older gentleman, who also happens to be a dance teacher, stood up and went to an area off to the side.  He began to dance in free-form.  Here was free-form music, combined with free-form dance in a little room with perhaps three dozen people.  And it was amazing.  The players played from a sense of passion.  You could see they had, what I call, a case of the “can’t help its.”  It was like they were born to make this beautiful noise.  The dancer moved because he could not physically stop his limbs from reacting to the music his ears were hearing.

This brings me to something I have been going over in my mind for several months.  It begins in Genesis 2:19: “So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.”

I love this verse.  I imagine after God creates Adam that God is standing by like a parent who just gave their child a puppy.  Then God says, “Go ahead, name them.  All of them.”  In the moment, the purpose of the existence of Adam was established.  God created Adam so Adam would partner with God in Creation.  I am amazed by this.  We were created to be creators.  Can you believe that?

Then God waits for Adam to do his job.  He names one creature the Lion, then moves on to the Gazelle, then the Alligator, and the Woodpecker, and he just builds momentum from there.  I can see God watching this in amazement, yes amazement, because God’s creation, the one made in God’s image, is creating names for the animals.  He’s good at it, too.  I can also see God prodding Adam to keep going, and laughing at some of the crazy names he comes up with, while seeing the logic in other names.  A partnership was formed – God will make all this stuff, and Adam will name the stuff.

This takes me back to today.  While the musicians all had a case of the “can’t help its,” playing their improvisational music, we all sat in amazement.  They were creating beautiful sounds, and all on the spot.  I have to believe that God made these kids to do this, just like God made the older gentleman to dance to the music, also improvisationally.  They were fulfilling one piece of their purpose on earth.

This morning at church we heard the parable of the talents as told in Matthew 25:14-30.  This is a harsh story, because of the poor guy who hid his talent, and had that taken away from him when the master returned.  The point of the story is still the same as that in Genesis 2.  God gives certain gifts to each of us, and some of us get more than other, while others of us get less.  All of us have something to use for the benefit of God’s Kingdom.  That is the point.

My question then is this: what is your talent or gift?  What did God make you to create?  What can you simply not help yourself but to make?  This has been a hard lesson for me of late, because I have learned that I have a compulsion to write.  This does not bode well for someone who has a full-time office job, needs to sleep, eat, and exercise, along with other hobbies like reading, travel, and spending time with my spouse.  What it comes down to is that I cannot help myself but to write.  I hope what you are reading is a blessing to you, and the Kingdom of God.  Thank you for reading.

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