I’ve been thinking a lot about the space between the notes, in music and in life. Quite frankly, the blending of the two. As a musician, I was taught about the discipline of waiting and going forward. The discipline has served me well. Its been a cruel teacher when I’ve failed to take it seriously. It has been a two-sided friend.
I read a quote once credited to Bill Evans. He was asked in an interview why he seemed to linger after striking certain notes. His response was simply his desire to wait and see what the next note would bring. Jazz musicians have always been credited with strong improvisation skills. Obviously, or not , Bill Evans was a master at it. He believed that music was conversational.
Life is conversational.
In your race to grab a hold of something or someone, are you missing the space in between? Could it be that what you’re looking for is found there? The impact is always felt once a note is played. The best artists know true impact is felt in an echo or the lingering tone. It’s instinctive in so many respects, yet ignored in the same frame.
Is your life just a flurry of notes, full of hurry, clutter, fear, and doubt? Why won’t you slow down? Why won’t you let go?
I know many who fear what’s in between the notes. Between the notes we find the wounds. People often fear those same wounds will be exposed. Who will listen? Who will give empathy? The world has become shallow, and safe places to open up are becoming more rare. Social media has made it worse. I sometimes think about what it would be like to wave a magic wand and change it all, but of course I don’t possess that power. Life is tough and it can be daunting.
Take comfort, there is safety here.
So what about Ed?
In my post from earlier in the week, I promised a little “unfolding” around Ed Dobson and us.
- Ed is a representation of us all. You might think because you don’t have ALS, or some other disease, that you don’t have much in common with Ed. The true reality is your diagnosis hasn’t been delivered yet. Sorry to break the news, but no one gets out alive in the span of life.
- I’m really concerned about the number of people I know, and don’t know, who walk around the planet acting immortal. The keyword is acting here. It is a sure recipe on how to miss out on your notes (love affairs, songs composed, three-point shots to take). These are the notes that only you can play.
- The tangible things of life are often just substitutes for the notes. We’ve been sold a lot of BS that the truth of that statement is not truth at all. For example, your career title does not make you real. It’s your notes that make you real. Some call it marketing, some call it opinion, but the truth remains.
- Don’t wait until death or disease makes an impromptu appearance, before you choose to do what you know you need to do. Arrogance keeps many of us from doing what we need to do. We feel we’ve got time, we feel someone else should make the call, we cry that we’re too busy. Ed was and is blessed that he got more time than many. Most people lose the game when such a grave diagnosis arrives. George Michael once said, “there are those who have lost, and there are those who haven’t lost yet.” What are you waiting for?
- I’m renewed in my belief and actions that we must play the notes we’ve been given. My friend Marc once told me that people will buy the you found in the endeavor. The you is found in the notes.
In my last post I gave you a glimpse of how I manage my life. I didn’t quite describe it as “life management,” but you get it.
So if life is a composition, then what are the notes?
Thoughts, words and actions are the notes. They are the power in the music. Thoughts, words and actions will determine the beauty or the ugliness of the composition. Even more importantly, the hearer will be influenced. Daunting.
I’m always floored when I think of how many people manage life by accident. The jumping from thing to thing, just to land in a place I don’t recognize doesn’t appeal to me. I want to make deposits into eternity.
Considering that more than a few people have seen me as a man from mars, for putting so much emphasis on the composition, explains a lot.
I’ve made some mistakes with my choice of notes. I sometimes tried to play a dance song, when I should have played a ballad. I sometimes had the volume too loud, when a soft melody would have sufficed. Just the same, I keep practicing. I keep practicing because I want my life to sound something like this:
I’ve been reflecting on how life is much like a musical composition. My love for Miles Davis is not a mystery for many, but his art has impacted my life on so many levels. If you read anything about his musicianship, often you’ll find statements about his ability to know where to place notes, and use very few notes to create beauty.
We’ve been given a few notes to play and a limited time to play them.
Every day I wake up, I’m confronted with a composition (my life) and the choice of notes to play. The notes chosen will mean everything-today and into eternity.
Funny, when I was always “busy” I played a lot of notes. A virtuoso to the world, but hollow inside. I can vividly remember thinking the notes were not mine. So why do it? Pressure to be, pressure to say, pressure to find, is all I can come up with. Time has a way of ridding you of this, if you let it. I got older and started wondering “what the hell am I doing?”
Reducing notes in order to play the true ones is not an overnight thing, and at some levels the temptations always lurk in the shadows. My current state has taken almost 10 years to get to. But I am fully alive in the process.
The following is how I approach the composition (life) and the notes I’ve been given:
- I let God inform me daily
- I review the melody of the day and play it over in my head and heart
- I look for opportunities in all facets of life.
- I don’t have expectations, I take what He gives me and I play
- I always remember, like Miles, that I only need a few notes.