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That jazz thing

It's been a busy couple of weeks on the farm! We've had two alpaca shows, shearing, a birthday (Jay's), we helped Jeff and Vianne move to a new house, and then there was the usual stuff - caring for Parker, going to pottery. farm chores - the new chickens are growing fast and the new coop is almost done - hopefully they can move out of the dog kennel and into the coop early this week.

So there hasn't been a lot of time to write, and to be honest, I haven't been inspired. But I've been thinking and pondering and praying.

The world is a scary place right now. My prayers are with the people in Israel and Palestine - most especially those in Gaza. I pray for the people in Ethiopia, where atrocities are occurring regularly. I pray for those in our Congress, who seem to be struggling to get along and govern. Scientists are warning that the hurricane season will be severe, we've suffered a cyber-attack - probably not the last - that has affected gas prices and the ability of many people to move about as they need to. And I am thinking about jazz.

I'm not a musician, and frankly jazz isn't my favorite genre. I often don't understand it. But on April 30 Jay and I watched the PBS special International Jazz Day 10th Anniversary Celebration. I didn't know there is an International Jazz Day, celebrated around the world. The link is in the citations for this post.

Some of my favorites were featured - performances by Aretha Franklin, Al Jarreau, Sting, Stevie Wonder, and many others. I learned about Esperanza Spalding, a bassist, singer, songwriter, and Grammy winner. There were women on the drums - also men, but I noticed the women (and the drums because Jay is a professional percussionist). There were black people, white people, LatinX people, Asian people, African people, American people - apparently International Jazz Day is marked on all seven continents.

One performance moved me. You'll find it at 1:00:15 if you watch the video. Chucho Valdez and Gonzalo Rubalcaba played "Blue Monk" as a piano duet. There were just the two men on stage, with their grand pianos facing each other. Each is well known in the jazz community. Each is extremely talented. As Jay and I watched them play, it struck me that neither was trying to hog the attention, or the acclaim. Neither was trying to one-up the other. Their aim was to highlight the music. It struck me that they knew that the music was bigger than either of them, and they were lifting it up. Each allowed the other to do what he thought would make the music soar. And soar it did.

As I looked for the clip when I sat down to write this post, I noticed how often in jazz bands that happens. No one musician, unless he or she is the featured star, takes the spotlight. Each musician has the opportunity to display his or her talent. It has always fascinated me how musicians communicate in the middle of a piece - how does Esperanza Spalding know it is her turn to riff, and how does she let the rest of the band know she is about to finish? Same with the guitarists, drummers, keyboardists, horn players....

The purpose of the musicians is to highlight the music. Not themselves - music is bigger than each of them and they know it. They use their individual talents to create something of beauty, or to make a statement, or to jar people into a new understanding.

What a lesson.

Imagine what we could do if we let the music - the something bigger than ourselves - take center stage. If we became the vessels through which that something bigger was manifested. Chucho and Gonzalo weren't the music, but it was through them that the music was made and accessible to the rest of us.

This week war between Israel and Palestine seems more and more likely. I don't know what is right and what is wrong there. The Bible says that God's kingdom won't return until there is a new Jerusalem, and Israel is restored. Somehow I don't think God meant what is happening now, but the people who suffered so during the Holocaust surely deserved their own land and homes. But there were people already living there when the "new" Israel was created. Don't the Palestinians have a right to their land and homes, too? I'm glad I'm not a diplomat trying to sort this out.

And by the way, as I write this I am living on land that used to belong to the Susquehannok peoples. Don't they deserve to have what was stolen returned to them? But then where do I go?

This week we have seen and learned of atrocities being committed in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. I don't know what started it, but the butchering and rape of civilians - children - is horrifying.

Our own politics seems to be unraveling, too. I admit that one "side" seems to me to be mostly responsible, but that is at least partly because I am on the other "side." One Congresswoman (Greene, R-GA) verbally assaulted another Congresswoman (Cortez, D-NY), and video surfaced of Ms. Greene calling through the letter slot of AOC's office to take her "diaper off." This bullying behavior isn't serving a greater good - it is pandering to Ms. Greene's constituents, at the expense of another.

As I have been driving around from alpaca show to alpaca show these last few weeks, I am so saddened by the loss of civility I see displayed on homes. I've written about this before I think - I didn't realize Joe Biden was an avid gardener and so kept his hoe close at hand. But how does a parent explain to a child what "Stop the Bullshit!" means. Or the flags that say "F*** Biden," except the word is spelled out. Those are words that got my mouth washed out with soap, and now people are displaying them in full view of their and others' children.

We can agree to disagree on politics, but we need to do so civilly. Each side needs to recognize that the other cares deeply about something bigger than ourselves, and frankly, I am questioning whether that is true any more. When someone goes on television and repeats verifiable lies - about the 2020 election, or about the Jan. 6 insurrection (Rep. Clyde of Georgia must have backed the tape up too far if he saw tourists strolling through Statuary Hall and taking selfies) then I have to believe that he or she is more interested in getting re-elected than in the good of our country. When name calling becomes the norm (Socialist! Antifa! America Hater! Terrorist Supporter!) we have lost something dear, and are no longer putting the larger thing before ourselves.

The church is divided, too. There is little room for dissent, doubt, or questions in many churches. There is a divide between those who know a vengeful, wrathful God and those who know a loving, merciful God. Some believe the Bible is inerrant, and some believe it is not. Some believe that all people are beloved children, made in the image of God. Others believe that some sins warrant exclusion from the church.

Here's an idea - how about if we assume that everyone else has that bigger picture in mind, too. How about if each of us - I'm including myself - worked less on building ourselves up and more on being vessels to help those great ideals come to fruition?

If we believe in democracy, then we need to demonstrate how a democratic society works. We need to compromise and care for those who cannot care for themselves - children, the elderly, the poor, the ill, the imprisoned.

As a Christian I believe that Jesus was fully human and is fully divine. As someone flirting with post-Christianity, I believe that Christians often don't behave as Jesus has called us - we are too busy condemning, threatening, and putting butts in our pews to care for the sick, the lame, and the poor.

As a Christian/post-Christian who has kept her mind open, I have learned that there are multiple pathways to God. My path is not your path. Your path isn't better than mine. How about if I provide you with metaphorical snacks as you metaphorically pass by me as you travel your path, and you provide me with metaphorical water as I travel on mine?

What can I do to support you as you strive to encounter the divine?

How can we all support each other, so that everyone has enough? The United States Declaration of Independence begins with these words:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".

What can we do to prove to each other that we really believe these words to be true, rather than clinging to our Republican or Democrat ideas of what is right? How can we ensure that all of us, not just some of us, are given these "unalienable" rights?

I have always believed that the United States' founding documents were in line with my Christian beliefs - not that one has to be Christian to be American or that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, but that what the founders called for reflects what I believe Jesus' message was. I'm not so sure any more.

If you can tell me why you disagree with me without calling me names, and if you can remove the vulgarities that fly on your house I will listen to you. But after almost 62 years I'm tired of the bullying. None of us has a lock on right and wrong. Every challenging situation is nuanced, and to declare that there is one easy answer is naive.

I want to be the musician, not the music. I'll be the potter, not the pot. I'll write to share my understanding of a greater idea, but I am not the idea. I'll share my meditations and know I am not God. I'll share my truths and not condemn yours.

As we share the music that is life, I want to help you live your best life, and I want you to help me live mine. I think that is what Jesus calls us to do - whether we worship him or not. I think most major religions - probably most minor ones, too - ask the same.

Let's join our voices and sing a new song, and let the song have the glory.

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