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The Tao of Jazz

My wife and I have been on a life-long spiritual quest for oneness with the Creator seeking guidance for living a lifestyle grounded in Truth, lived in Faith and shared with Integrity. For many years we have been exploring Taoism and how this ancient Chinese philosophy complements Christianity. We often begin each day together by reading from the Tao Te Ching or commentaries based on this amazing book. One compelling author/interpreter is Deng Ming-Dao. In his book 365 Tao he shares a word a day and unpacks its meaning and how it conceptually adds to the depth of personal wisdom and spiritual growth. His meditative thought process provides insight into The Way by which we can wend our way through life’s journey with authenticity.

This morning’s word is clarity. Den Ming-Dao begins with a question: “Can you see a sound . . . hear light . . . unite your senses . . . turn inward?” He continues, “True clarity is more than just being smart, more than just being wise. Clarity manifests from meditation. It comes when you can unite all the faculties of the mind and unify them into a magnificent light of perception.” My mind immediately raced to the meditation achieved through music, specifically jazz. There is a truth—a wisdom—inherit within music, and in jazz there’s an active evolving of spiritual questing that invites the musician (and the listener) into a deeper realm of reality. That’s why I’ll often refer to jazz as subversive. For me jazz is not a party music, even in all its exuberance. Rather jazz is a meditative discipline that explores and interprets deep truths. And those truths can often upset the applecart of simplistic, superficial understanding. Playing jazz is a process of self-development on every level, allowing me to plumb new depths of awareness. Listening to jazz illuminates new pathways that both challenge and enrich my journey through the craziness of our world.

Deng Ming-Dao concludes his entry on clarity: “If you unite sound with vision, then you will create light. That light is the concentrated force of the mind. It is by that brightness that truth is revealed.”

Jazz unites music and vision into a force for illuminating truth. It’s not just a one-time revelation, but an ongoing invitation for the performer and listener to embark on a subversive journey—a rebellious journey, seeking hidden truths that come to light in the brightness of Divine encounters, and then living in ways that affirm the wholeness and sacredness of God’s creation, and every living thing within it. There is a Yin and Yang to jazz, a creative tension that can propel one outward by going inward. By finding the center the boundaries are expanded. It’s in the exploration of the interior that the exterior gains meaning and purpose.

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