Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Church of Mehldau


I've had a jazz song stuck in my head now for the past seven days. I'm not complaining. It's Brad Mehldau's song "Dream Sketch" from his trio's new album Ode. Here's a link that you might want to play as you read. I'm playing it as I write. There is just something about it that moves me.

Today, I attended a four-hour mediation retreat. We were told to arrive in silence and not make eye contact with any other participants. We set up our mats and cushions and prepared to spend some precious time focusing on the moment. It's more difficult than I imagined prior to trying to meditate and much more useful. I'm not recommending it to everyone. Most folks I mentioned it to kind of nodded and then moved the other way, but it works for me.

Which has me thinking about religion as I thought of it while hiking this past week. I'm all for someone having faith so long as I don't have to deal with it much. Like meditation. It works for me, but I don't need you to be saved by it. It helps me be a better person. That's enough. I don't have to recruit.

The more I hear of supposed Christians who are out picketing Planned Parenthood or calling homosexuality an abomination, the more I wonder if they are simply lost in their own lives. If they truly got what I was taught about Christ, they would likely live and let live. I mean, the Christ I read about was pretty tolerant. I don't know why everyone puts H as his initial when I'm pretty sure Compassion was his middle name.

How did I get here from listening to Brad Mehldau?

I have encountered some beauty this past week. Traveling in the West through Zion and the Grand Canyon. Humming this jazz tune. Spending a day focusing on the moment. If there is a God and she created all of this, then bravo, way to go, God. But even if there isn't a God, this stuff is still beautiful, wondrous, and spectacular. I don't need dogma to tell me so.

Listen to the opening notes of "Dream Sketch." Mehldau plays some of that with his left hand and then comes in with a melody in his right. The bass picks up where his left hand was and the drums carry everything in between. The song is perfection. Pure and simple.

Imagine yourself having this stuck in your head as you walk through a canyon or two that was carved by a couple million years of a river flowing through it. Could there be much better than that? And then, after you've done all that, take half a day to sit and meditate, learning to let go of things that don't matter and focus on the immediate wonder of this moment right now. Sounds good to me.

Not that I'm proselytizing. You go your own way and I most likely go mine.

The only thing I'll preach is to live the life you have. For the past fifteen years I've worked hard to live someone else's life, to please others, to become something more than I am. It's good to want to get better, but not at the exclusion of who you are now. I'm learning this stuff. I'm fatter than I want to be, I'm slower than I want to be, and I don't write as well as I want to, but I'm pretty damn happy with who I am, who I am in love with, and the people around me.

It's like good jazz. The parts come together. The left hand accentuates the right. The bass and the drums follow the piano like water in a stream, carving a canyon out of impossibly hard rock. In the end, we are left with stupendous beauty and the understanding that there are ten other tracks on the album just waiting to be heard. There are so many moments to live, so many more words to write. We just have to keep going with our eyes open and be sure to write on.