Our Lives Should be More Like Jazz

I don’t know much about jazz except that I usually like it, especially live. I’m thinking that our lives might be a little richer if they were a little more like jazz.

Jazz music is sort of unscripted. Each song has a basic melody and sometimes words, but the performance is spontaneous. Real jazz isn’t rehearsed like a lot of other music—it’s more of a live interaction between the musicians. They practice and develop their individual skills, but the music happens when they play off one another.

Jazz is like life—you never quite know what you’re going to get until it happens, and when something magical occurs you’re not exactly sure why. And when you try to repeat the magic and turn it into a formula, something’s missing. I think that’s why the best jazz is live.

I think we tend to approach life like a symphony. We want every note rehearsed and predictable, each person to play their part precisely according to the score. So we plan and practice and scheme, but it never quite happens like we expect.

Jazz is self-expression. Two players might perform the same song with the same instrument, but each will produce something unique because part of themselves gets expressed.

I once heard an aspiring pianist lament that she could play the notes, but somehow she could never make the music. That’s how jazz seems to me—many of the songs are simple, and most any musician can play the notes. Great jazz seems to happen when special folks collaborate to turn the notes into music. And they really can’t explain the process, because it’s something that comes from their souls.

Maybe we could learn something from jazz. What if we stopped looking for the right answers and trying to make it happen according to a pre-arranged script? What if we listened carefully to others and added to their contribution, let what’s happening right now tell us what should happen next? What if we didn’t try to reduce relationships to formulas and programs?

As I’m writing this, it occurs to me that God might just care more about the music than the notes.

Does this make sense to you? How could you make your life a bit more like jazz?