Flexibility

Jazz great, Miles Davis, once said, “When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that makes it good or bad.” This man knew a little bit about improvisation.

My very rudimentary explanation of improvisation is, “flexibility in selecting ‘the next note’ in a tune.”  The next note is not predetermined.

I’ve personally experienced the next note as both predetermined and fixed, and flexible and creative.  I very much prefer the latter.

The improvised next note is up in the air and therefore potentially scary but it’s also the epitome of freedom.  The 1992 En Vogue tune, “Free your mind, and the rest will follow,” comes to mind.

I played clarinet, badly, in high school band.  This was the predetermined note kind of music.  When you play the wrong note in this type of music, the next note, already laid out for you, sticks out, exposing your failure in screwing up the note, previous.

As a young adult I sang in our church choir.  Dot Smith, our wonderful director, gave me liberty to harmonize.  I’ve never felt so free than when my voice could soar in unscheduled, unplanned, Spirit-led, improvisational harmonies with one note followed by the next unknown one, or string of them.

Dance has been the same in my experience.  I have been known to mess up in a dance routine, planned out way ahead and sort of memorized.  But I also had the pleasure of dancing to the beat of the Spirit rising up from within, and what a difference that license to improvise makes in your soul.

Are you free to choose your next note?  Or is it predetermined?

We should all have a license to bend.  Remember Gumby?”  It was a rubber toy that was flexible and we could bend it into any number of positions.  It’s fun, relaxing, and liberating to model something or nothing with clay or play-doh.  It’s kid-like freedom, to improvise, or bend.

Are you “Gumby” or “set in your ways?”  You can change your next note.  Be fearless and improvise.  Nobody can say that you didn’t intend to make that note dissonant, just for the experience of it.

Unfortunately, life as we age might become more or less flexible, depending upon the notes which precede.  But the next note is up to you.

Our joints become less flexible as we grow older, but a lot can be said for “use it or lose it.”  It might take us a minute to muster our flexibility.  Transitioning from sitting to standing then walking, jogging or running takes more time than it used to but we can do it.

Or, as the joke goes, “at our age, you have to make a plan ahead of time on how you’re going to get up, when you sit on the floor.”  I can identify with our aging cat, at sixteen, when he really contemplates his getting up and lying down movements.

A loved-one with advanced cancer did the same, he took “forever” to get in and out of the car.  Myself, I have begged my daughter’s indulgence when we embark on shopping trips, “remember It takes me a minute to transition from sitting in the car or at a restaurant, to walking; it’s a way of reminding me how old I am.”  She doesn’t mind, because once I’ve regained my flexibility, I speed walk, out of habit.

I’ve observed other folks of a certain age, when I’m out and about.  We have a distinct way of moving that belies that we’ve been ambulating about the planet for a relatively long time.  I would describe our walk as concerted effort, with determination.

Do you have a flexible mind-set?  Wow, it depends on the day, doesn’t it?  Sometimes, we’re bent almost to the breaking point, but then “Gumby” makes a comeback and we bounce back to our usual upright position.

Is the opposite of flexible, rigid?  I know the opposite of improvisation is certainty.

This reminds me that choosing either a fixed rate or a variable rate on a loan, depends on how much risk you’re willing to take with your finances.  Or, if you’re in it for the long term or short term.

Well, I’m in it for the long term.  I’ve hit a few wrong notes in my day, but I’m still determined to improvise the next notes in my life and see where they take me.  How about you?

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