In my experience as a beginning musician, I stumbled upon an analogy that works in a limited way, but provides, I think, some valuable insight.

It seems there are essentially two approaches to learning music. One is to understand the theory and basically jam on the notes and chord progressions of the theory underlying a particular song or type of music. The other approach is sheer memorization. Memorizing, for example, where to put your fingers, and in what sequence. As a beginning musician, I found the memorization approach tedious and confining. In my observations of others, it seems like a common experience: they get halfway through a piece, hit a wrong note or lose their place, get frustrated, pound on the keys, and start once again.

In contrast, when I learn to jam, I feel free. Mistakes don’t matter because I can just flow right through them and they become part of the music. Now I understand that other people, and no doubt advanced musicians, would have a lot to say in agreement and in opposition to my perspective. So yes, the analogy does break down, but there is a real value to the point of the analogy as follows:

Life is to be lived in a state of psychological and intellectual freedom. It is the foundation of creativity and individuality. The indoctrination of mimicry is confining, limiting, and painful.

However, I’m not talking about anarchy here, or sheer rebellion. As with the laws of music, there are laws of nature. To succeed in life, we must live in harmony with those laws of nature, while enjoying the freedom of our own unique nature. There are laws of nature that we adhere to, but afford us a great deal of freedom. That way, we can jam with the freedom of self-expression in life without overstepping the bounds of natural law. That is the state of liberation. On the other hand, trying to conform to a memorized notion of proper behavior is self-limiting.

As a final note, I’d like to once again acknowledge that this analogy only goes so far. There are many great musicians who find tremendous unique self-expression by performing memorized pieces of music. However, understanding the essential concept of this analogy is something we all do well to understand.

© Michael Mamas. All rights reserved.