The never-ending and inevitable pursuit of the human race.
A brave man once said,
“[It was] all a dream to begin with. Ain't nobody ever been free.”
The human intellect has the gift of creative sight, and the curse of desire. We are able to recognize, rationalize, and label many patterns that we see in our everyday lives, and in the world around us. We note them to ourselves; sometimes consciously with amazement and wonder, and other times subconsciously, without even noticing. With these patterns, our consciousness creates the fabric of our reality. Our world seems to make sense to us because of these observed systems of order.
After forming this logical and sensible interpretation of existence for ourselves, we proceed to recognize, rationalize, and label the ways in which we get bored and feel stuck in these patterns. Even the most enjoyable activity becomes tiring and tedious with repetition. Therefore, we yearn for Freedom. Constantly striving to disenthrall ourselves from the cycles of order and routine, we are always longing; always searching for an escape.
As we experiment and look for ways to break free from our patterns and habits, we experience fear and anxiety. Ergo, we desire Comfort, which can be defined as being in an environment where there is little to no fear. Comfort is the tails to head of the Freedom coin. The longing for Comfort and safety occupies as large a portion of human desire as does the yearning for Freedom. However, it seems that we can never truly relax into comfort. We can never really be comfortable. Even when we try to stop searching- to be satisfied with what our life is- deep down in our subconscious there are nagging fantasies of complete and chaotic Freedom, and intense cravings for warm and safe Comfort.
The human mind is hard-wired to dream, to sing, to create, and to seek. We are endlessly and forever Here and There. We want day and night, white and black, good and evil. We yearn with every ion of our energy to be directly involved, hands on, and in the thick of the wild and ceaseless vicissitudes of life, while simultaneously crying out, shielding our hearts, and longing for the simpler task of being safe, warm, and relaxed. It is in this inexorable duality that the crux of our humanity lies, and it is out of this fertile mud of emotions that improvised music has taken seed and sprouted.
As an improvising musician, I am continually evaluating the meaning of freedom and newness. I am constantly noticing that if I don’t feel freshness in my sound, I will feel trapped. Realizing also that the search for newness is arguably futile, because every day I will wake up with the sun shining, and I will breathe. While I am living, that will always be the same.
How can I not feel stuck?
On the contrary, life somehow always amazes me. I don’t want to stop breathing. I’m not ready for the big sleep. What exactly am I desiring? Comfort or Freedom? Neither and Both.
So, I think to myself,
maybe Freedom can only be achieved when I stop yearning for newness.
when I stop yearning for newness and start settling for sameness, then stagnation, boredom, and entrapment occur.
I feel stifled and imprisoned.
Here is where rationalization fails me.
After all the hours I've spent ruminating on this idea, attempting to define what it actually is I'm searching for, and trying to create some concrete and digestible image for myself to comprehend, I’ve only succeeded in thinking, talking, and writing myself into big, weary, pregnant circles.
The only concreteness is in the shifting.
These concepts of duality and freedom are so big and beyond the rational confines of our mind and our linear timestream of reality, that words really cannot sum them up. How can we possibly describe how heavy and how light we feel when we are alone in the wilderness, and we see the cusp of dawn begin to swallow the night, while each and every one of our cells reaches in yearning towards the sky? How can we relate the bottomless enormity of the well of feeling contained in the first tiny teardrop that falls from our eye after words fail us? (They always will.) How can we portray the way it feels when we hear our favorite part of our favorite song, and our heart opens, all barriers forgotten?
Words, and even images, cannot suffice.
What better way to express the emotional complexity of the HereThere AlwaysNever BeginningEnd AliveDead, than to start making noise? Music, and the motivation that we as a species have to create and sculpt sound, provides us with a sonic language that we can utilize in an attempt to express to others the intricacy of feeling woven into our individual constant dualities. (This is the real truth of life.)
And then just maybe we won’t feel so alone.
Freedom is a lot of things - Freedom is in the seeking; the constant striving for something to love. Freedom is in the letting go; the letting go of striving and the realizing that love is here and always will be here. Freedom is in the recognition and acceptance of fear as a part of life. Pushing our comfort zones, and confronting risk and unease, will allow for liberation in our experience.
The improvising musician chooses to trade the freedom of comfort and security for the discomfort of risk and exploration. Making sound and movement, without a plan, in front of others, we push our comfort zones. As we explore the limits of our security, we achieve a greater understanding of ourselves. Having a better understanding of ourselves means we are more aware of our motivations and personalities. Knowing this, we are enabled to see our place in the world a little more clearly. Increased clarity gives us a sense of gentle liberation.
In improvised performance, my objective is to try things that I have never tried before, and to find new ways of expressing unique mixtures of emotion and understanding. As each tiny onion skin layer of brittle barrier gets broken down in myself, I feel a little more peaceful. Being more comfortable with myself, I feel more comfortable with my life. My breathing becomes more imbued with gentleness and compassion. When that is what is in me, then I am free to give that back to the world. The more that I risk bearing myself in front of others, the more my spirit can be free. The more I can open up my heart and act without fear of what others will think, the more my soul has wings. It is for these reasons that I improvise.
The role of the performer is to open up to chance, uncertainty, embarrassment, and shame, while simultaneously opening to grace, love, light, and liberation. If we never bother to push ourselves and take risks; if we choose instead to shield ourselves and to keep ourselves closed, then nothing can get in. No bad, but no good. No dark, but no light. No pain, but no pleasure. With nothing flowing into us, and nothing flowing out, we are not as alive as we can be. Alive is big. Alive is everything.
Risk affords Deliverance.
As the performer becomes more active, more alive, more open, and more free, the audience benefits directly and immediately. When the onlookers witness the Opening, then they are also Opened. As the performer’s walls crumble, then so do the walls of the listeners.. As each of us expands more and more into our own giant serenity, more and more Freedom and Comfort can be realized in the world.
As an improvising musician, I have taken up this mantle.
But this is not enough.
Regardless of whether or not you are a performer, it is the job of each and every last one of you, no matter your hobby, interest, or profession, to take on this responsibility of personal freedom. Every single day, no matter how mundane, you are provided with countless opportunities for newness and growth within yourself.
This is a call to arms in a battle for Peace and Liberty;
a call for us all to explore ourselves, and to experience fully every feeling in us. A call to open up to Grace, even in the face of Fear, and to know that we will still be steady. Every big and small thing that the word Freedom contains can fit in each of our hearts if we let it.
There is room for all of it in you.
There is no limit to being human.