A few months ago I printed a wonderful quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. about the contributions that jazz makes to humanity. That touched me, particularly coming from a minister, because there are some who have said that jazz is antithetical to religion.
I have been listening to jazz since I was a teenager, and have been trying my hand at it (on the flute and on the piano) for a few years. Still amateur, for sure, but trying. The challenge of jazz is that you not only have to have technical skill at your instrument (getting a good sound, playing with dynamics, knowing the scales), but you have to have an understanding of music theory (being able to play a melody through all 12 keys, understanding the relationships between major and minor chords, as well as modes). On top of that, you have to understand rhythm – often complex. And most importantly, you have to get the feeling – the swing of it. Oh – and did I mention that you’re doing all this while you are improvising?
Mediating often reminds me of jazz. There are certain rules, certain things I know I must do — like reframing. And there are certain topics we must talk about – particularly in a divorce mediation – specific decisions to be made. But there are, at any one time, 100, maybe 200 things being said, verbally and non-verbally. How do I know which to pay attention to, which to draw out, which to respond to, which to ignore… How do I know which will move the mediation forward? And how do I respond and reframe with transparency, with honesty, with compassion, with understanding. . .
There are scales, there are chords in mediation. There is the technical skill, but then there is the rhythm — and the feeling. It is an art as much as it is a science. The more we practice, the more fluent we become.