Jim Mathis

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Predestination vs free-will

For millenniums, theologians have been debating predestination verses free-will. Has God a specific plan that we follow whether we know it or not, or has He given us authority to do whatever we want?

The way I have come to grips with this question is to think of it in musical terms. If we are predestined to lead a very specific life, life would be like a symphony orchestra. The score has been carefully written out by a composer. The musician’s role is to play the notes as written. There may be some room for interpretation, but very little. The composer knew what he wanted the music to sound like and the musician’s role is largely passive.

If we all had total free-will, life would just be noise with no form or purpose. Instead, I believe that life is more like jazz. Don Miller talks about this in his book “Blue Like Jazz.” There are key signatures, time signatures, chord progressions, and melodies and variations. In other words there are forms and guidelines to follow, but beyond that we are free to be as creative and wild as we want.

To me life is like blues and jazz. I need to be in the right key, I need to know where the chords are going, I need to stay in time, or at least remember where the beat is, but beyond that I can be free to be as creative as I dare. I think God smiles every now and then and says, “Nice lick,” “Tasty solo there.” Other times He might say, “That didn’t fit so well, do something different on the next chorus.”

That’s the fun and adventure to life. I don’t care for scripted music or music that is too well rehearsed. Life is not like that. We need to work on our chops and be ready to take a solo when it is tossed our way. God intended for life to be an adventure – like jazz.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Geography is important. As Jimmy Buffet said, “Changes in latitude, changes in attitude, nothing remains quite the same.”

This year, Louise and I have had the opportunity to visit some landmarks important to musicians. In January we went to Memphis – the birthplace of rock & roll. We hung out on Beale Street, went to Sun Studios, The Rock & Soul Museum, the Gibson guitar factory, and of course, Graceland, home of Elvis Presley.

In July on a trip to Los Angeles, we not only hit some Beach Boys sights, but drove up Laurel Canyon where in the 1970’s a lot of musicians lived and jammed. Out of Laurel Canyon, home to Joni Mitchell, Jackie DeShannon, Frank Zappa, David Crosby, and many more, came the Eagles, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Poco, Flying Burrito Brothers, Crosby Stills and Nash, among others.

We’ve been to Nashville many times to see the Ryman and the Country Music Hall of Fame. So this week we went to Cleveland to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. This was actually my birthday trip to celebrate my sixtieth birthday.

The term “Rock & Roll” was coined by Cleveland disc-jockey, Alan Freed who also promoted what would be become the world’s first rock concert.

The rock hall contains thousands of artifacts such as Janis Joplin’s Porsche and the tape recorder used to record Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Clothes, guitars, hand written songs, and thousands of other pieces of history are enshrined in this museum to American culture.

Since I have lived every minute of the history of rock and roll, this was a significant place for me. I was born the same year that the LP was invented and I was two when the first rock song was recorded. I got my driver’s license the year that the Beatles had their first hit. I worked my way through college playing rock and roll music and am still playing every chance I get.

If you can relate to any of these things, you need to go to Cleveland to see all the stuff that made us what we are today.