Individuality within a Community

“I believe that the highest level of individual achievement in jazz is the development of a distinct personality. But that is only part of what is possible. You can be a great individual, but if you’re not supported, surrounded, and engaged by other distinct personalities, your actual voice won’t be completely heard. To be completely heard and for the sound of jazz to actually speak, you must have a band, for the sound is a common vocabulary that the musicians identify and personalize to such a degree that a person’s individuality becomes an essential element of an indivisible whole. For instance, take gumbo: after a couple of days, you don’t know where the shrimp ends and the sausage begins. That’s what you want in a jazz band – every part helps create a delicious overall texture that couldn’t exist without each element adding to the taste.”

– Wynton Marsalis

Having attending my first church history course, it is enlightening to know that men before our time have fought through the resistance from society to put out their voice, which may not always be popular. They are individuals beyond their times and yet they are only thus because of what others had proclaimed before during or before their time. They are taking the baton, refining and proclaiming the message and passing it on to the next. That’s how movements have always sustained throughout generations. Because one man among his band of brothers decided to speak up.

Folks like Martin Luther the Reformer. Jan Hus the Martyr. John Wycliffe the Advocate. The relentless William Wilberforce.

I have talked before about finding what makes us come alive because the alternative would be a sad reality. Ultimately that pursuit extends to finding out “What are we gonna build for the next generation?” Is there a distinct voice we can portray to the people in our time? Is there a community that can support us in delivering that message? That says we don’t need to live according the whims and fancies of our society but we can actually make a difference and bring change that will impact the next generation.

No man is an island. It’s just like you can be a great jazz artist on your own but without a band to support you, you’re merely that – a solo artist. You won’t have very much to say and even if you did, the message cannot find ground from which it can spread.

Find your band, group, community whatever and let your voice be heard.


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