Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


Deconstruction Blues

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My first bass teacher was an old Jewish guy by the name of Henry Loew. He was the principal bassist in the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. He was an amazingly generous soul who cared for me like a son.

In my very first lesson, I brought along a bass that was once owned by a nun. It smelled like Lemon Pledge and was chipped and hand painted all over. It had tarnished brass tuning pegs that got stuck before they fully tightened the strings enough to get them in tune. I loved that bass—I thought it was the coolest thing.

In that first session, Mr. Loew taught me something that was to become a lesson for the rest of my life. He walked me and my bass over to an open window that faced a sheer drop to the sidewalk in front of his house. He said to me, “Steve, sometimes the best thing to do for an instrument with this many problems is just to throw it out the window and hope that it breaks up into a million pieces so that you have the opportunity to glue it back together with some care and pride.”

Of course we didn’t do that, but it got me thinking about a lot of things. I think friendships and many other very important relationships can get so convoluted that careful deconstruction becomes the only way to preserve them.

It seems counterintuitive to invite cataclysm to an important relationship, but often these breaking points offer a chance to discover what we’re really made of and what we really value. They might be the first time we encounter the deeper meaning and purpose of our connections with others.

The problem is, we get into relationships and we have different ideas about what’s going on. Over time, because we’re working together but have different ideologies, we find that we rack up a big score of misconceptions. We don’t realize that our values are clashing.

Often the solution will lie in the willingness to rewrite the narrative. If we get too invested in a storyline that’s mostly favorable to ourselves, we teach ourselves not to see who we really are.

So what does it take to build and maintain bridges rather than build and maintain walls?

You have to have a large amount of respect and admiration for your those you work with, and you have to be willing to examine your own values and see how you can co-exist. Also, you have to have the patience and the motivation to take something apart and put it back together again with care and pride.

We seem to be living in a time when everybody thinks it’s more important to win the battle than to do what’s right. As we get more entrenched in our differences, I see a couple of options for reset. Either the whole world tears itself apart and a new species emerges, or we take a step back from our ideologies and realize that the most important thing we have on this earth is each other, and it’s best we find a way to be flexible and get along.

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