Noticings – April 10, 2024

Be You
“He didn’t mean to try to cop his licks note-for-note.”

One of the things guitar players like to do is to learn to play riffs and licks that their guitar heroes play. We obsess over these things. We’ll go over the riffs, over and over, slowing down the videos and recordings to see/hear just exactly how they play it, and watching multiple other players offering their own versions. It’s remarkable how many different slight variations there are on such brief snippets of music.

Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. The next thing guitarists do (ok, probably me too) is to analyze every concert photo or video striving to see exactly which guitar, and amplifier, and pedals they use because all these things make up our heroes’ tone. There’s a whole industry that claims that if you buy this or that piece of gear you’ll sound just like they do on the recordings.

Have you already figured out that just buying the same gear as a famous guitarist doesn’t make you sound like them? (Could you please convince me of that?!) Of course it doesn’t. Equipment matters up to a point, and then more importantly it’s what they play. But here’s the thing – even that isn’t exactly true.

Yesterday I spent the evening learning ‘exactly’ how John Mayer plays the intro to his wonderful song “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room.” But as I learned it note-for-note a couple of things happened. First, because I have smaller hands than he does I couldn’t physically use my fingers on the exact same strings as he does. And second, because he’s an excellent musician, he rarely plays it exactly the same way twice. There are nuances and subtleties that change, even within one recorded version.

So I learned his notes and fingerings, and then I figured out another way to play it that sounds almost identical, but isn’t. It isn’t ‘right’, but it fits my hands better, and sounds better to me too. And the funny thing is that if John was in the room with me he’d say, “Well, of course it does. Why would you want to sound exactly like me anyway? Be you!”

Be you, indeed! On Maundy Thursday, I made a big deal of Jesus saying, “I have laid down a pattern for you. What I have done, you do!” But he didn’t mean to try to cop his licks note-for-note. He meant, “Be like me, but be you!” In the early 1400s Thomas a Kempis wrote a book called The Imitation of Christ. What does it mean to imitate Christ? What does it mean to do as he did, but be you?

In this season of Easter, as we all think about what renewal, and rebirth, and resurrection mean, we would do well to remember that the purpose of faith, and the purpose of Faith, isn’t to be a perfect copy of what was, but to take what was and be invigorated with new life. This is what the Visioning Team is inviting you to ponder. What will it mean to ‘be Faith’ in this next season?