Saturday, July 23, 2005

Learning healing jazz 

It’s the end of the school term, which means that the toys and equipment which have suffered at the hands of over-zealous youngsters have been brought home by my wife to be fixed. Restoring the damaged, broken toys back into a state of usefulness and value gives me much pleasure; on one level, the activity provides a welcome outlet for those creative craft skills of hand and eye that otherwise go unused and unappreciated for so much of the time.

[As an aside, I get the impression that those craft skills are becoming more and more of a rarity these days; time was when children had hobbies that, like as not, involved developing some kind of manual skill or dexterity - model railways, construction kits, that kind of thing. (Maybe someone can tell me what the girls did…) And those hand-eye skills would be put to good use later in life when making something yourself would be the only way you could afford it. Nowadays of course children’s “activities” seem to be more and more passive, and it’s cheaper to buy ready-made goods rather than make them yourself; simpler to throw them away rather than mend them… Sheesh! Just listen to that! I must be getting old – I’d better go get some slippers and sit in a rocking chair...]

And as well as the pleasure of putting a skill to use, there’s also an element I could almost describe as spiritual – wanting to make something whole, to heal. Or as I put it in an earlier post allowing an artefact to fulfil its place in the world, instead of being thrown on the scrap-heap.

I was talking of dreams the other day; wishes for the future. Sometimes that desire to heal, to make whole, grows stronger and larger so that I dream of being able to heal hearts and minds too. But although I might have the desire, I haven’t the skill. It’s just a simple wish to “make it better”. My hands might have learned over years of practice how to use tools and to understand how physical materials respond under the action of those tools, so ‘healing’ broken toys is second nature; but I’m a complete novice when it comes to hearts and minds. Basic understanding of principles, yes; practical experience of in-depth working with hearts and minds, no.

I started doing some occasional career counseling at work a while back, through our internal careers service, but I’ve not done any for many months now. I lost confidence in myself; felt it was entirely inappropriate for someone as confused and uncertain over his own career as I am to offer career counseling.

Perhaps the tool analogy reveals where my difficulty lies – even though I know, intellectually, that when acting in a helping role it’s usually entirely inappropriate to think in terms of the helper using ‘tools’ and the client being the material to be shaped, yet somewhere deep in the workings of my mind, that model – as a way of achieving anything – is so firmly embedded that it continues to drive my responses, even when I know it’s not appropriate. In the heat of the moment, faced with desire to help but uncertainty as to how, I inadvertently draw on the model I know best.

Or to use another metaphor...

I love jazz, but I can’t play jazz piano because my fingers fall naturally into the rhythms and harmonies of classical music. It’s what they were taught, it’s what they know. I only discovered jazz later in life when the forms of classical music were already firmly established in my mind. It’s not a matter of being unable to improvise, either. On a good day, I can improvise using classical-sounding forms, because the raw material is available to me. But for jazz, I simply don’t have the ready-made resources of the chords and their sequences out of which to build an improvisation.

So it is too, then, with my dealings with people – wanting to be counselor or coach but not having the material out of which to improvise the appropriate form of helping.

I’m not necessarily complaining by the way, simply observing that this, for the moment, is the way it is. Noticing that there is something within me that wants to help and heal, but has difficulty finding full expression because it lacks – or can’t locate – the means for that expression.

I walked around Tesco’s doing the weekly grocery shopping, looking at the faces around me, testing myself. How do I feel about all these people? Honestly? Some I’m drawn to; some faces – many, even - seem possessed of a clarity that readily allows the light within to shine through. But between myself and others is a barrier created by my prejudices. What lies behind it is hidden from me; I wonder if it’s hidden from the owner of the face too? Yet I’m sure that if you could look deep enough under the surface you’d eventually you find another human soul struggling to make sense of the world and their place in it.

That’s the level of relating I’m most drawn to; it’s a level utterly divorced from the work that I do, but it’s also a level often touched on and occasionally explored by you and I here in the blogosphere. Its what keeps me coming back here.

These meandering thoughts have come a long way from mending broken toys, haven’t they? Or perhaps not.

Back to current posts