Watching a Master

This is from my archives – but worth dusting off and revisiting. It’s something we should hear at church regularly: engage with the things you disagree with.

I have played the trumpet since I was 11, and even spent two years doing it professionally, including a year as lead trumpeter of the National Serviceman’s Orchestra of the South African Air Force (whilst conscripted in the late 1980s). I love the instrument, and still play to this day. When I was just out of the Air Force (at the “height” of my trumpet playing ability), I attended a concert by Phil Driscoll, one of the greatest trumpeters in the world. In fact, he is a genius musician, with a gravelly voice like Miles Davis, legendary trumpet and picolo trumpet ability, plays piano, bass and a few other instruments as well. Just oozes music. When he played the trumpet, it looked and felt like it was just an extension of his body. He was one with the instrument, and I was left dazed and in awe.

At that point, I had two choices. Part of me wanted to go home, sell my trumpet and never play again. The other part wanted to go home and practice for 10 hours straight. And do the same the next day, and the days after that. Being in the presence of a master is always humbling and inspiring like that.

To a lesser extent, I continue to try and learn from the masters – even those masters that infuriate me. For this reason, I often flick the TV across to one or other of the “God channels”, which carries the televangelists and many other similar evangelical Christian preachers doing what they do. Most often, these preachers infuriate me. Their shallow interpretations of the Christian message and their clear right wing politics and ethics often incense me. Yet, these are some of the world’s greatest communicators. Man, can these guys work a crowd!! I stand in awe of their abilities.

When I was studying theology, I was challenged by one of my lecturers to ensure that I read at least one book a quarter that I did not agree with, and at least one book a year that enraged me. I have tried to stick to that the past 10 years since that advice was given. That’s part of the reason I watch God TV.

I don’t think its possible to be creative or to consider yourself to be a “Bright Young Thing” if you don’t actively engage with “difference” – with things that are other than what you believe and hold dear. This must be intentional.

It’s for this reason that I read the Spectator magazine. It’s right wing views often enrage me and make me splutter through the magazine, leaving spittle marks on the pages. Yet, there is probably not a more well written English news magazine in the world. For sheer classy use of the English language, “it can’t be beat”. And if I could write half as well as their junior journalists, I’d die a happy man.

Trumpeters, evangelical preachers and right wing journalists. Infuriatingly, I count these amongst my tutors. I only hope I’m right about this difference thing, because the pain I put myself through in the name of self development really hurts.

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