Giving Grace to the Simplest Detail

Eric - Guilford, Connecticut
Entered on July 19, 2008

This I believe: The fast way is the slow way.

I first heard that truth sitting on a metal folding chair in a small office on Fifth Avenue and 21st Street playing my trumpet. I was studying jazz improvisation with Joe Solomon, a protégé of the late Lenny Tristano.

Joe taught me much more than how to improvise on my trumpet. He taught me how to approach each moment, each task in my life as it happens. Joe taught me that the fast way really is the slow way.

This means focusing on the process, not the outcome. It means making the process work for you, working with the process. Too often we, in our impatience, work against the process.

To play jazz I needed to go through the process of becoming fluent in the alphabet of music — the scales. The major scales, the minor scales, the diminished and harmonic minors. And then the chords and then the classic tunes and then…

How do you do that? The slow way, practice every day. Focus, breathe — make the time; keep the time. There is no other way. So the slow way is the fast way because it is the only way.

I knew all this from Joe, but it took me time to learn it. And it turns out to be true in everything that I do. I’m still learning all those things about playing and now I practice; every day.

And this has become the way I approach all my actions; parenting, partnering with my spouse, making love, counseling my clients, leading and especially, simply paying attention.

In all things, the slow way requires that I sustain my vulnerability, listen as deeply as I can to my intonation and sing for all I’m worth.

I like to cook from scratch; making all the stocks and sauces, hand-making the pasta and even growing the produce when I can. I don’t use recipes but rather follow forms and improvise; making up new words with the alphabet of flavor and texture, association and history. Always taking the time to focus on the process, to make it beautiful every time.

Just like playing the cycle of fifths — boring and hackneyed and likely filled with forced errors if you rush through it — as beautiful as song if you strive to give the simplest detail grace.