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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Blue Like Jazz (the book this time)

So, a few weeks ago I blogged about the Blue Like Jazz movie. The movie is loosely based on the book by the same name, and although I read the book several years ago I didn't remember much about it, so I decided to read it again. My reaction to it this time was very different this time from the last time... almost like reading a different book. Here's what I wrote about it on Goodreads.

I read this book several years ago, and remember enjoying it, but coming away from it with the impression that Miller spent most of his time walking around seeking out people to have long, introspective conversations with. It seemed like he was mostly full of questions and not much full of answers, and never really quite getting to the point.

That whole impression has changed this time. Yes, Miller is full of questions. Yes, he does seem to seek out deep conversations with people, and he doesn't seem to come out having a bunch of definitive answers like most Christian authors seem to. But I think that is the key in this whole thing. When we think we have all of the answers... or, dare I say it, when we think we have full understanding of any of the answers? ...we're fooling ourselves. God is a mystery, and always will be, outside of what of Himself he reveals by His Spirit. And the fact is, as mortal human beings, we couldn't take the full impact of knowing everything about God if He revealed it all to us. God's too big for that.

This time through the book I realized that although at first glance, Miller doesn't seem to have any definitive answers like maybe some other author seems to, he does in fact come to a separate, useful conclusion at the end of each chapter. But he never claims to have all of the answers. In fact, part of what he seems to be communicating is that we need each other because none of us will ever have all of the answers. The truth that you understand can augment the truth that I understand, and vice versa. By communicating with each other, having introspective and even not-introspective conversations and interactions, each of us can come into a fuller understanding of God, mankind's relationship with Him, and the relationship each of us individually has with Him.

I read another review which compared this book to a blog; it does sort of have a bloggy, chatty flavor to it. Don't come to it thinking that you're going to read a book that has a larger theme; it does have one (the theme of the book is that the Christian life is hard to describe and you have to live it as it comes, like a good jazz musician plays the music as it comes, interacting with his bandmates and improvising based on what they do) but each chapter has its own focus. The book itself is actually a little bit like a jazz suite with many movements that don't seem at first listen to be related, outside of the instrumentation and basic musical style, but the more of them you experience, the more connections you begin to understand. I think it pays to read it sort of like a devotional... read one chapter at a time and stew on each one a bit before advancing to the next. Each movement of the suite needs to stand on its own two feet before you advance to the next one.

I think part of the reason I'm seeing this book differently than I did several years ago is because of growth I've experienced in my own life and relationship with God. Miller says in the book: "I used to not like jazz... now I do like jazz." I used to not like this book as much as I do now. I would recommend giving it a chance... or a second chance.

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