The Blues and Abstract Truth is the title of a jazz album by Oliver Nelson recorded in 1961. The title might also be a formula for all great art, including the art of living.
Feeling and thought, substance and form, passion and detachment, yin and yang, Bacchus and Apollo, the blues and abstract truth – each a critical part of our experience; thus the integration of the two is required to be present to, or to represent, the wholeness of experience.
Albert Einstein once stated that “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” Personally, I find this quote rather lame, but perhaps what he really means is that abstract truth without the blues is lame, the blues without abstract truth is blind. Science needs to be grounded in the concrete, felt, everyday experience of living; the concrete, felt, everyday experience of living needs the guidance of timeless truths.
Stephen Hawking wrote: “Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” What I hear Hawking asking is “Where is the blues behind all this abstract truth?”
The discoveries of science, as Hawking states, are “just…rules and equations.” Or, we might say they are comprehensive, ever improving maps of the world. Maps are wonderful for getting you oriented, but the goal of a map is to help you arrive. When you get to Graceland, you can fold the map and put it back in the glove compartment.
Or another analogy is that science is an attempt to uncover the recipe of the world. When you’ve cooked the gumbo, however, you can set aside the recipe and sit for a spell and eat. That’s what the blues is about, being there and eating it up.
The first tune on The Blues and Abstract Truth is “Stolen Moments.” If you want to hear what the marriage of blues and abstract truth is all about, take a listen. A version is available on the Internet here. (of course, just about anything by Duke Ellington or John Coltrane will also do.)
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