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Appropriation of one’s tradition implies neither uncritical acceptance nor total rejection; it entails a discriminating adaptation of its features to one’s own situation.” Nicholas Wolterstorff, Until Justice & Peace Embrace

In a blog comment chain Joel Garver, a philosophy teacher at La Salle University and a member at City Church Philadelphia where Tuck Bartholomew pastors, once shared about the nature of good improvisation. That it must be built on sound understanding of the original piece. I know that for many this will not come as a revelation or novel insight, but it nevertheless struck me as I read it and nearly a year latter its remained as a proverb of conventional wisdom at work in my life.

In ways appropriating one’s tradition is much like improvisation; it requires sound knowledge, experience, and understanding of the original(s) while also having the creative vision to adapt it and expand it, or at times to critically reject it. For me the difficulty in living with a tradition, or I should say traditions, is maintaining a lively interest in the original in order to maintain as well a refreshingly relevant adaptation or wise critical rejection of it.

In a word its…hard…the more you learn of the original(s) the harder it gets.

Wolterstorff’s breif words on appropriation as well as Joel Garver’s blog comments on improvisation will reamain with me, quietly, though nevertheless significantly cultivating maturity and depth in me. Staying with me in the midst of hard questions, and hard situations… 

(Photographic art by John Walford)