The following is a thought that’s been chasing around in my head for a while; I haven’t had the time or mental energy to develop the argument fully, but I wanted to toss it out and see if any of y’all had thoughts or insights to add, confirm or contradict…
Music requires structure and form; without it there’s just noise. Different forms produce different kinds of music, and any form you choose imposes certain limits on what you can and cannot do within the boundaries of the form – but they also support the music and give it shape and life.
I am coming to believe that the same is true with religion. Every religious tradition encodes a particular viewpoint, a way of being in the world and in relation with others, both human and Other; and every religion tends to accept and reject different types of experiences as falling within (or without) the bounds of the recognizable.
In each case there are rules and guidelines that must be understood and internalized before you can attain the goal of producing great music (or having a fulfilling spiritual life); and in each case choosing the right form is essential.
But… just because you select one genre or tradition to focus on, doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from others.
Sometimes you can blend genres – jazz/classical fusion frequently works well, for instance. Sometimes such blendings yield something entirely new that can stand on its own – I have some hope that the recent Greco-Egyptian revival may be one of these, and Jewish/Buddhist syncretization has been growing slowly for decades. Sometimes two forms can be blended temporarily, but don’t stand up over the long term; and some can never work together. Knowing what will blend appropriately, and when and how to do so (and when and how NOT to do so) is the art of successful syncretism.
[edited to add: And, of course, just because a musical style or religion may never become part of your repertoire, that’s no reason not to learn about it and expand your horizons!]