Regular readers of my blog will know that I borrow mercilessly and shamelessly from several of my passions: notably sport, literature, and music. For me, all three provide wonderful examples of human endeavour, creativity, innovation and triumph over adversity. When we look for lessons in life, we can tap into rich seams of experience beyond our own in these amplifications of our humanity.
For this blog, I want to relay a story that is well-known amongst afficionados of jazz music. I don’t claim to be amongst their number but, as with fine art, and literature “I know what I like”.
I recently saw via YouTube an old interview (I’d guess from the 1990s from the fashions and picture quality) with the renowned pianist and keyboard player Herbie Hancock. Quite why the algorithms at YouTube suggested this for me is a mystery but, as they would have intended and hoped, I clicked on the link.
Hancock referred to a concert in Stuttgart from 1963, where he was a young pianist (about 21 years old), accompanying the legendary trumpeter Miles Davis in his band (and for any actual jazz afficionados who happen to be reading, Tony Williams was on drums!). He sets the scene of a really amazing concert, where the music was “hot”, and all players were at the heights of their improvisational powers. Then…calamity! Hancock, mid-way through Miles Davis’ solo, plays “the wrong chord”. Not a little wrong. But very, very wrong. Davis pauses, looks up, and then plays notes that engage the chord in a new direction and “make the notes right.” As Hancock states, and a fitting title for this blog, “Miles didn’t hear it [the chord] as a mistake…He heard it as something that just happened: an event.”
Aside from the musicianship required to turn the situation around, the strength of character – in the face of a live performance – is equally admirable.
Hancock concludes that the experience taught him a lesson about life. “We can look for the world as we would like it to be as individuals. ‘Make it easy for me’, that idea. But I think the important thing is that we grow. And the only way that we are able to grow is to have a mind that is open enough to be able to accept situations, and to be able to experience situations as they are and turn them into medicine. Turn poison into medicine and make something constructive happen. That’s what I learned.”
I’ve written before about the resilience and tenacity shown by our children, our staff, and our communities in the face of challenges and turbulence. They use these experiences as a means of growth. It is far from easy, and far from painless – but it is positive, and sometimes the only way to move forward.
To conclude, I want to share with you a quotation from the stoic and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. In ‘Meditations’, he wrote “If you are pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out this judgment now.” May we all look upon misfortunes and mistakes as “events” with the resolve and skills to “make the notes right.”
Thanks for reading.