Back in 1975, Keith Jarrett, arguably the most well-known Jazz pianist in the world, performed a concert in Cologne, Germany. The concert was organized by a woman named Vera Brandes. Vera, a lover of Jazz, but inexperienced at promoting concerts, made a HUGE mistake in ordering the piano for the concert. Instead of delivering a beautiful concert grand piano into the hall, a dinky, shoddy piano was there in its place. The piano was tinny and several of the keys and the pedals did not work. Because it was a Friday evening, there was no way to call and get another piano delivered. What made matters worse was that Jarrett had been driving for several hours and had not slept well for many nights because of terrible pain he had been having in his back. When he tried the piano, he found it completely inadequate and he refused to play. Vera had to beg him. He finally consented, knowing that this would be a complete and utter failure. What happened next was history in the making.
The thing that you need to know about Keith Jarrett is that, in all his concerts, he completely improvises all his music. That’s right; he really doesn’t know what he is going to play exactly until he actually plays it. Crazy, right? Something to think about as we live our own lives.
So, Keith gets up to play his concert, knows it’s going to be a disaster, and wants it recorded for posterity. The concert hall is completely sold out with over 1400 people there. Because the piano is softer, he has to hit the keys harder. Because he can’t play several keys in the higher range, he has to keep to the middle of the piano. He can’t play the piano the way he likes to and so he plays it differently. Basically, what it comes down to is this: he has to make due with a mess. And he goes on to make the best album of his life that night. People love it. They eat it up. It is the best-selling solo album in jazz history and the all-time best selling piano album.
What’s the point? We all live in a mess at times-- but how often do we celebrate that mess? How often do we recognize how much that mess has given to us? How much it has transformed us? It seems to me like we are only satisfied when our plans go how we want them to go, but what if we looked at life as a gift, no matter what happens? The mess might be leading you to something incredible.
My friend tells the story of a father who had a son who was constantly in and out of jail. One day, this friend saw the father and son at the ice cream place together. He asked them how they were doing and the father said “Well, I just bailed my son out of jail again and so we are here celebrating.” My friend asked, “Celebrating?” and the father said “Yes. If I waited for something good to happen to celebrate, we would never celebrate anything.”
Messes are worth honoring and even celebrating, especially if we become aware of how we are changing because of them. Living mindfully means that we are present in our lives with both the good and the bad, because in the end, the good and the bad are connected. Bad messes often end up as very good events and sometimes the opposite is true. By becoming open and accepting of both the messes and the accomplishments in our lives, we own our lives, and this brings happiness, even in the middle of a disaster.