In more recent days, I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness, a word that holds within it the power to transform our lives and reshape our perspectives. Often seen as a mere act of letting go, forgiveness possesses the power not only to release others' transgressions but also to serve as a powerful vessel toward self-empowerment.
Many of our internal struggles stem from our perceptions of wrongdoings committed by others. We often find ourselves entrapped in a web of resentment, anger, and hurt as a result of these perceived transgressions. However, forgiveness offers a unique key to unlocking this cage of inner turmoil. If we can teach ourselves to choose forgiveness as a default response, we can control our emotions and reactions. This conscious decision to pardon can liberate us beyond the pain and find solace in the present moment.
As a musician, this idea of forgiveness as a tool of empowerment can guide us towards artistic freedom. When playing jazz, forgiveness comes with the territory. In the throes of the improvisatory moments of a jazz performance, you never really play what you intended to play. And even if you did, it might not be the most heartfelt music. Being deliberate and delivering are not always on the same page. A lot of what gives jazz its vibrancy is the urgency of the moment, or as what MLK referred to as "the fierce urgency of now."
As I’ve become more experienced as a musician and improviser, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not always what I play that creates a path towards a satisfying performance. But my response to what was played earlier. And this is where forgiveness becomes paramount. In order to play from this enlightened state, checking your ego at the door is a must. The ego is what instigates all of these feelings of angst. But if we can forgive ourselves for not being perfect, for not playing exactly what we wanted to play at that moment, the artistic possibilities become immeasurable.
When I first embarked on my current musical path as an experimentalist and improviser, I felt overwhelmed by the sea of possibility. Almost feeling afraid to even wade my feet in the musical waters. But in order for me to feel more comfortable in this area, I had to embrace forgiveness and acceptability. Which are often interchangeable. Forgiving oneself for playing the unintended. Accepting it as what fate has determined. Again, this is easier said than done. I wouldn't say that I've mastered this state of being, but I am much more comfortable in 'just being" than I was a little over a decade ago.
This idea can extend even beyond performing. I find it useful even when dealing with the frustrations of the music business. Sometimes when magazines print unflattering things about our music, we must forgive. If critics perpetually ignore us in the coveted polls, we must forgive. If festivals refuse to book us, we must forgive. If certain musicians refuse to hire us, or respect us, we must forgive. It is the only way.
I'll be the first to admit that this path of forgiveness is not without its challenges. It demands us to confront our deepest vulnerabilities and face the pain we seek to release. However, this very process is a testament to our strength and determination. As we learn to let go of the heavy burdens of resentment and self-criticism,, we become the architects of our own empowerment.
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