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August 2006

Chicago at the Chateau (A Concert Review)

The band Chicago put on a surprisingly strong -- but surprisingly short (one hour, forty minutes) -- show last night at Chateau Ste. Michelle.  Approximately 3,800 people came out to enjoy the music, wine and fabulous weather at the winery.

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I don't think I've attended another concert where so many people were singing so many of the songs -- nearly every song became a sing-along, and during one (Just You 'N' Me), the band stopped singing for a while and just let the audience take it away.

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This audience participation was in no small part due to the band's selection of songs, nearly all of which were from their "early" albums (their debut, Chicago Transit Authority, thru Chicago X) -- what I consider their classic period ... and judging from the demographics of the audience, I suspect many of us grew up during this classic Chicago period.  They played a couple of songs from their latest album (Chicago XXX (!)), and there were a couple of others I didn't recognize that were presumably from either solo efforts or one of the other albums during the Chicago dark ages.  I rather liked one of the Chicago XXX songs (but I can't remember its name), so perhaps they're entering a renaissance.

Chicago played the first concert I ever attended, in 1975, at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, with my mom and my cousin TJ, so a Chicago concert has a special place in my heart, especially an outdoor one.  They were my favorite band thru their first 9 years, but three things happened in 1978 to color my perception of the band: Terry Kath, their amazing founding guitarist, killed himself; their producer, James William Guercio, left; and the Chicago XI album did not measure up to the high standards I expected of them (it was the last Chicago album I bought ... well, except their Chicago Group Portrait CD box set, but box sets don't count).

The band members -- and concert performers -- in 1975 were the seven founders plus the conga player who joined the band for Chicago VII:

  • Peter Cetera: bass, vocals
  • Terry Kath: guitar, percussion, vocals
  • Robert Lamm: keyboards, percussion, vocals
  • Lee Loughnane: trumpet, percussion, vocals
  • James Pankow: trombone, percussion, vocals
  • Walter Parazaider: woodwinds, tenor sax, percussion, vocals
  • Danny Seraphine: drums, percussion, congas, antique bells, timbales, vocals
  • Laudir de Oliveira: percussion

In 2006, the band has four of the original members, but only two were on tour (or at least, at the concert last night):

  • Robert Lamm: piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond organ, vocals
  • Lee Loughnane: trumpet, flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet
  • James Pankow: trombone
  • Walt Parazaider: saxophones, flutes
  • Bill Champlin: Hammond organ, piano, Fender Rhodes, vocals
  • Jason Scheff: bass, vocals
  • Tris Imboden: drums
  • Keith Howland: guitar

I was really impressed by how well the new Chicago was able to recreate the sound of the classic Chicago, with that incredible blend of innovative instrumental jamming and crisp precision.  Even the singing was pretty strong, with Jason Scheff stretching to reach some of the high notes that Peter Cetera used to sing with such ease.  I was a bit disappointed in some of the liberties that Keith Howland took with Terry Kath guitar solos ... the solo for 25 or 6 to 4 was the first one I ever mastered when I was teaching myself guitar, and so his deviations from this classic solo probably bothered me more than most. 

Unlike the recent CSNY concert at White River Amphitheatre, or the CSN concert at Chateau Ste. Michelle in 2004, I did not keep track of the song list for this concert.  This was due, in part, to my hands being full for much of the evening with a glass and/or bottle of wine and/or a plate of food (I was thinking how the food and drink probably diminished the number of people clapping at this and other concerts at Chateau Ste. Michelle).  Anyhow, scanning through the songs listed on my Group Portrait box, I remember them playing the following songs (though not in this order, except for the Make Me Smile ... Colour My World sequence):

  • Beginnings
  • I'm a Man
  • Make Me Smile
  • So Much to Say; So Much to Give
  • Anxiety's Moment
  • West Virginia Fantasies
  • Colour My World
  • 25 or 6 to 4
  • Saturday in the Park
  • Dialogue (Parts 1 and 2)
  • Feelin' Stronger Every Day
  • Just You 'N' Me
  • Call on Me
  • Old Days
  • If You Leave Me Now

[If I can find a song list, I'll post an update.]

Having been energized by the strong protest theme at the CSNY concert (on their aptly named "Freedom of Speech" tour), I was wondering whether there would be a resurgence of some of the protest flavor of early Chicago songs, written during the time of the Vietnam War.  Some of their songs during the period have a strong anti-war message (e.g., It Better End Soon or A Song for Richard and his Friends), but Unlike CSNY, I don't get the sense that Chicago is feeling particularly revolutionary these days.  Fortunately, they did play one of my favorite political songs, Dialogue, which, when I heard it this time, reminded me of some of the dialogues in my favorite political cartoon, This Modern World. I'll finish this post off with the song's inspiring refrain:

We can make it happen
We can change the world now
We can save the children
We can make it better


An Unfolding Series of Pit and Peak Experiences

Theoryu Labyrinth Dan Oestreich's invocation of labyrinths and U's in a recent post on his Unfolding Leadership blog really got my juices flowing.  I started posting a comment, but it got so long I decided to take it back here, include some of the most inspiring pieces (er, which is most of his post, actually), and riff on them a bit.

Dan says

We all want to know where the point of transformation lies. I would say it is in “no space,” the place we come to after exhausting everything we know…and everything we are, a point of pure meditation. The current theory base, exemplified by Oscar Scharmer’s “Theory U”, suggests exactly this process of emptying ourselves of everything known so that we can listen to a best future Self, a source of deep intuitive wisdom... Scharmer describes the bottom of the U as where we touch a larger field that goes beyond our present awareness, a place of new insight and new consciousness that enables us to solve the problems we have been stuck by using our current, more limited awareness.

What he presents is both a beautiful new model and an exquisitely old one. Those of you familiar with labyrinths know them as a profound spiritual tool of unknown antiquity, a tool that is still eminently vital and provocative as a way to access inner wisdom. It is at the center of the labyrinth, metaphorically the bottom of the U, where awareness is born, the seed of a new way of being. Once the seed is grasped, doors unlock, and a transformed way of living may arrive, gradually over time, or in an instant. The “process” of walking a forty foot wide labyrinth is deceptively simple: 1) Wait for the readiness to enter; 2) walk forward, just following the path — this is not a maze — sequentially letting go of the past and surrendering to new knowledge; 3) humbly welcome insight at the center; and 4) return to the world, reflecting on the how your world is changing. Near where I live is a labyrinth that I walk sometimes. In the center is a mound of shells and a simple stone bench. Like past lives that have served well and are now gone, the shells at the center remind me how I am often faced with grief, and in turn, in touch with these feelings, I am also able to recognize my splintered but real wholeness. If I cannot experience the grief, I cannot remember the richness of my life and its fundamental wholeness. But when that sense does come, the answers often come with it.

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I, too, have walked the labyrinth at Unity of Bellevue that Dan mentions (shown above), and found it to be a profoundly serenity-inducing experience.

Dan's juxtaposition of Theory U with labyrinths evoked a vision of a three dimensional labyrinth, where the center is at the bottom of the "U" (which, in three dimensions, would be more of a bowl or cup), and the gradual slope of the switchbacks along the edges helps facilitate navigation into the valley (or pit) and back up to the top of the hill (or peak).

Archetype_of_initiation_1 During a recent workshop through which I learned about the dance of leadership, the leaders invoked a number of concepts from The Archetype of Initiation: Sacred Space, Ritual Process and Personal Transformation, by Robert Moore. They used the image of a "U" in visualizing the stages of descent, transformation and subsequent ascent, which seems closely aligned with the notion of presencing that Otto Scharmer speaks of (he uses the terms co-sensing, co-presencing and co-creating for these three stages). The leaders of this and other Mankind Project workshops always emphasize the critical importance of building a safe container within which those who are willing to be led can open up to their shadows and gold, and use these to express more fully who they really are. Thus, the 3D "U" also can be seen as a sacred container.

Darksideofthemoon At a very high level, all of life can be seen as one large transformation.  As I peer more closely, though, I see life as a series of hills and valleys, or, perhaps, pit experiences and peak experiences.  Once I work through one challenge, and attain the peak on the other side, I become more aware of the surrounding pits and peaks ... reminding me (yet again) of lyrics from Pink Floyd's song, Breathe (from Dark Side of the Moon)

When at last your work is done,
Don't sit down, it's time to dig another one.

I envision a landscape of valleys and mountains (pits and peaks), where the surface resembles an irregular eggshell foam mattress laid out over an uneven surface.  I'd love to find a graphical tool that would enable me to realize and share this visualization.  I searched around for images to express this, but couldn't find anything.  In a moment of synchronicity, a recent photo of the Artist's Palette taken by my friend Elizabeth during her recent trip to Death Valley National Park appeared in my Google Desktop Sidebar Photos frame as I was reading Dan's post.  The photo represents a close approximation of this vision of life as a series of [colorful] pits and peaks:

Artistspalette

Looping back to the leadership theme, this landscape represents the ongoing challenges of leadership: leaders are those who have been willing to descend into their pits, transform themselves and ascend to new peaks ... and thereby become better able to guide others through similar terrain.

In my own experience, the further I descend into a pit, the harder it is to see the peak, and so it requires faith and will to continue descending rather than stopping or climbing back to what earlier seemed like "high ground".  And, when I am willing to persevere through the ascent to the next peak, I gain a new perspective on the surrounding peaks and pits, and see that the journey can continue, if I'm up -- and down -- for it.

Way_of_the_peaceful_warrior The descent also reminds me of the dis-illusionment that Dan Millman talks about in Way of the Peaceful Warrior, which I started re-reading recently (I haven't seen the movie, though) . Although the term is often interpreted as having a negative connotation, Millman's mentor, Socrates, suggests that disillusionment is actually a positive development, as it is only through releasing our illusions that we can gain a clearer perspective on reality.

And, speaking of release, I want to indulge in one final riff on Dan[ Oestreich]'s post.  At the end, he notes:

Perhaps we can never know exactly what the place of true transformation is, a space as close to us as our own breath and yet, depending on our circumstances and suffering, one that may seem hundreds of miles away. LivingSource may be one of its names. Well, whatever you want to call it, I would say it is what holds us in the depth of this remarkable Universe. It is that depth, no less. A pattern of some kind? Or the end of patterns? An open palm? A river in which to wash my Face.

This image of an open palm evokes the notion of "let go in order to receive". As long as I am tight-fistedly clinging to the old -- or perhaps, resting on my laurels at the top of the last peak I ascended -- I cannot fully open up to the new ... and I certainly can't wash my face very effectively with clenched fists :-).


The Dance of Leadership

A healthy community is like a dance, with different dancers stepping forward to take the lead at different times, and others following those leads.  Even followers are leaders, as we lead ourselves along paths or sequences illuminated by those who we consciously or unconsciously agree to allow lead us.  A leader creates a safe space within which others can more effectively recognize and express their magnificence.

These are some of the insights that emerged for me over the weekend, as I participated in a leadership training course (LT1) offered by the Mankind Project.  As with other MKP trainings in which I've participated, I don't want to reveal the specifics of any of the exercises -- as that may diminish the impact for any future trainees -- but will elaborate further on some of the results (for me).

The notion of leadership as a dance arose as I noticed that all of the participants are leaders[-in-training], and recognized that if none of us was willing to step back at times -- and allow others to step forward -- little would be accomplished.  As I became more conscious of this dance, and who was stepping forward in different contexts, I ruminated on what distinguishes a leader, and wanted to be able to encompass a range of leaders from Ghandi to Hitler. I arrived at the following definition of leadership:

Leadership is the modeling and communication of passionate commitment to an inspiring goal, principle or path.

Throughout the weekend, I was reminded of related wisdom shared by others, including Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Dee Hock and Dan Oestreich

In the Prelude to Oriah's book, The Dance, she asks some provocative and insightful questions, including:

What if it truly doesn't matter what you do but how you do whatever you do?

What if you knew that the impulse to move in a way that creates beauty in
the world will arise from deep within and guide you every time you simply
pay attention and wait?

These help me remember that it doesn't necessarily matter whether I am leading others, but that in leading my self, I stay fully conscious and true to my self, and that it is in trusting my own instincts that I can lead my self -- and others -- most authentically.

I've written about Dee Hock's inspiring principles on Chaordic Leadership before.  His insights into power, listening and judgment repeatedly came to mind over the weekend, and his prescription for leadership was resonating deeply for me:

Lead yourself, lead your superiors, lead your peers and free your people to do the same. All else is trivia.

I also had occasion to practice his advice for recognizing, admitting, correcting, learning from and rising above mistakes over the weekend, as I became painfully aware of how much of my father's patterns of leadership in marriage and parenthood I have adopted.  Although my father had many wonderful and admirable qualities -- many of which I hope I am perpetuating -- there are other characteristic that I have unconsciously adopted.  I renewed my commitment to making mistakes wakefully.

Dan Oestreich, an inspiring leadership coach (and friend), has shared many insights into the gold and shadows of leadership in his Unfolding Leadership blog.  Many of them were reverberating through me during the weekend.  Perhaps most poignantly, I was ever more aware of the path on which he has helped me embark toward my unfolding radiance.  I will invoke yet another element of Oestreichian inspiration, and apply the representation of a möbius strip, which I first used in ruminating on preaching what I want to practice, to the paradox of leadership (and followership):

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There were other sources of wisdom invoked by the leaders of the leadership training, including

A quick search of Amazon reveals that there are other books related to the dance of leadership, including

For the moment, however, I am content to follow the beat of my own, inner drummer, dancing with the shadows and gold that were illuminated for me over the course of the weekend.