I began reading a wonderful book today: The Power of COLLECTIVE WISDOM and the trap of collective folly – by Briskin, Erikson, Ott and Callanan.
My dear friend, Rod Punnett, has been urging me to read this book for several months now. I am presently on a few days break at Yellow Point Lodge (YPL), which happens to be one my favourite places to spend time. Yesterday, while out in a kayak paddling north-west along the shore, I realised how crucial it is for me to have breaks from my usual routine – to create the space for my creative and curious mind to go on excursions of its own, but doing so without leaving a very present state of attention.
Then last night I had the incredible good fortune to play music with several other YPL guests and with the regular members of the YPL band. Richard Hill, the owner here, is a great bass player and singer, and over the last few years he has gathered around him two great guitarists (John and Colin), a young drummer that usually plays with the band on Saturday nights and Richard’s nephew, Gary, who made a surprise visit part way through the session to join us last night. Being Friday, the band usually just does an informal acoustic set in the Lodge’s lobby area, and they save the plugged in set for the dance hall / lounge area for Saturday night. But there were more of the gathered guests than usual who offered to join the jam session. So some of the guitars got plugged into small amps, the piano was rocking and we had 3 or 4 people on various percussion instruments. As I began reading about collective wisdom then this morning I realised what a perfect example that music jam was of this paragraph from the aforementioned book:
Collective wisdom is reflected in group behaviours that show human decency, social justice and spiritual awareness. The effects of such behaviours result in surprising and positive outcomes that often can not be ascribed to a simple or singular cause. Sometimes quite ordinary, other times quite profound, collective wisdom is what can happen when people find themselves in situations that invite new perspectives and evoke higher aspirations. Often its emergence is grounded in a different way of listening and bringing attention to the immediacy of the moment. (pp. 19)
Now the regular members of the YPL band are seasoned and gifted musicians, as are some of the guest players. But, I only play with a band infrequently, and I have nowhere near the experience or virtuosity of most of the other players. And, a few of the players (including myself) didn’t know all of the songs being played, and not only had some of us not played those songs before at all, a couple of people had never played with the other people. So we took a set list that Johnny (one of the two excellent lead guitarists) had put together, and we launched into playing. The most magical part was that the band made such generous and kindly accommodations to players like me (like quieting the back beat rhythm section when I took a rare foray into playing lead on my unplugged acoustic guitar). Or, when the piano and percussion sections simply carried on, at what “should” have been the end, of one of the band’s standard tunes. And yet, not just despite these accommodations, but I think partly because of them, the overall quality of creative expression from the group was so much more than the simple sum of its (highly variable) parts.
Richard commented as the last of us departed the lodge late last night that this was the best jamming from a large group of musicians, when there were so many unknowns in the mix. Colin had also commented earlier about how much one gets to see and feel another person’s character when playing music with them. As an example, he said that he looked over at one of the other players doing a solo, and thought, “wow, I never realised there was such warmth in that person”.
I now have the electric set to enjoy being a part of tonight. I can’t quite fathom my good fortune.
By the way, stay tuned for an event coming a little later this summer in which Rod and I will invite some people to join us in an investigation of putting the principles and methods of this book into embodied, empathic action.