Sunday, August 1, 2010

Layer 337 . . . Music, Spiritual and Emotional Intelligence, Synchronicity, Wynton Marsalis, John Besh, Culinary Arts, BP, Big Oil, and Grand Prix

"Music teaches us that we all have two lives: our internal lives and our external lives." - Wynton Marsalis (Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, October 18, 1961)


This is how synchronicity works.

First thing in the morning the London Review of Books arrives on the doormat, and for breakfast I voraciously read its lead article, a review of "The Rise and Fall of French Cuisine", by Michael Steinberger. The book is an account of the influence of the French approach to food and eating, and whether it's been overtaken by innovative approaches to the culinary arts by masterchefs in Japan, Britain and the USA. Apparently there are now more Michelin three-star restaurants in Tokyo than there are in Paris - 11 of them to be precise.

"France taught Americans how to eat. The lessons were about more than just eating well; they were about living well. It was never merely about the food, and the idea that there was nothing mere about food, that food was never merely fuel, was lesson number one."


For lunch I devour a superb 'diary' piece in the LRB, written by Rebecca Solnit, on the reality of the BP Gulf of Mexico blowout, and what it means for people living along the coast of Louisiana, and in particular New Orleans.

"The blowout is about global capital, and about policy, and about the Bush-era corruption that turned the Minerals Management Service into a crony-ridden camp that didn’t do its job, and about Big Oil, and about a host of other things. But it is also about the destruction we’ve all seen in the images, which are horrible in a deep and primordial way. I went out on boats twice and saw an oiled pelican through binoculars and some faint oily traces on wetlands grass and couldn’t quite make out the oiled terns in the distance. And I saw what everyone else could see too, the photographs and footage from those who went to Ground Zero of this catastrophe.

Mary Douglas said that dirt is matter out of place, and petroleum is out of place everywhere above ground. We design our lives around not seeing it even when we pump it into our cars and burn it, and when we do encounter it, it’s repulsive stuff with a noxious smell, a capacity to cause conflagrations, and a deadly impact. Nature kindly put a huge amount of the earth’s carbon underground, and we have for the past 200 years been putting it back into the atmosphere faster and faster, even though we now know that this is a project for which words like ‘destructive’ are utterly inadequate."


At supper time there's a wonderful programme on Sky Arts 1, part of the Iconoclasts series produced by Robert Redford, featuring jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and masterchef/businessman/philanthropist John Besh, both of whom were born and brought up in New Orleans, and reflect upon the importance New Orleans has had on their lives and work.

Change the way you see celebrity. Iconoclasts is the innovative series in which some of today's top creative talent meets those people who have inspired them. In this episode from Series 3, legendary jazz musician Wynton Marsalis meets chef John Besh

This is the third season of the critically-acclaimed series, Iconoclasts. A series of intimate, unpredictable portraits of creative visionaries whose passion for what they do has transformed our culture.

Both of these guys are passionate about what they do, but modest about their outstanding achievements. Both are inspirational speakers and team leaders, as they see themselves. Both give full credit to their entire teams and point out that without their colleagues they couldn't function. Both are non-religious, but full of spiritual intelligence.

Wynton Marsalis has written a book , "“Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life”.

To be fair, that's not really how synchronicity works. That's about what synchronicity can look like in practice. It's also about the zeitgeist. Nobody knows how synchronicity works. Not even Carl Jung.


Emotional Intelligence.

We know plenty about how emotional intelligence works, or fails to work.

Michael Schumacher is not so much lacking in emotional intelligence as practically psychopathic in his complete ruthlessness and contempt for those he considers his inferiors. Even to the point of putting their lives in danger.

The good thing about his return to F1 is the opportunity he has given himself to reveal his true nature (again) and expose himself for what he truly is. He's made so many enemies down the years it's not surprising they're now willing to lay into him whenever an opportunity presents itself.

At today's Hungarian GP, for example. Racing for 10th place and a single world championship point, he first of all blocked Rubens Barrichelo for several laps, and then tried to put him into the pit wall when Barrichelo finally got close enough to slipstream him and overtake on his inside. For a split second Barrichelo had to decide whether to stand on his brakes at 180mph whilst running on the 'hard shoulder", and risk spinning his car into the wall, or continue his overtake and risk smashing into Schumacher. Being the skilled driver he is, Rubens squeezed past and then swerved back onto the track, whilst keeping his car under control.

After the race, various F1 drivers were asked about Schumacher's behaviour, and all condemned him outright. The majority also seemed to say, "But what else can you expect of Schumacher?".

Schumacher himself brushed the accusations aside by saying, "You know me - I always fight hard against my opponents". To which one can only say, "Michael old bean, it's not about fighting as such - it's about how you fight, you dirty bastard".

Thankfully, two other German drivers utterly condemned his behaviour - Alexander Wurtz and Nico Hulkenberg, whose manager also manages Schumacher. Wurtz said,  "This is not what the sport needs! There are some lines you shouldn't cross. If Michael didn't see what was happening behind him then his mirrors must be illegal, or he has something wrong with his eyesight and should be declared unfit to drive".

The German driver who's opinion on the incident wasn't solicited is Sebastian Vettel. As Eddie Jordan pointed out, Vettel has several times this season tried to block other drivers or push them towards the edge of the track. Plus there was the notorious incident when he deliberately steered into his team mate to try to intimidate him, a la Schumacher - causing both of them to crash whilst leading the race. It's not hard to see who his role model is.

Typical of comments on today's incident (on the web) was,

"As Rubens said, he [Schumacher] was closing the door - edit slamming it - too late, having deliberately left it ajar. He knows he can only change line once, so he was inviting him to come through in a position on the track that he could try intimidation to block the move, Dirty Dick Dastardly, ask Damon Hill/Jacque V.

"If you try and pass I'll have you off" always was and always will be his modus operandi. Nothing has changed except the position he is fighting for. Bit pathetic really, Rubens is a fine example of how an "elder statesman" of F1 should conduct himself, the Big Chinned one is just becoming an embarrasment. I was looking forward to viewing his "second life, beginning to wonder why now."

Last season, when he was new and fresh and just a rising star, Vettel impressed people with his ability and his enthusiasm, just as Schumacher had impressed in his first season in the sport. This season, however, now that he thinks he ought to be winning races and leading the F1 championship, Vettel is showing his lack of experience and lack of emotional intelligence. Especially when you compare him with guys like Button and Hamilton, whom I've praised in previous blogs for their high levels of maturity and emotional & spiritual intelligence. Which some people call simply "attitude".

Vettel screwed up badly today - in his own words he "fell asleep" - by not following the right distance behind the safety car when it was deployed. He was somewhat calmer whilst talking about the incident after the race, that's to say, after his team had let him know he was definitely at fault.

During the race, however, it was a different story. There were angry, petulant, immature and irresponsible words and actions whilst behind the wheel at racing speed. During his drive-through penalty he was even seen taking his hands off the wheel and shaking them as though demented, whilst shouting and ranting - "What did I do? What did I do?"

When interviewed about his driver's behaviour after the race his team boss, Christian Horner, said - "He's a young guy. He's still very emotional." As if that tells us anything.

We've seen lots of young guys in their first couple of years of F1 racing who nevertheless show that they have plenty of emotional intelligence, and plenty of humility. Hulkenberg seems to be one, as were Hamilton and Button. Being emotionally intelligent is being able to keep a lid on your anger, and behave professionally whilst at work. Preferably also when not at work. But if you can't conduct yourself responsibly, calmly, considerately and thoughtfully, and keep destructive and egocentric, not to say childish, emotions like anger under control whilst doing your job in a dangerous profession where lives are at risk, then you ought to be suspended until you learn how to.

Will Vettel ever learn? The almighty sulk on his face in the post-race TV interviews, after he'd come third instead of winning the race as he should have done (had he not "fallen asleep"), doesn't bode well. Mark Webber, who was the winner, thoroughly deserved to do so, especially as a reward for the way he showed real emotional intelligence and amazing self-control prior to last week's race when his team decided to take from his car an experimental prototype front wing and put it on the car of Vettel, his so-called team mate. They did this on the grounds that Vettel was ahead on points in the championship, and therefore more likely to win the championship for himself and the team. How stupid that decision by his team manager now looks.

Webber won that race regardless (thanks to Vettel spending energy at the start trying to block Webber instead of concentrating on staying in front from pole position). He's now won 4 races this season to Vettel's two, and now leads the championship.

Another guy who showed incredible restraint and emotional intelligence last week was Felipe Massa, who showed hardly a blip of anger after his team had virtually ordered him to let his team mate Alonso go past him, also on the grounds that Massa had more championship points and was therefore better placed to win the championship.

Schumacher has been given a penalty by the race stewards for his behaviour today - being demoted 10 places on the starting grid in the next race. Let's hope by some miracle he qualifies 1st and not 20th. Someone else has commented that they hope he qualifies 20th and has to start behind the safety car. Let's hope he pisses off again at the end of this season, if not before.

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