Solos Within Symphonies- The Case of Michael Jordan

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Phil left a comment on Andrew's essay To no end save beauty- An Ode to Sport that's really got me thinking. In all the time leading up to the recent Integral Community Seminar, where we were meditating on the subject of collectives here at Beams, no one ever mentioned sports in that discussion. It never occurred to me once, and I'm a big fan. But then Phil went on a lovely riff in the comment section about cooperation andIowa_Hawkeyes_Football_Inspirational_Poster_Teamwork  teamwork in sports, and suddenly that context sprang forth. I realized that as so many of us continue to struggle to evolve beyond the hyper-individualism of our post/modern era, we have the immediate example (and for many, experience) in sports of what it's like to work harmoniously with a dynamic collective to accomplish a common goal. And this doesn't necessarily mean the subsuming of the individual by the collective either, a fear for many in this attempt to transcend and include the birth of the individual into a higher we. As Phil coins it, and a fine turn of phrase it is, the individual can be "a solo within a symphony".

A solo within a symphony. I like that. I've been turning it over and over in my head for two days now. A solo in a symphony does not go outside the core musical framework that the collective is engaged in, but nevertheless works some original magic within it, thus (if done well) strengthening the overall composition in return. Could we learn to work this way together more often? The Michael_Jordan_by_cool_imagesmetaphor probably has many more layers than just that one, but I'm finding it provocative and it's working on me.

Phil also mentioned Michael Jordan, and it struck me that he was an exceptional example of this dual-yet-mutual role, a heroically talented and individually creative athlete who also excelled at defense and helped lead his team to six NBA championships. Phil linked to a couple of videos of Jordan, and although I'm of course familiar with Jordan and his astonishing feats, this video below blew me away. But before watching the video, I want to add one other layer of context for the viewing. At the end of his essay, Andrew finishes with these lines:

"Sport is above all the physical expression of the human form and soul, the physical and mental, body and brain coordinated and acting as one. It is in the striving towards perfection, the overcoming, in the triumphs and defeats that the human story is told. But in the end, sport can have no other end save the beauty of the human experience.".

This video is also a remarkable expression of all of that. Truly, a magnificent human solo within a symphony.


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  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Monday, 29 August 2011 15:43 posted by Philip Corkill

    Hey Trevor,

    Can't tell you how glad I am to have contributed some small thing to the integral community seminar - that brought me here - or at least to your meditation on collectives.

    In my "riff" on Andrew's essay I do unfairly put Jordan in the "one man show" category. You are so right - although he may have been there at the beginning of his career - later he certainly became an exemplary team leader and empowerer of his team mates.

    For some, perhaps illegitimate, intuitive reason I often associate this with the influence of Phil Jackson and especially the Zen style awareness, even for the bench players, that Jackson brought to the Bulls. Later he even managed to get Kobe to see his team mates!

    In a league of distilled talent form across the globe, Jordan still stood (still stands) out individually. As we see in that video, he was just so exceptionally gifted and played with such a rare quality of grace combined with tenacity, totality and toughness. WOW. I think he kind of flew ahead of the game, hence, we don't see any team work on the video.

    In terms of collective intelligence, this makes it difficult for me to discern to what extent he exemplifies this new emergence I'm stammering to elucidate in (or maybe projecting on to) professional team sports. So often the best decision for all must have been to give Jordan the ball and the freedom to take the game into his own hands, that it's hard to tell how much of an irreducible collective the Bulls were. Does that make sense?

    I have a sense that something new is happening that can only be exemplified by a team. Perhaps the individual competition is now so high, and the talent more spread out, that it necessitates a higher team intelligence to succeed. I don't know. NBA champions Dallas had it. Although admittedly Dirk Nowitzki, isn't a Michael Jordan.

    But Leonel Messi is a Maradona and Barca's soccer is a dream of collective intelligence. At least it looks that way.

    I guess I'd like to think that we were moving beyond, or championing more dimensions to, what Andrew describes as a „league dominated by an extreme individualism that seems now to reflect the dominant virtue in American culture at the moment“ and I'd like it to be a reflection of where culture is going.

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