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We all saw a short film of the previous week’s performance.Now youngsters from Eastlea moved into the hall to hear the preconcert talk.I then spoke for a full fifty minutes, explaining our unusual approach to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and comparing it with performance traditions.Refreshing the audience’s memory of the story, I played parts of Strauss’s Don Quixote on the piano to show how skillfully the composer had turned the complex and moving tale into music.Was that the concert, Miss? Anthony asked his teacher after my presentation, reminding us how unfamiliar to him were all aspects of this venture.For the concert itself, the two hundred Eastlea students were placed behind the stage in the prominent seats usually occupied by the chorus, so they would be close to the action.I cannot deny that I had been worried that they might fidget and distract the audience, especially since by the time the concert started they had already been in the hall for over two hours.But they sat motionless and apparently riveted throughout Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, as well as through the long and quite taxing tone poem of Strauss.Could we really know what was going on in the minds of those children?Was fear of punishment the true source of their angelic behavior?Were they really listening to the music, or were they being merely dutiful?I stole a glance at Anthony, sitting high on the risers behind the brass section, at the very moment that the shattering burst of light emerges out of the darkness into the glorious sunlight of the last movement of the Fifth.Would he recognize it?To think that all of this occurred after Arthur Andersen initially turned us down in our request for the sponsorship of a single Philharmonia concert!In the end, Arthur Andersen’s willingness to be fully enrolled in the transformative power of music served to carry the spark to thousands more, including children whose lives might be profoundly influenced by the event.Here is a note I received just before the final concert, from Graham Walker, a senior partner at Arthur Andersen.The last phase will take you back to your home territory—the concert hall—so we know that will be a magnificent finale.The first two phases were on more unfamiliar ground!I was crazy to ask you to participate.You were even crazier to agree.The stage was set, the die was cast and yesterday we all shared the full force of your inspiration, creativity and sensitivity—backed up by the unremitting power of the Philharmonia.Thank you enormously, Ben.Like you, I hope that these events have set in motion enough radiating possibility to overcome the eddies of gloom that sometimes wash around the lives of our friends in Eastlea.Enrollment is that life force at work, lighting sparks from person to person, scattering light in all directions.In this one, you rename yourself as the board on which the whole game is being played.You move the problematic aspect of any circumstance from the outside world inside the boundaries of yourself.With this act you can transform the world.The driver of the second car, it turns out, is intoxicated and unlicensed.This new kind of responsibility is yours for the taking.You cannot assign it to someone else.It is purely an invention, and yet it strengthens you at no one’s expense.Ordinarily we equate accountability with blame and blamelessness, concepts from the world of measurement.When I blame you for something that goes wrong, I seek to establish that I am in the right—and we all know the delicious feeling of satisfaction there.However, inasmuch as I blame you for a miserable vacation or a wall of silence—to that degree, in exactly that proportion, I lose my power.I lose my ability to steer the situation in another direction, to learn from it, or to put us in good relationship with each other.Indeed, I lose any leverage I may have had, because there is nothing I can do about your mistakes—only about mine.To apply the practice of being the board, that driver, even from her hospital bed, will cast a wider framework around events than one ordinarily does in the world of fault and blame.Every time I step into a car I am at risk.If I cannot be present without resistance to the way things are and act effectively, if I feel myself to be wronged, a loser, or a victim, I will tell myself that some assumption I have made is the source of my difficulty.It is not that this practice offers the right choice or the only choice.We may want to make sure the intoxicated driver gets his due.We may want sympathy, and we may want revenge.However, choosing the being the board approach opens the possibility of a graceful journey, one that quickly reinstates us on the path we chose before the fateful collision intervened.It allows us to keep on track.Grace comes from owning the risks we take in a world by and large immune to our control.If you build your house on a floodplain of the Mississippi River, you may be devastated when the waters overflow, and you may rail at the river.However, when you declare yourself an unwilling victim of a known risk, you have postured yourself as a poor loser in a game you chose to play.Perhaps to gain other people’s sympathy, you will have traded your own peace of mind.In the legal sphere, fault and blame play an important role.But we are talking about access to possibility, not to victory or remuneration.Gracing yourself with responsibility for everything that happens in your life leaves your spirit whole, and leaves you free to choose again.Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony starts off as though the music is making a joyful sprint toward a double handspring that catapults it to the high trapeze.Mendelssohn gives the winds eleven quick steps before the violins make their first energetic somersault, but in one concert, while I was pointing to the winds, a single violinist came in with exuberance and gusto after just five steps!It was the kind of confident violin playing you can’t help admiring, but it left us out there in space, no trapeze within our grasp.For the first time in my conducting career, I stopped a performance—in front of more than a thousand people.I smiled to the orchestra, said to myself, How fascinating! and began the piece again.This time, of course, there was no mishap.Afterward, someone associated with the orchestra asked me in a hushed voice, Would you like to know who came in early in the Mendelssohn? Whether it was the slightly conspiratorial nature of the question that put me off, or whether it was that such a question was in disturbing contrast with the spiritedness of the music that we had just performed, I found myself saying, No abruptly, and then adding, I did it.Not literally, of course.I didn’t actually play the violin.But in that moment, in the context of the great music we had just made, it seemed absurd to me to consider handing out blame.It could only divide us, and for what?Certainly that player would never again come in early in the Italian Symphony, nor, perhaps, from this time on, make the mistake of a premature entrance in any performance.And I myself would know to be especially careful in guiding the orchestra through those eleven steps whenever I conducted that passage again.There was absolutely no gain to blaming anyone, and a real cost in terms of the blow to our integrity as a group.I think, in retrospect, that my I did it response represented even more than that—I was saying that I was willing to be responsible for everything that happened in my orchestra.In fact, I felt enormously empowered and liberated by doing so.Approval and disapproval are also strong motivating factors, which rely for their effectiveness on the individual’s desire to be included and to do well within the community.Because the model is based on the assumption that life will be under control if everyone plays his part, when things do break down, someone or something naturally gets blamed.Apportioning blame works well enough to keep order in a relatively homogeneous community that boasts commonly accepted values and where everyone is enrolled in playing his part.It appeals to our instinctive sense of fairness.However, its effectiveness is likely to be circumscribed in communities of divergent cultures and widely varied resources.It is at this point, when everything else has failed, that you might find it useful to pull out this new game, the game of being the board.As any one of the pieces, you would understand that your job is to achieve your objective, do well by your team, and help conquer the enemy.Or, you might see yourself as the mastermind, the strategist controlling the movements of your forces in the field.In our practice, however, you define yourself not as a piece, nor as the strategist, but as the board itself, the framework for the game of life around you.Notice we said that you define yourself that way, not that you are that.If you had the illusion that you really were the cause of the sun rising or of all human suffering, your friends would soon have you carted off in a white van or at least prescribed a large dose of Rule Number 6 as an interim measure.The purpose of naming yourself as the board, or as the context in which life occurs to you, is to give yourself the power to transform your experience of any unwanted condition into one with which you care to live.We said your experience, not the condition itself.But of course once you do transform your experience and see things differently, other changes occur.When you identify yourself as a single chess piece—and by analogy, as an individual in a particular role—you can only react to, complain about, or resist the moves that interrupted your plans.But if you name yourself as the board itself you can turn all your attention to what you want to see happen, with none paid to what you need to win or fight or fix.The action in this graceful game is ongoing integration.One by one, you bring everything you have been resisting into the fold.You, as the board, make room for all the moves, for the capture of the knight and the sacrifice of your bishop, for your good driving and the accident, for your miserable childhood and the circumstances of your parents’ lives, for your need and another’s refusal.Because that is what is there.It is the way things are.This reflection may bring forth from you an apology that will knit back together the strands of raveled relationships.And then you will be standing freely and powerfully once again in a universe of possibility.So, if you are waiting peacefully at a traffic light and get smashed in the rear by a drunken driver, you may ask, after your immediate medical needs are ministered to and the shock and fury die down—How did that event get on the board that I am? If you are playing this game of being the board, you do not say, Why me? or The jerk! or This has destroyed my summer! or I’m never driving in Boston again! Instead, you might look around, and say, It’s not personal that my car was totaled.It’s a certain statistical probability that someone would have been there, waiting at the stoplight. Then you might look into the statistics on drunk drivers and see how many are repeat offenders, and notice that there are some loopholes in the law, which, if closed, might reduce the probability of the accident you just experienced, for others.You include your previous lack of awareness of these facts in your definition of how the accident got on your board.Or you might simply notice that you take a certain risk every time you step into a car.Being the board is not about turning the blame on yourself.You would not say, I should have been more aware of the loopholes in the laws .. or, It’s my fault I didn’t look behind me when I stopped at the traffic light or, I know I brought this on myself. Those would be sentiments from that other game, the game in which you divide up fault and blame.So, when mistakes are made, and the boat gets off course, we try to get back in control by assigning blame.The shoulds and oughts from the blame game give us the illusion that we can gain control over what just went wrong, and that’s an illusion of language again.Of course we can’t change it or control it—it has already happened!The practice of being the board, is about making a difference.If, for instance, after hearing all your good ideas, your boss makes one mistake after another that you warned him about, you may think to yourself, He never listens, he’s competitive with me—he just wants to be right. And you feel once again like a prophet unsung in his own time or like Cassandra watching the towers of Ilium fall.This is a time you can use the practice of being the board to make a difference.Here is how you might proceed.How did it get on the board that my boss is not listening to me? you ask yourself.You know full well that you have had many such experiences in your life or you would not have recognized this one coming down the road.I told my boss what I thought and he did not take my advice. Now you can draw a conclusion that gives you leverage.You can say without fear of contradiction, My boss did not take my advice because he was not enrolled in it.It is up to me to light the spark of possibility.So if I want to make a difference, I had better design a conversation that matters to him, one that addresses what and how he is thinking.Whereas should haves are commonplace in the fault game, apologies are frequent when you name yourself as the board.That is because when you look deeply enough into the question, How did that thing that I am having trouble with get on the board that I am? you will find that at some point, in order to give yourself a feeling of control or equilibrium, you have sacrificed a relationship.And your effectiveness has deteriorated with it.In these cases, an apology often serves as a restorative balm.But in the model of fault and blame you cannot authentically apologize if you do not believe you are wrong, according to a shared measure of responsibility.It would be foolish for the pawn in the game of chess to apologize to the bishop for not having captured a piece five diagonal squares away, in a location where the rules prohibit him from moving.But when you, as the pawn, name yourself as the board, you can easily say to the bishop, I think I sensed that you did not have a thorough knowledge of the rules, yet I failed to enlighten you.For that I apologize.In the fault game your attention is focused on actions—what was done or not done by you or others.When you name yourself as the board your attention turns to repairing a breakdown in relationship.That is why apologies come so easily.Sometimes I just need to get a job done, and people have to understand that. Well, the answer is either they will or they won’t.Members are juggling school, work, holidays, business trips, and conflicting performance obligations.But the final rehearsal days take on a more serious cast.For the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, this cycle is amplified because of the rare position it occupies in the music world.So, as the concert approaches, the pressure mounts, just as it would on an amateur baseball team about to play in the majors.I was already anticipating a fraught situation before the Thursday night rehearsal for an upcoming performance of Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka.This was to be the penultimate rehearsal for a work considered by most musicians to be one of the most treacherous in its technical demands on both orchestra and conductor.Our performance of Petrushka was not going to go unnoticed!Already, three student members of our viola section were going to have to miss the rehearsal because of a performing obligation with the Boston University Symphony Orchestra.A fourth had called in sick that afternoon.Only five violas remained, the very minimum to achieve any reasonable balance with the other sections.As seven o’clock approached, I noticed that Cora, the assistant principal violist, appeared to be missing as well.I was beside myself!Not only were we down yet another violist, but Cora had failed to notify either the personnel manager or me, so there had been no chance to persuade her to come or to find a substitute to sit in for the rehearsal.I began working with the orchestra, my head turning continually toward the door, expecting Cora to walk in.How could she ignore such an important rehearsal?At the break, I rushed around the Conservatory looking for her, and finally found her on the third floor, chatting with two other students in one of the classrooms.What was the use of her telling another member of the viola section, rather than the personnel manager or myself?And how could she be so nonchalant?Cora, we cannot possibly do Petrushka this weekend with only four violas at the last rehearsal.At least come to the second half!

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