Don’t miss the chance (for) encounter

Two fabulous Chicago theater experiences this weekend: Steppenwolf’s adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus.  Both were powerful and, if you are in Chicago, please see them.

At this moment, I want to share one passage from Kafka on the Shore.  Kafka, a 15-year old runaway meets a girl, Sakura, on a bus. As they ride together, Sakura asks him about a Japanese saying that talks about people traveling together.  The saying is ‘In travel a companion, in life compassion.”  Sakura asks Kafka what the saying means, and he says “I think it means that chance encounters are what keep us going.”

Although Kafka on the Shore is very cryptic and its meaning is not obvious, one thing that is clear throughout the story is how people meet each other, interact and make a difference in each others’ lives.  Altough I need to study Kafka on the Shore to understand it more deeply, I am struck how this one theme stands out so clearly in a dream-like tapestry of magical realism.

That the 15-year old’s name is Kafka is no coincidence, as he tries to confront the labyrinth of life in the story. But this makes it all the more interesting that he says “chance encounters are what keep us going.”  As Martin Buber wrote, “All real living is meeting.”  Our encounters with other people are what make life real.  Don’t miss the opportunity for encounter, whether it presents itself by chance or through interactions you plan in advance to have with others.  When confronting the complexities of life and business, follow Murakami’s advice and look for opportunities for relationship-building encounters with others.  They are what keep us going.

(I’ll write about Amadeus once I can get a hold of the text. Mozart has an amazing passage about harmony that makes for great brand harmony discussion.  I want to get the words right. No luck finding the text online tonight.)


  • Jeff Pasquale
    Oct 06, 2008 - 15:24 pm

    Is this the passage??

    MOZART – (ignoring him)
    Sire, only opera can do this. In a play, if more than one person speaks at the same time, it’s just noise. No one can understand a word. But with music, with music you can have twenty individuals all talking at once, and it’s not noise – it’s a perfect harmony. Isn’t that marvelous?

    • Steve Yastrow
      Oct 06, 2008 - 19:43 pm

      yes! Can you send what comes right after that, about the “sextet, septet, octet, nonet …” ???


  • Judith Ellis
    Oct 06, 2008 - 16:56 pm

    Steve – Thanks for a great piece. Mozart is among my favorites, having sung quite a few of his operas and loving his piano concertos and symphonies. No composer creates conflicts and resolves them more harmoniously. The movie, Amadeus, is in my top 10.

    Jeff – You make a good point about music resolving conflict in ways that a group of people can’t. But what face to face encounters do is take in all of the non-verbals, even when speaking: the fire in the eyes, the raising of the brow, the perspiration beads above the lips, the rigidity of the body. When these are resolved there is also an appreciation, a real one outside of the eventual resolution of the dacapo.

    • Steve Yastrow
      Oct 06, 2008 - 19:45 pm

      Judith … and all of those non-verbals, along with the words, also form a harmony, n’est pas?

      Thanks … harmony is how people listen. (It’s also how they evaluate companies and form brand impressions)

  • Jeff Pasqulae
    Oct 06, 2008 - 20:50 pm

    But it’s new, it’s entirely new. It’s so new, people will go mad for it. For example, I have a scene in the second act – it starts as a duet, just a man and wife quarreling. Suddenly the wife’s scheming little maid comes in unexpectedly – a very funny situation. Duet turns into trio. Then the husband’s equally screaming valet comes in. Trio turns into quartet. Then a stupid old gardener – quartet becomes quintet, and so on. On and on, sextet, septet, octet! How long do you think I can sustain that?

  • Judith Ellis
    Oct 06, 2008 - 21:49 pm

    Steve – Qui, il est ainsi. Harmony is how we listen and the resolution of contrapuntal dissonances is how things come together. These things are very much a part of brands and products, company evaluations too. Thanks again for a great little piece.

  • Mozart's Brand Harmony Lesson
    Oct 14, 2008 - 00:02 am

    […] Sunday, after a weekend that included two trips to the theater, I wrote a post about how Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater inspired me to think about capturing the opportunity for personal encounters. In the post I said I […]

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