Monday, August 31, 2009

Running Away to Join the Circus

Last night I joined the circus and danced center stage in Cirque du Soleil's Alegria with the White Singer.

My family tells me that the contrast of my all black clothing with her all white clothing looked elegant and refined, making up for my complete lack of ballroom dancing skills.

The story about how this happened is an amazing chain of events, illustrating the powerful forces of fate that shape our lives.

Here's the tale:

In September of 1980, I arrived at Stanford and moved into Granada, a dorm that's part of the Lagunita complex. I met a woman named Kathy Greene who lived in Eucalypto, another Lagunita dorm. She was Korean American, an artist, and could do everything I could not. She had a perfect right brain to complement my clumsy left brain. We've never been apart since and just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. She introduced me to Asian culture, food, and traditions. In my youth, I traveled by car throughout the continental United States, but I had no experience with the Orient.

Our daughter, Lara (named after the Dr. Zhivago character, not Lara Croft/Tomb Raider) was born in 1993 and she has always travelled with us around the world. She's been to Japan six times in her 16 years of life and has developed a love of people, the country, and the language.

This summer, she spent 8 weeks in Japan doing intensive language study. While she was there, one of her fellow students was Sam Allen, a high school senior who happens to live in Brookline, Massachusetts. They had great experiences together and shared anime, Akihabara, and Asakusa. After a month they decided to become a couple, going out together.

Which brings us to Cirque du Soleil. Early in the summer, we bought tickets to the August 30 performance of Alegria in Boston.

Lara and Sam are back from Japan and Lara invited him to the show. However, we lacked a ticket. We went online and found a seat available, but it was a single in the front row.

Being a devoted Dad, I volunteered to sit apart in the single seat. When we arrived at the theater, I was amazed to discover the single seat was 3 feet from the stage, next to the main stage entrance, on a corner, making it the most likely seat to host a "volunteer" from the audience.

Having attended Cirque du Soleil performances a few times in the past, I knew the audience members could be picked to join clown routines, magic acts, and various skits.

I waited in the hot seat for my moment of fame. After intermission, all the major characters assembled on the stage and the White Singer walked throughout the audience. She approached my chair and reached for my hand.

She led me to the center of the stage and we danced, surrounded by all the other characters. No photography was allowed, so alas, there is no evidence other than the several thousand people (including my family and Sam) who watched. At the end of our dance, the main character, Fleur, tapped me on the shoulder and motioned me back to my seat. I bowed and waved, then headed off stage.

The moral of the story? There is a direct causal thread between meeting my wife in 1980, developing a love of Japan which I passed on to my daughter, enabling her to meet Sam, resulting in my being placed in the one seat of thousands that would be selected for the on stage appearance.

My professional life is very similar. Becoming a CIO was the culmination of hundreds of events over 20 years that resulted in my being in the right place at the right time with the right colleagues and the right experience.

I believe that life is a wonderful combination of genetics and nurturing, planning and random chance, and a spiritual thread that leads us in and out of various eddies of opportunity throughout our lives.

Last night I joined the circus. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I'm looking forward to it!


Ken Cowan said...

Wow! What an awesome experience. Thanks for sharing it with us.

More interesting, however, is the closing thought: "I believe that life is a wonderful combination of genetics and nurturing, planning and random chance, and a spiritual thread that leads us in and out of various eddies of opportunity throughout our lives". That sentence really hit home. Thanks for that insight.


Glen said...

Invite others to join. Go to and buy a few dozen clown noses. Hand them out in meetings and ask people to wear them for the whole meeting. It will change the meeting dynamics in a positive way.

Unknown said...

What a wonderful post today. I always enjoy reading your posts, and put your blog in my favorite places for professional reasons, but I find that I enjoy your personal posts the best! Thank you.

Susannah Fox said...

Thanks for the unexpected delight - I just love the image of you popping on stage.

I agree that life presents all kinds of opportunities and the best thing to do is take advantage (and dance when you're asked).

Carlos Leyva said...

Yep, a butterfly in Argentina flapping its wings changes the global weather pattern (or something like that).

The interconnectedness (not even sure that is a word) of it all is amazing, but we often don't see it. Nice to see that some people do.