“Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.“
~ George Carlin
Are you idealistic? How have you expressed your values over the years? What do you do to connect with and share your inspiration with others who have the same ideals?
There’s an emergent thread going back deep in the history of all cultures. It’s the idea that people are capable of being positive, that we want to rise above our animal instincts, that we’re willing to put the common good ahead of our own self-interest.
In short, we have ideals. Ideally, we’re nice to one another. Ideally, we’re willing to sacrifice in some way or another so that our children, our neighbors, and our society can thrive. Ideally, we choose the path with heart.
And yet. The world we live in is rife with examples that are everything but ideal. Mother Nature has a way of providing us with challenges that are litmus tests to our ideals. There’s nothing like a pandemic to show just who chooses the high road.
It’s one thing to pull together to face a natural disaster, it’s another to stand up to hate, greed, or cruelty brought forth by our fellow human beings. Bad behavior by other people is often simply called ‘evil’ in a binary polarity contrasted with ‘good’.
It’s easy to ignore the damage and destruction when it’s not laid at our feet. There’s plenty of distractions to keep us entertained and of course, we have lives to live, work to do, and families to feed. But ignorance is anything but bliss when the blowback hits us.
History will look back on the covid-crisis as one of those moments. The resistance to mask-wearing is a case-in-point. While much of the world has ‘crushed the curve’, here in much of the USA we’re dealing with higher numbers than ever. It didn’t have to be this way.
The numbers speak for themselves. In states that mandate mask-wearing cases are down 25%. States that ‘recommend but don’t require’ are up 85%. From the start, scientists have said that if 80% of the people would wear masks 80% of the time, CV-19 would simply go away.
Sure, masks take some getting used to. So did seat belts. But there’s a big difference. A seat belt saves your life but no one else’s. Same with motorcycle helmets. Insurance companies like it when you survive, they save money. Putting others at risk is different.
So if you care about the common good, wearing a mask when you’re near other people is a no-brainer. It comes down to modeling your ideals and demonstrating your values. Popular movements are usually formed by folks who share the same values and long for change.
In my experience, music is the glue that pulls like-minded people towards higher ideals. The ways in which it works its magic in society have shifted over the years, but the catalyzing effect towards a change in consciousness is impossible to ignore.
The soundtrack to the late 60s and early 70s reflected the psychedelic awakening, opposition to war, the civil rights movement, and environmental awareness. It was heard on FM radio, at festivals, and on record players in living rooms throughout the free world.
The late 70s into the 80s were when the sexual revolution peaked and the division appeared between the Boomers and Generation X. The before-and-after of Rock vs Disco, Hip Hop, Noise, and Punk was a line in the sand heard in discos and warehouses around the world.
The 90s turned the 60s upside down with the global rave explosion updating the egalitarian ideals of positivity with a technology-driven soundtrack and a new medicine chest. The ‘phuture’ was welcomed with bright eyes and optimism with dancing ’til the break of dawn.
With each of these music-driven movements, the sounds were widely disseminated, while the communities were not. Bands toured, DJs traveled, and records were shipped, but the folks you partied and danced all night with were for the most part your local crew.
We’re swimming in different water now, as the internet has changed everything. From the earliest chat rooms on AOL to the vast social media landscape of today, finding your online ‘family-of-affinity’ has never been easier. For better or worse, like minds are meeting.
Since the CV-19 lockdown started I’ve been spinning records and streaming live on the web every Friday night. At first, it was simply to be of service to my local dance community, as the host and resident DJ at Dance Jam in Berkeley I wanted to keep it up and running.
Lately, however, a shift is happening on a deeper level. I started live-tweeting the record covers as I DJ’d each week and posting the audio link to my followers. Long-lost friends from Florida, Texas, and Chicago have found me and are now regular listeners.
This is where the network effect of the internet creates a different dynamic from the old place-based movements of yore. My far-flung-friends share my stream, and soon other folks with similar tastes are tuning in. I’m DJ’ing in a whole new way, regardless of geography.
Which means that I’m connecting with, and contributing to, folks who likely have some of the same ideals and values I’ve been working for my entire adult life. It’s giving me a huge jolt of confidence and inspiration to know that there’s more of us out there.
From the original hippies to the hard-core ravers to the current defenders of democracy, we have been beacons of hope, each in our own way. I know that I’m not the only one who idealistically believes in the things that make our children’s world worth living in.
A fair and just society for all members regardless of color, class, or creed. A healthy environment with respect to the plants and animals we share it with. Dignity and human rights for every person regardless of the circumstances of birth.
The idea of rule of law, that no one is above, which along with free and fair elections is the foundation of Western Liberal Democracy. Suspicion of ‘law and order’ which is all too often the blunt instrument authoritarians use to subdue dissent and silence criticism.
Connecting with more people who share these values gives me hope. Giving back with my music online is opening doors and making connections for me I never would have imagined. I’m hearing stories and making people happy in ways I never could have imagined.
Last Friday I played a track called Orinoco Flow by Enya. Shortly after tweeting the cover, I noticed someone new in the comments who said it sparked a memory regarding mortar fire and a mess hall. Those being military terms my eyes widened as the story unfolded.
Turns out this fellow was serving at Camp Ramadi in Iraq. He’d just returned from patrol ‘outside the wire’ and was relaxing and listening to Enya in his earbuds when he heard the ‘zip’ of a mortar. Within seconds, everything within 200 yards was exploding.
The bombardment lasted about 15 minutes and he remembered actually pausing the song before removing his earbuds to do a headcount of his unit. Within an hour his team was accounted for and the other units were assisted..
After the action died down, he decided that a midnight trip to the mess hall for a bite to eat was in order. He ate, returned to his camp, and picked up listening to Enya right where he’d left off. For him, another night in Iraq. For me? I can barely imagine.
The idea that the records I love can connect me with someone with such a vastly different life experience is mind-boggling. A quick peek through his timeline let me know that our values and ideals are congruent as well. Knowing that track made his day made mine.
It’s why I can never be cynical — idealism is one of my core values. As the world keeps changing I’m determined to evolve right along with it. The ground keeps shifting under our feet so I’m going to keep right on dancing and believe there’s a better world we’re making.
With love and a grin, (from behind my mask), till next week!
Dance First Member Insight:Grieving & Giving by Adam Barley, founder of ZeroOne
Dear Dancing Community,
Like everyone, I have been shaped by the past few months. I was on tour very far from home when the locks came down. At first, I went through some pretty intense fears — stuck on the other side of the world, unable to get home to my kids, losing my work. Most of all, though, I feared for us collectively. Ever since the ’80s, I’ve been aware of a massive change heading our way. I was very optimistic about it in those early days. As the years have gone on, I’ve become more apprehensive about the level of suffering that genuine transformation is likely to entail. Not that that means it’s inherently a ‘bad thing’; it just scares me.
We’re cascading through the end of an era, and into the birth of a new one. For ten thousand years, we’ve been developing tools, strength, and fiery walls. Now, all that masculine-lined structure is tumbling. It’s over, but something that took so long to build doesn’t disappear overnight. Something we’re so deeply invested in doesn’t crumble without taking pieces of us with it, and that hurts.
There’s the breakthrough of new growth, which is astonishing and beautiful, but there’s also the breakdown of old ways, which means grieving. Since the death of George Floyd and the collective outcry that developed in his wake, I have found myself turning more towards this grief.
More than a feeling, grieving is something we do. It’s a kind of prayer, a storm-swept song of love and loss, containing deep rivers of sorrow, of rage, and of fear. There is even sometimes a wild variety of joy, a fiercely ragged love of life and world. So it involves feelings, but it’s also something akin to an offering.
Movement practice grows me to become big enough to grieve. Again. Today. Without it, I’m too small-minded, closed-hearted, and stuck.
Movement has been my medicine for thirty years, mostly within the world of the 5Rhythms. More recently, I found myself walking through a doorway that changed my practice in subtle yet profound ways, eventually asking me to create something for others, too. Last year,