Friday, 5 June 2009

Why are we doing it?

Graham started it over 4 years ago because he'd got to 40 he felt like his life was all work and no play. He wanted to have a kind of fun that he couldn't find anywhere.

Graham's a Dude. He's a really great guy. I'm not just saying that because he's my boss. He's the first person I've ever really let be my boss. I've been self employed until now.

We'll talk more about Graham later. Personally, he hit against something that I feel personally and see politically. To me it seems like our space to play around has been taken over by passive, competetive and sometimes quite dull ways of spending our free time. We go out to pubs, restaurants, cinemas, theaters, concert halls, cafes and friends' homes. We almost always sit, especially once you're over 35. We always have to say, do and wear the right thing. We have to consume stuff, which often makes us feel quite rubbish the next day. Sometimes we end up doing things we regret. There's quite a cost. More broadly, there's a social cost to how much we now rely on alcohol to get out of this sense of having to do everything really well.

So, where are the spaces to be really silly? Where are the spaces to play around, to sing and dance together for the joy of it without striving to be a good singer or a good dancer, without having to commit to a regular weeknight or have skills like reading music? Where are our opportunities to get really high without the slightest stimulant?

100 years ago, before the wireless or duke box had been invented, the only music people could have was the music that could be made by the people in the room. Many played an instrument, everyone knew the songs. After a certain time of night in an ale house someone would strike up a song and the whole room would join in on the chorus. The first time I heard a cylinder recording of a night like this, a beaming smile passed contagiously around a room full of people in London as we heard the room in Suffolk from 100 years ago lift in chorus. Like that lifted feeling they had when they sang together was so strong that it passed through the recording and around a room a hundred years in the future.

Now I'm reading Dancing in the Streets - a History of Collective Joy by Barbara Ehrenreich. She's writing about how throughout history people have been getting together and using dance, song and rhythm to pass through upliftedness and into ecstasy.

"If we posses this capacity for collective ecstasy," she asks, "why do we so seldom put it to use?"

I think this stuff is wonderful!!! I love it! I think it's experientially delightful, politically important, personally challenging, boundary pushing, Alain de Botton even called it revolutionary - and more than anything, there's the potential to offer people something really beautiful.

Happy camper.

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