Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ancestor-in-Training


“ What is wrong in this world can only be healed by those in the Other World. What is
   wrong in the Other World can only be healed by those in this world.”

I first heard this quote from Michael Meade, attributed to the Celtic Irish. It’s a powerful thought and I felt it deeply during the sharing of three concurrent Orff courses yesterday. The Intro. to Orff class shared some music from Zimbabwe, the Latin Orff course played some Andean music, danced a Brazilian Ciranda, played, sang and danced some Venezuelan quitiplas music and my Jazz-Orff class played and sang the Duke Ellington-Juan Tizol tune, Perdido. The Spirits were present. In many cultures, they feel this literally— that music and dance properly performed with heart and soul calls forth the Ancestors. But we all know that feeling when everything is aligned, the music hits its groove and there’s a palpable happenin’ energy in the air. We might not have the vocabulary for it, but it’s real nonetheless and we can feel it.

At the end of the sharing, I referred to this quote as I gave some closing words.

“ Here on planet Earth, we have to figure out what’s going wrong, have hard conversations, make plans to fix problems, but we can’t do it alone—the problems we face are too big and there’s a spiritual dimension to them that need the help of those invisible hands from the Other World— the muses, the angels, the ancestors, call them what you will.

And they need us too, because they no longer have bodies and voices. It’s up to us to sing for them, to act on their behalf, to right the things that they did wrong. And at the same time that we thank them for what they’ve bequeathed to us, it’s clear that they messed up big time when it came to peaceful co-existence. So much of the music we’ve enjoyed came from the muck of genocide, enslavement, brutality, hatred between people of different sizes, shapes, colors, genders. It’s up to us to walk the bridge between differences and dance together. And that’s exactly what we’ve done here. Did you feel the Ancestors smiling?

Here’s a photo of my granddaughter Zadie, the offspring of love between two people who a mere 50 years ago were not allowed by law to marry. On her behalf, we have to keep the love growing. Keep singing, dancing, playing, laughing, loving together with all kinds of folks, keep learning the hard stories of all the people and situations where people couldn’t join together like this, either by law, by ignorance, by learned hatred or by simple lack of opportunity.”

It’s weird for this guy growing up in 1950’s New Jersey to be talking about the notion of the Ancestors, but every day, I feel the truth of it. Not only a feeling of ancient beings sending their blessings down through centuries or millennia, but the newly-minted Ancestors as well, with names I know— Bessie, Louis, Ella, Billie, Duke, Dizzy, Milt, Monk and beyond. The people who we know from the fruit of their struggles that they left behind— such potent music that still charges us with its electric energy.

Today it occurred to me that all of us here in the present are Ancestors-in-Training. What are we doing now that will be worthy of remembrance then? What are bequeathing to our grandchildren beyond the silver tea service? What healing gestures are we making now that we’ll continue in a different way when we are gone? These are good questions to frame the day. These are good questions to frame a life.

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