It’s Sunday and I’ve just been in church with some 200 beautiful souls. It was a hotel conference room with bad lighting and a thick carpet, but it was the singing that created gothic arches and stained glass far beyond the hand of any architect. Brian Tate and I were the co-ministers, opening up with Ain’t Misbehaving’ (good Catholic confessional song?) and closing with a vulnerable “No!” and a roof-raising affirmative “Yes!!” The “no” was the song Vem Kan Segla that asked who could say goodbye to a friend without crying and the “yes” was a rousing Gospel song titled… “Yes!”—that Brian drew out of us so expertly and effortlessly.
Two hours of joyful song in multiple styles, keys and feeling tones, peppered with laughter and tears and challenges and affirmations and throughout it all, the clear sense that we’re all in it together and we might as well dig in and do what needs to be done to make a heaven of this earth— and to do it together.
The venue was the closing ceremony of the Carl Orff Canada National Conference in Halifax, the one I gave the opening speech for a mere three days earlier. It was the Conference Committee that put Brian and I together and it was a risk, since neither of us had met each other before. People who know me either accuse me maliciously of needing a lot of attention or humorously wink “here he goes again” or appreciatively think “he’s saying what needs to be said and he’s saying it well (or playing what needs to be played or singing what needs to be sung).” I’d like to think that every soapbox moment is in service of something larger than my small (or large) ego and though it’s a losing battle to try to convince others of that, in my heart I know that this is at least my intention. Joseph Campbell used to call it “being transparent to transcendence,” not letting the spotlight stop to shine on the solid diva ego, but pass through to the transcendent Muse that stands behind everything we accomplish that’s worthy.
And so Brian and I shared that transcendent spotlight back and forth, the light shining through us to these beautiful singers and through them to Spirit. Each of us sometimes leading, sometimes supporting. It didn’t matter who did what. It only mattered that it be done. When I shoot my mouth off at a meeting or ask to be given another TED talk or sit down to write a book, I try to look at what’s not being said that deserves attention. If someone else will do it, believe me, I’m quite happy to let them take it on and I’ll just give a supporting “Amen!” Spirit, Soul, Justice, Beauty, the rights of children— they all need voices to speak for them and they don’t care who it is. They just ask that it be done.
In my opening talk, I invited the Ancestors to be present in the Conference and reminded the people that they’ll only come if the music is good and the spirit is true. Believe me, it was standing room only for them this morning. Their presence in the room was as palpable as the people’s tears, laughter, some chills I witnessed and the quality of silence at the end of each song. When all the people finally departed, I looked at Brian and said, “Well, what do you think?”
And with his lovely smile, he replied, “I think it was a darn fine morning.”