Way down yonder in the brickyard.
Way down yonder in the ole brickyard.
Gonna step it, step it, step it down.
Gonna step it, step it, step it down.
Gonna turn my loved one round and round,
Gonna turn my loved one round and round.
- Georgia Sea Islands game song
I often use this song to open a workshop, invoke the ancestors to be present in the circle. This is not a common practice in American education. Yet the ancient understanding is that time is not just the present moment of our ticking clock, but a fuller mix of past, present and future. To feel the fuller dimension of the moment, the seriousness of our undertaking, why not invoke and invite those who have come before? They can be particular people who have passed on—in my Orff workshop, it might be Avon Gillespie, Carl Orff or Gunild Keetman—or a more general invocation, like thanking the original inhabitants on whose land we’re standing.
How have we arrived where we are, in a world that mindlessly razes rainforest, that excuses 20,000 lies from a national leader, that shouts angrily across created divides? I think some of this is a forgetting, both unintentional and purposeful. It is as if we have drunk from the River of Lethe, erased a collective memory of how to be on this earth, in this life, in these human bodies. We certainly need political strategies, clearly annunciated laws, scientific solutions, new imaginative ideas, but all of it can, and perhaps should, begin, with the simple act of remembering.
We have forgotten so much.
• How to welcome creation and re-connect with the bugs and the birds, the trees and the flowers, to feel ourselves as a co-participant of the natural world intimately, directly and more profoundly than just taking our dog for a walk.
• How to expect and insist on civility in our leaders.
• How to keep money and material things in proper proportion to the really important things in this life.
• How our body can be an instrument of intelligence and carrier of spirit beyond an appendage to merely exercise and count out steps.
• How the imagination is not an add-on, but a central faculty to be nurtured and cultivated.
• How the heart is made to love and can only love fully after being repeatedly broken.
• How the mind gifted with the capacity to think, to analyze, to compare and contrast, grows through the habit of constant reading and writing and thinking and discussing, how exercising that capacity is essential to good citizenship.
• How the simple pleasure in moving bodies expressively, feeding the mind, working the imagination is sufficient unto itself and doesn’t need an American Idol panel with their bells and whistles.
The list is long.
To forget how to honor our human incarnation is like losing a limb. To remember is to re-member, to grow that lost limb again. Also to sign-up again, renew your membership in both the human and the natural community.It is to move toward the truth we need, truth as in being true to ourselves and what life promised us that we have squandered. The Greek word for truth is Aletheia, which means “remembering” (notice the word “lethe” embedded there).
So the “me” in the song “Remember Me” can refer to a person or our own plea to be remembered when we are gone. But it is also the rainforest speaking, the diminishing habitats and their inhabitants speaking, our Constitutional promises speaking, our sense of civil discourse speaking, our lost imagination and diminished intellect speaking, our hardened heart and inexpressive body speaking. Note how the song suggests we step it down, which means to get up to dance and not just alone, but with a partner and not just one partner, but all our loved ones. It will be in the act of remembering that we can begin to move forward from our stuck place.