There is not a single interaction with my good friend Dr. Kofi Gbolonyo from Ghana that doesn’t inspire me, challenge me, warm my heart and astound me with the deep-seated wisdom of his culture. In the late 60’s, the wisdom of the East brought to the U.S. by Indian gurus and Japanese Zen Masters was all the rage, but so few people here have any idea about the extraordinary cosmology, spiritual practices and community-building of various African cultures. We know so little about the “dark Continent” (the darkness is in our own minds) and don’t even know what a loss our ignorance is to us.
Sitting in on Kofi’s online Orff-Afrique course, I was treated to his aunt and 94-year-old mother singing some songs. As always, every musical pattern, dance step and of course, text, has a meaning and the meaning is a few thousand times more profound than “My baby does the Hanky Panky.” Kofi explained that the first song was about the Ewe (his particular ethnic group) notion of re-incarnation. That each of us is born to do a particular job on earth and if we die before accomplishing it, we need to return to finish it. Since earth is the place of struggle and heaven is the resting place, the song is hoping the second time around (or third or fourth or five hundredth) will not be as difficult and that we can complete our work and finally rest.
And so. On the cusp of 70, it’s clear that so much of what I hoped to accomplish is so far from finished. It looks like no rest for me until:
• All schools have a serious, fun and significant music education.
• That music teachers learn how to treat music as an ever-flowing verb that sparks the intelligence, imagination, body-awareness of each student, opens their heart, connects them to each other, their ancestors, their descendants. And everyone dances.
• That schools in general treat every subject as an invitation to belonging, community, welcoming, an in-road to beauty, to revelation of all the faculties of soul.
• That teachers are in charge of the whole venture, making decisions on behalf of the health and happiness of the children they teach. That administrators are there to support the teachers and make the same salary (or less) than the teachers.
• That 50% of the Pentagon budget is given over to education.
• That a history that tells the truth and gives the multiple perspectives left out in most history books to turn around a couple of hundred years of purposeful ignorance and apathy is not just mandated from without, but embraced from within.
• That private schools won’t need to exist because government funds equally fund all schools and give them the autonomy to teach in effective and inclusive ways.
• That the more money people earn, the higher the tax rate so the 50% to 75% of the billionaire’s money goes back to the community to fund—well, schools, health care, climate change research and anything else that supports life, liberty and true happiness.
I’m just getting warmed up here.
Doesn’t look like I’m going to get any rest soon. See you next time around.