Today I went into the city to explore and capture some images and develop some ideas about connection and community. I sought for photos to illustrate my upcoming Tedx talk/book “Community is the Cure; disconnection is the disease”.
I walked around and to be honest I was so lost in thought listening to Bob Marley that not so many great photos were taken. “One Love! One Heart!
Let’s get together and feel all right”… his lyrics constantly pound out a message of connection to his congregation of emancipated sojourners who had triumphed against racial injustice but were still facing overcoming a planetary divide over mostly mere skin colour.
I came across an aboriginal man sleeping under a blanket in a public park. Obviously homeless and classically disconnected from what we would consider a full and healthy life. Or maybe he’d just had a fight with his wife and took up Bob Marley’s sagely advice and thought “no woman, no cry” and just thought he’d keep the peace and have a nap in the park. Probably not but maybe my assumption was prejudiced. As I took the photo I noticed the well dressed couple to his left. Sitting in an astoundingly beautiful park immersed in all the glorious warm sunshine Brisbane’s winter days have offer and I noticed they didn’t talk once. They were seated together, the sun is shining, but unanimously, independently, disconnectedly, autonomously and vicariously seeking a transcendental virtual high from beyond their smart phones. Maybe they were more disconnected than the homeless man who lay mere metres away.
Connection is what we all crave. Connection with God, the universe, our friends, our lovers, our colleagues, our comrades, our brothers, our other half, our planet, our environment, our animals. It drives every part of us and fuels our greatest endeavours, our most noble long lasting marriages. And our craving for connection misplaced and misguided is sufficient cause for our worst choices. I’ve found that even great people, connected the wrong way or the wrong time, simply risks bringing about a more painful disconnection, both within and without. You see even connection is painful. It hurts to forgive, and it hurts to be patient, it hurts to be overly gracious but nothing great was ever built painlessly. We use the word passion often to refer to a sexually driven explosive encounter. But passion comes from the latin word “passio” which literally meant “to suffer”. Nothing more passionate than elderly couples (that’s a dangerous sentence but you know what I mean). Because you know that old love was suffered and fought for. The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for. It’s that rich selfless old love that anchors our communities. Out of those wells of wisdom there’s a surplus we can draw on to love on difficult homeless people, drug addicts, the mentally ill. Maybe it also works the other way round? Maybe by loving difficult people, the ones we choose to journey life with become easier to love? I don’t know.
I stumbled across Bryn who was busking on his keyboard near Central Station. We got chatting and had a bit of a jam. Then a man, who could’ve passed for being homeless apart from the valuable luggage he carried, turned out he was a Romanian cellist backpacking across Australia. He literally got off the train into Brisbane city for the first time and we were the first people he met. Well I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to challenge my new friend to a musical duel. Man this cellist could play. I had just been thinking how music brings people together. “True love that now exist is the love I can’t resist, So jam by my side. We’re Jammin’ I wanna jam with you”. I think Bob is talking about music?… but it might be… let’s assume it’s music. He drops this line in that song “We all defend the right; Jah – Jah children must unite”. Jah is an abbreviation of Yahweh. I think Bob believed we are all children of the same God, black and white, rich and poor and he used music as his pulpit. I’m not the type to go and roll a joint now but I have gleaned some wisdom about community and connection from his sermons. Here’s a clip of our little jam session…
We only shared a few words before launching into this debate of melodies. Music is an international language. If you’ve studied the language then you’re equipped to talk to anyone on the planet who also knows it.
I have an affinity for jazz. I’ve studied it and I can play a bit but I’ve since devoted my hours to other endeavours and can’t really swing like I want to. For years I’ve questioned my affection for the genre and there are a few answers which I won’t go into on this blog post.
You see music is all about rhythm and melody. I mentioned before that there’s only one international language for music. Which is true. But there are thousands of genres of music right. I guess like dialects. They have nuances and variations that they value that defines the genre. For example 80’s rock valued loud egotistical guitar solos. Jazz values the use of dissonant harmonies that are placed together intentionally, thoughtfully and arrogantly creating something far more exquisitely beautiful than any genre that segregates those combinations of tones.
You see life is messy. Loving people who are different is uncomfortable. It’s easy to just separate ourselves from them. Walk on the other side of the street, pretend we didn’t see them or even just neglect to proactively smile. We can sit back and allow our governments to make things simple and segregated. But when we do that we take the jazz out of life. Life is magnificently dissonant and if we choose to acknowledge and embrace that with our hearts and arms wide open we both offer and receive redemption.