This weekend, my son, myself and hundreds of others embark on the journey to a kind of Brigadoon for a week at the Swannanoa Gathering. The Gathering happens during much of the summer down near Asheville, North Carolina, changing themes for each group involved. Guitar week, Fiddle week, Old Time week, and for us, Celtic week. You get the picture. It is much like an escape from the world we inhabit for much of the rest of the year. We go to be understood by fellow trad-heads and to improve our craft. We go to share and play music for hours on end. We go to laugh and catch up on our lives over the past year. We’ve planned for this week since we left it round this time last year. It is a yearly pilgrimage for all of us.
In some years past, I’ll admit to ‘escape’ being a primary function of this week for me personally. There is nothing wrong with this per se, in the spirit of escape from the day-to-day. But in more recent years, these weeks I commit to the broadening of creativity in my life – i.e. Big Work In Taos, this up-coming week of music classes and sessions, and the like – have come to mean more. I attend to them with a more deep seeded intention.
I read recently somewhere that when people sing together, their hearts come to beat in time with one another. I think this is likely the case in playing tunes together too as we do at camp. Perhaps church goers who chant or pray and sing together pull their hearts into one as well.
I am certain I am not the only one who has heard heart-wrenching news in the past couple of days and been dumbfounded as to how to respond. Scores of people of all colors gathered to protest recent violence in peaceful ways. Social media has been flooded with articles, memes about peace and prayers and where-to-go-from-heres, as well as some real and justified anger at it all. Like so many, I am simply in shock at the scope of hatred and violence.
Where DO we go from here? I believe there is real value in protests and all of the public outpouring that happens at times like these. But I also believe there is real value in the mindful acts of less ‘social’ ways of protesting the trajectory of the world just now. There are those in the world who walk a quieter path of response. Through monastic or prayerful practice perhaps, or through the making of music in the spirit of communion such as we will be doing this upcoming week. Perhaps one’s protest is in the work of building beautiful children’s books, or poems which make a heart sing. To make just one heart sing, or child smile, is that not changing the world?
Don’t get me wrong, I am an active voter, I volunteer where and when I can, getting outwardly active in the issues I care about. I am by no means indifferent and I am intensely angry about recent events. But for me, this anger is fuel for furthering my tasks in this life as I see them. Magnifying and identifying beauty in the midst of a harsh landscape of current events. Shaping, encouraging and fostering connection within my communities. In response to horrific news, I feel a fierce need to make more art. Art and music and connection with our most valued communities can help to heal the world, in valid, measurable ways. I truly believe this. And so, I will continue down this path in quiet protest to all of the ugliness out there.
I for one head down to The Gathering this next week with the intent of music-making as prayer for the world. We will gather our hearts together, for just this week of time, and beat them as one. So that perhaps we can take that beauty and soul of community back out into the world at large and make it a better place some how. In our quiet way. This is all I know how to do.