Sunday, November 14, 2010

Random act of... culture

The theme of this blog is healing through writing, but for my sons and me, a whole lot of healing has gone on through other arts as well.

Ron didn’t have that.

He wasn't able to communicate with me about the kind of pain he was in. If he could, I think my family's story would have gone a different way. The right words could have created a bridge so he wouldn't have felt so profoundly alone. Perhaps addiction ate away at Ron’s bridges. Perhaps his bridges were never properly constructed in the first place.

Those of us left behind will never know, really. We can only look back and hunt for clues. This is what I do know: the arts have an amazing way of creating community, and community helps us understand our innate connection. We are all part of something greater than ourselves.

Let me set the stage, and then I’ll show you how that can work.

October 30, 2010: The grand court at Macy’s in downtown Philadelphia, during one of the daily 45-minute organ recitals. The music is routine but exceptional: this isn’t just any organ.

Set up on the second floor balcony and open to the court, the Wanamaker Organ is the largest operational organ in the world, with 6 manuals (keyboards), some 370 stops, and over 30,000 sounding pipes. Below it, people mull around, shopping. Among them are hundreds of “plants,” many of whom are from the Opera Company of Philadelphia. The rest are vocalists from clubs, colleges, high schools, churches, and professional choirs.

One of them is my son Jackson, who lost his father to suicide at the age of ten but who, in a school essay six years later, would write, “I want the world to be different when I’m gone, better somehow.”

And that’s but one small backstory from among 650 performers (what are their stories?) who will connect with a throng of shoppers—and already more than one million You Tube visitors—through one of the most glorious songs of praise ever composed.

Think of that as you watch this video. You are about to witness a random act of culture!

Haven’t gotten enough? Me neither. In honor of my love for dance, musical theater, and joyous public spectacle, I’ll include this one too. It was filmed last year in Antwerp, Belgium, but the language is timeless and universal.

Thanks for reading, for watching, and for being part of my community.

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