I often wonder why I read all sorts of books but rarely listen to popular songs. I’ve settled on the conclusion that it is because of the hold music has on my soul. When I read a book, I’m alert to the intents of the writer. There are few writers who have the ability to trick me into lowering my guard before slipping through an emotion, thought or opinion that is potent enough to control me. With songs, however, it is like self hypnosis. My mind-guards are defenceless against the charms of good melody and solid harmony so, my only form of defence is to only listen to the ones that are not trying to one-up me.
Last month, after a news-reading session filled with gloom, I disconnected my PC from the internet and selected my Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir playlist. I reclined on the couch and let harmonious renditions of hope travel into my mind, through my ears, to chase away the doom I had let in through my eyes. I did not sing along, just tried to place my mind in stasis and let the music work its magic. The playlist was set to shuffle so, the songs changed from slow contemplative tunes to negro-spirituals, to love songs directed towards God. The tracks moved to a Christmas song, and something in my mind went click.
If humanity were auditioning for a place among gods, the past few months have been bad for us. We’ve been at our worst. Anyone who has faith in the goodness of man after witnessing these events has to have some superhuman optimistic powers I would like to tap from. From the bombing of infants in Gaza, to the gunning down of a black boy in Ferguson, to the continued horrors in Syria, the beheading of journalists by ISIS, and the kidnapping and killing going on in Northeast Nigeria, it’s been a bad year to be a human being .
As the Christmas song crooned from the tiny speakers of my laptop, I was filled with a strange form of cheer. The kind that starts at the first signs of the holiday season: of streets lined with colourful decorations; shops filled with cheesy holiday tunes seeping out of speakers hidden in ceilings and under benches; children skipping after each other, admiring their bright wristwatches and plasticky goggles. It was a feeling I’d lost gradually over the years as December became less and less a time of cheer and more of a reminder of the evanescence of my existence.
That morning, as I lay on the couch listening to a soloist sing about peace on earth, I thought of how possible it will be to import some cheer from December to give August a facelift. I wanted a pause in the hostilities oozing from every corner of the planet, a moment when humanity would be allowed to breathe some fresh air of joy and laughter and camaraderie. I grabbed my pen and wrote:
August says to the lone traveler
Be my robin in this hood
Grab some cheer from good December
And Sprinkle on my gloomy mood
On a winter day, in a shell-hole ridden field, set against a background of pillaged villages, grown men ran after a leather ball, in a rowdy game of soccer. There were no sides, no proper posts, just men laughing and shouting at each other in English and German as they engaged in a cheerful sport, fully dressed in war uniforms.
On the edges of no man’s land were senior officers smoking cigarettes as they watched a strange spectacle of happiness in what was the start of the world’s first war. They had received orders from their various countries to stop the fraternization going on among their soldiers, but they couldn’t deny the men what had become a source of high spirits. It was the eve of Christmas in the year 1914, the middle of the season of love, on the Western Front.
The Christmas Truce started with German soldiers singing in their trenches and joined by their British counterparts. Soldiers, who had been erstwhile involved in gun fights and shelling, laid down their weapons and reached out to each other, defying orders they were receiving form their various home fronts.
Two shots were fired into the air after Christmas, the shots were replied from the other side of no man’s land and World War I resumed and continued until its end in 1918.
It doesn’t take a cynic to realise the impossibility of a pause in the wars going on in various parts of the world. Even Christmas doesn’t hold that hope any more. It is no longer seen as a season of love. Many now describe it as a capitalist ploy to milk the world’s citizens of their hard earned wealth and a tool in the hand of the peddlers of religion to keep the faithful perpetually hopeful, yet we wonder why our world is filled with so much gloom.
Asking for a worldwide beating of swords into ploughshares might sound naive, but to do that on a personal level is not too much to ask. It is not too much to ask you to look around and forgive those who have offended you. It is not too much for you to let go of hate for a moment and embrace love, to search for someone to brighten with a moment of cheer and a place to infuse with life and laughter.
A quest for World peace is almost impossible, but living in peace with people around us regardless of their age, colour, tribe, and religion is not beyond the realm of possibilities. Is it for you?