Start a love train, love train...."
--The O'Jays, #1 song, winter 1973
Seventies funk music: the kind that when turned up really, REALLY loud, as in "THUMP, THUMP, THUMP!", pushes speakers and headphones to their aural limits. It's also called rhythm and blues. Songs by the O'Jays. Stevie Wonder. James Brown. Marvin Gaye. Gladys Knight and the Pips. Al Green. Aretha Franklin. I'm not naturally a funky kind of guy, not at all. But lately this music is one sure way for me to escape the unrelenting "THUMP, THUMP, THUMP!" drumbeat of bad news in the world. Hard news. News that never, ever lets up. News that's often really difficult to hear, read, see, to comprehend. Some days it seems as if our society, our world, is struggling through a greater level of civic conflict and rancor than I've ever witnessed in my lifetime.
So I put on the O'Jays and dream of a love train, because love is the only thing power that works to defuse anger, discord, even war.
War: on immigrants and refugees. War on free trade. War on the press. War on athletes who kneel for the anthem. War on Harley Davidson. War on the Republicans by the Democrats and by the Republicans on the Democrats. Every day seems to brings a new target for wrath or anger, for going off about the latest issue or tweet that makes folks blood boil. If our current level of civic dysfunction and conflict were a person, we'd be worried that they will blow a gasket, have a heart attack, if they do not calm down very soon.
Add to this the cruel truth we Americans also have access to more news, in more places, through more devices, at more times, from more sites and sources, than ever before in our history and we've got a perfect social storm. Which makes me wonder if one the reasons our nation seems to be freaking out is that collectively we are unable to stop consuming news, social media, information, in such copious amounts. We're like a famished soul who just cannot stop eating.
We have become news obsessives, news junkies, news addicts. I know this because I am one. "My name's John and I'm a newsaholic." "HI JOHN!"
Cell phones "ding" a news notification and we must open that story up right away and read it. NPR is on the radio in the car or kitchen all the time. Households keep the TV on and tuned to Fox News or MSNBC from morning until night. Our Facebook feeds are filled with political rants from the left and the right and folks tear each other to pieces in the comments section. Pay close attention to this "news" and you'll also realize that in most of it is opinion. Spin offered by journalists, pundits, washed up politicians and so called think tanks "experts". They don't report any real news, but instead tell anyone who'll listen their "very important" ideas about the news.
So as a refreshing alternative, I recommend, as soon as possible, playing seventies funk music on your Pandora or Spotify or home or car stereo or in your ear buds. Or whatever other kind of music makes your heart soar and your toes tap, gets you singing at the top of your lungs in the car or the shower or as you make dinner or run or workout at the gym.
Turn off the news, just turn it off, at least for a little while. Then turn on, turn up...ABBA! The Beatles. Tim McGraw. Glen Miller. Joan Jett. Ella Fitzgerald. Springsteen. Rhianna. What's your secret musical indulgence that no one else knows about but you? Mine is funk.
Whatever the genre, the artist, the playlist, I say get singing. Get playing. That's my hope and spiritual prescription for all of us in these strange, crazy, intense days for the United States and planet earth: that we'll all take a break from the news. Disconnect from the cycle of news. It will still be there when we get back. Yes we do need to stay informed as citizens and activists. Yes we are called as neighbors to care and to act and to make our world better, saner, kinder.
But we also need to give that impulse a rest regularly. We need to refresh our spirits and for me, for many of us, music is the thing which soothes and comforts and inspires us. Everything from gospel to rap to classical and yes, hardcore seventies funk. So be warned: the next time you pull up next to me in your car at a red light, I may be rocking out in the front seat of my little Honda Fit to Earth, Wind and Fire. When I look over at you, what song will you be moving to, grooving to?
People all over the world! Join hands. Start a love train. Love train! Let that be some good news, at least for this one day.