Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Singing As Who You Are

The night was jolly with stars and our campfire spat sparkles. My birth family of six had gathered around the fire and began to sing old familiar songs. Campers from nearby spaces came to join us and we all sang—on and off tune, in harmony and not, belting out whatever lyrics we thought we remembered. No one cared. We shared marshmallows and toasting sticks and in between we met people we would never encounter in regular life and talked until we were all sleepy. It was fun.

I remembered that evening as I watched FISHERMAN’S FRIENDS, a DVD we rented from Netflix. In the story, based on true life, the lobster fishermen of a small Cornish village have a tradition of singing as they work their pots from their boats, and on Fridays, they set up microphones on the seashore and sing sea shanties to collect money for charity. (That part is factual. The image included here is from the cover of one of their albums.) In the film, a cocky young music promoter from London is tricked into asking them to sign a contract to make an album and then feels compelled by honor and an attraction to a local lass to make the gambit work.

Cynics who can’t believe ten scruffy men of uneven musical talents could, indeed, make the top ten list as a “boy band” Fishermen’s Friends with singers such as Lady Gaga have only to see the scene in which the men sneak off to a London pub the night before they’re to perform for a record label. With pints in hand, they begin singing because they enjoy it, and soon the whole pub is singing along and having a wonderful time. Why? Because we all have a need for honest community.

During the early COVID quarantines, some neighborhoods experienced flashes of real community they hadn’t expected as they sang or celebrated medical workers or danced at the ends of their driveways, together but distant. They suddenly remembered what it feels like to share common troubles and shoulder them bravely with good cheer. My youngest sister once drew derision when she asked, “What if the skyscraper buildings suddenly disappeared and left a big pile of people?” I thought she was astute. We forget how close and yet how far we are from one another normally. We’ve been indoctrinated to compete fiercely and unethically, if necessary—for most power, best toys, best looks, best jobs, best scores, etc., etc. We’ve been warned to fear one another—strangers! “They’re getting more than we are! They’re taking over! They aren’t like us!” City people can be afraid to smile. What might the recipient of the smile expect? Small town people can resent intruders who aren’t paying tourists or consumers. “They aren’t one of us.” Most of our entertainment stories center on reasons to be afraid.

People who feel connected to a loving community live longer, healthier lives. We’re built to care about one another, and when we fall prey to the poison of the fear and hate mongers, we suffer. Who doesn’t smile at a social media post showing someone saving a stranger’s life or a trapped animal? We want to care. We’ve been sold a bill of goods (as the old-timers say) that made us imagine we’re different and diversity is dangerous. We were taught erecting divisions would make life better. Wrong. Deep down, we’d all like to feel safe and included, appreciated for who we are as we are. We know how to disagree peacefully when we want to. We know how to be happier, and it doesn’t require more stuff. We’re afraid to let it happen.

2 comments on “Singing As Who You Are

  1. Frances Sullivan
    June 11, 2021

    Beautiful message. Thank you. Btw, I live near Port Issac – north of it – along that coastline – when in the UK.

    • Why did I know you would fit into Port Issac? I hope there are nice B&Bs around there. It sounds like we may have to visit.

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