Archive for category Music

On Being Sensory and why I don’t ‘hug’ online.

So I was walking home for lunch, and had to slow my stride to a dawdle in order to take in the luminous magenta paintwork on a car, standing out from all the whites and greys and dark greens around it like a red rose in a blue sky.  And as I drifted closer to this intense colour experience, the Roast Station in the food-court called out to me with all the richness of it’s many-flavoured meaty menus.  I paused to drink it in.  Then on I went around the corner where a fresh, sharp wind slapped my office-heating-flushed face alive and made me blink away tears.  It was a concatenation of arresting experiences, one after the other.

I love being alive to these unsophisticated, everyday pleasures.  I love the thrill such simple things give me.  They aren’t particularly meaningful, but they are immediate, unexpected, delights.

But when I was trying to write the title to this post, I struggled for words.  ‘Sensuous’?  ‘Sensual’?  Both words mean what I want to say, but they have become entangled – mostly, I think, due to advertising – with the erotic.  And there’s nothing wrong with eros.  The sensory pleasure of an erotic moment is right up there with the whiff of Richie’s Roasts.  But there’s so much more to being sensuous than sex.  Sex must, inevitably, have some societal sanctions attached to it.  Those sanctions, in our changing society, have become a battleground for competing world-views, and so much truth about sex is forgotten as we wage our ‘culture wars’ that other concepts, like sensuousness, are dragged down with it.  Now it seems like sex is the only sort of sensuous pleasure we still talk about.  And maybe chocolate.

What a pity.

Sensory pleasures, like the ones I described above, are so rich, so free, so easy to access and share, that they should be celebrated much more often.  But we lack the language.  Not just the words, but the very concept.  We need to relearn how to immerse ourselves into the goodness of creation around us.  We need to come alive again to the value of what we hear away from the jangle and clatter of industrial life, and what we feel beyond our protective fabrics, and what we smell and see and taste.  We are bodily beings and that’s something to celebrate!

And that’s why I refuse to ‘hug’ over the internet.  Internet interactions are great for the cerebral, but pathetic for what is fully human.   This morning on social media one of my acquaintance reposted a banner that said she needed a hug, and I could ‘hug’ her by reposting the banner.  I get that she’s lonely.  I get that being single she’s not getting anywhere near the physical affirmation I enjoy myself, immersed as I am in an affectionate family.  But I also get that reposting that banner will do practically nothing about that.  The initial author of the banner might be gratified by multitudinous repostings, and my acquaintance might (did) get some positive written responses, but did she get hugged?  No.  A hug is wonderful.  When my son or daughter wraps their arms around me and squeezes and holds me, I know I’m being loved.  It’s a bodily thing.

I don’t want us to stop expressing our regard for one another in non-physical forums, but nor do I want us to delude ourselves into thinking we can be human if we cut ourselves off from our bodily experiences.  In an increasingly touch-phobic/techno-centred society (see we need more touching, not less.  We need to be more sensory, not less.  And we need to listen to and understand what our own senses tell us about what is good, what is enough, what is too much, and what is not enough.

'Far Away' XKCD comic by Randal Munroe

This isn’t saying that we should be dominated or controlled by our senses.  We can – and sometimes must – consciously endure sensory unpleasantness for greater goals; I need to defer my sexual desires out of respect for others.  I need to pass by the sweet-smelling fruit on the grocers stall and not just help myself.  I need to suffer the physical pain of a needle prick in order to give blood.  These are not pleasant sensations – but they are easily bearable given the vast range of pleasant sensory experiences I enjoy elsewhere.  Yes, we are far more than sensory, but we are certainly no less than, and enjoying sensory experiences in no way means that we lose control of our actions.  Let’s not expect ourselves, or those around us, to live in a state of sensory deprivation.  Let’s touch one another, and shower sensory blessings upon each other; give gifts of fragrant flowers, soft cloths, rich foods, and luminous colour.

Maybe then, when we acknowledge and enjoy the full range of positive sensory experience that is available to us every day, we will be less overwhelmed by the porn/violence/gluttony industries.

Go on, be a world-changer.  Really hug someone you love today.


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Let me confess that I didn’t expect to enjoy Parachute music festival very much.  I expected rampant consumerism, plastic presenters, TOO MUCH NOISE, and all the discomfort of camping without the compensations of the beach – which is where we had been for much of the last two weeks.  But having washed most of the sand from our sleeping bags, we put the tent back into the van and took ourselves to Mystery Creek for four days (and nights) of full-on festival.  And all my expectations were fulfilled. 
But wait, THERE’S MORE!
While it’s true that I used my ear-plugs at almost every presentation, It’s also true that I really enjoyed most of the music!  There were, as usual, a few dud bands, and some that where just boring.  And this bears no relation to the amount of hype the bands got previously.  One of the acts I walked out of was one of the ‘Big Name’ international bands.  They were just mediocre.  And one of my favourites was a completely unknown group who looked like schoolboys, but who produced some fantastic rock.  And they were on the ‘Indie’ stage off to one side.
On the other hand, one of the acts I was perfectly prepared to sneer at, because it had been heavily promoted, turned out to be a real highlight of the festival.  I bought the DVD even!  ‘Rapture Ruckus’ is a rap/rock act whose front-man puts enormous energy into his performance, and works with the crowd the whole time.  The lyrics were good, the music was great, the percussion was mindblowing.  Look out for it in a service some-time soon!
Of course the big act for our family was Dave Dobbyn.  We stood in the pouring rain and whooped and cheered and sang with him at his performance at Parachute two years ago.  No way were we missing him this time!  The girls and I managed to get right up front where we were very much in on the action and I got some great photos.  The performance lacked the some-thing-special feel of braving a storm that the last one had, but it was nevertheless a thoroughly satisfying set.  He wisely avoided many of the better known tunes through the bulk of it, bringing a variety of songs out of his large back-collection, and then finishing with the crowd-pleasing favourites.    
The real find of the festival, however, was the ‘Massive’ stage.  On the opposite side of the village from the mainstage, it was dominated by hip-hop styles, and exuded Pacifica.  The ground was covered in clean sea-grass matting, the presenters were comfortably at home with crowd and performers, with no insecurity and no apparent need to whip up false hype ("Are you excited to be here!!???  I said are you EXCITED to be here!!!???!!!!" urrgh!) that characterised the big stages.  They sat down on the edge of the stage, made jokes that were genuinely funny, got people involved, and generally had a good time.  They even sang – and did it well.  Of the four acts we saw there, one (a rap duo) was just a bit boring, though they were competent enough.  Two dance groups were stunningly good.  ‘Alkasayians’ danced and performed dance-dramas, and "Swarm" mixed up prayer, preaching, dance (lots of it and all very good), tagging(!!), mime, and more dance.  They were all very impressive. 
One other act hadn’t been able to make it to the festival, so they brought on several of the crew who read poetry, performed Fijian chants, and on the instant presented a deeply moving and impressively polished performance.  If any one part of the festival gets a big thumbs up, it was the Massive stage.
Other highly enjoyable features included blues pianist and performer Dr Bob (aka Jeff Crabtree), the high-energy ‘Late 80s Mercedes’, good quality bathroom facilities, a big emphasis upon recycling, the challenge from World Vision head honcho Tim Costello to see the BIG picture of redemption, and the frequently funny, often crazy antics of 25 000 young people out to party for four days together!  Such delights as endurance leap-frog, post-modern country dancing, and midnight soccer (at 3.00 a.m.).  Most of this, of course, takes place in the wee small hours when the stages have finally shut down for the night, and the heat has become bearable. 
Now for the gripes. 
"God and Music is a Powerful Thing" proclaim the parachute tee-shirts.  "Thing"?  Since when is God a "Thing"?  And since when does God need music or anything or anyone else to be powerful?  If God is powerful with music, what is God without music?  Just who is this ‘God’?  You have to wonder.  In fact I wondered throughout the festival if the parachute leaders were losing sight of the God who brought them into existence?  So much of the preaching and so much of the ‘worship’ music was human directed.  It wasn’t just applicable to human beings, it was all about human beings and all too often glorifying human beings.  "I can sing of your love forever..", "I can find you anywhere…", "I know you…".  Hubris.  God got the occasional mention.  Christ was barely acknowledged.  I didn’t hear anything about the cross at all.  Particularly I didn’t hear anything about the challenge to follow Christ on the way of the cross. 
So the parachute people get a 10/10 for organisation, but a very sad 5/10 for the theology they preach and teach from the pulpit and through their songs.  Send them back to school.  Or at least persuade them to open their bibles.
But basically, we were blessed.  And for that we’re really grateful and are happy to let them have our ticket money.  And we may even go again next year…

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