MarchingFourth aka JOY NOW

Photo by flickr user "Dawn Ashley."

Photo by flickr user “Dawn Ashley.”

I took last Friday, December 14th, off from work. I slept in, went shopping for last minute holiday gifts, and then came home to throw on a movie, sip some eggnog, and decorate Christmas ornaments. Then, I would rest up, because that night I would be going to my very first MarchFourth Marching Band show. I knew I would need some stamina to survive their set. I mean, these kids are basically former marching band students who ran away to join the circus. I was excited.

But as I powered up my computer to share with Facebookland my fabulous goings on, I was rocked by the news of the massacre in Connecticut. Tears streamed down my face as I read of the senseless violence that erupted in the sleepy little city of Newtown and the countless lives affected. I was disgusted, saddened, and angry. Heeding a good friend’s warning not to get sucked into the media frenzy that was sure to ensue, I said a prayer, closed my browser window, and shut down my computer.

Logging off wasn’t an act of ignorance; it was an act of survival. I knew that I could spend hours upon hours mulling over this story, flitting from one webpage to the next looking for new details to try to understand something…that can’t be understood. I would become angry and depressed and I would lose my spark. So, I walked away.

That night, I did indeed venture to the MarchFourth Marching Band concert, and I left it feeling validated, inspired, and thankful.

I wasn’t thankful because Diego’s Umbrella (one of MarchFourth’s openers and now one of my new favorite bands) sang that song about undressing and then redressing – or the one about lasers and lesbians.

MarchFourth, doin' their thang!

MarchFourth, doin’ their thang!

It’s not because M4 was such a spectacle, complete with a King Tut headdress, a fire eater, stilt walkers, and more brass (and sass) than I would ever know what to do with.

No, those weren’t the reasons I was thankful to be at Crescent Ballroom on Friday night (although they did make the experience that much sweeter).

I was thankful, because halfway through the show, MarchFourth subtly acknowledged the happenings in Connecticut in a way that helped to reinstate hope and humanity.

Amid heavy drum beats and swanky brass notes, Katie Presley, one of the trumpet players for MarchFourth announced to the audience that they have a mantra – JOY NOW – and that regardless of what was going on in the world, each and every one of us were alive and sharing an experience together. Though JOY NOW has been the official mantra for M4 for awhile, the battle cry for happiness was especially potent that night.

At another point in the show, a percussionist (I believe it was Ryan Moore – Ryan, if that wasn’t you, I’m sorry!) said simply into one of the microphones, “It has to stop. Share the love.”

I know, I know. It sounds like we were just a bunch of hippies on Friday night talking about love and light and all that jazz in the wake of an act of brutality…but is that really such a bad thing? Is recognizing that spreading love instead of hate a negative?

I guarantee you that every person in Crescent Ballroom on Friday night had heard the news of the Connecticut massacre. And I bet that between the energy of the music and the extra shot of positivity, we all left feeling a little lighter.

I know that a mantra can’t even begin to repair what happened on Friday. And there are certain realizations we all have to come to. Yes, shitty things are going to happen, because the human race is far from humane. Yes, it’s important to acknowledge the events that happen in our country that are detrimental to us as a race. Yes, it’s time to have some serious political discussions regarding gun control and healthcare.

Photo by flickr user "Ganesh K S."

Photo by flickr user “Ganesh K S.”

But I think it’s equally important to have JOY NOW.

For those of us who were not personally connected to the tragedy in Connecticut (because that is a whole different ballgame), heed these words.

As the media swirls and the stories evolve regarding this tragedy, react, write a letter to your local politician, talk through your emotions with close friends, send love and light to those in Newtown–but balance these actions with acts of kindness, stories of triumph, and moments of joy, too.

If you don’t, if you lose all semblance of joy from your life as you grieve this tragedy or call for reform or build up hate toward the hand that pulled the trigger, what will you have left? What will you have to offer to the people in your life, much less yourself? Allow yourself to disconnect with the media and reconnect with the people who are important to you. Allow yourself to be happy despite the national heartache.

After all, happiness is a choice. It’s my choice.

I choose happiness. I choose humility and compassion. I choose to turn off the TV so that I can tell someone I love them.

Thanks to March Fourth, I choose JOY NOW.

Photo licensing info – Dawn Ashley
Photo licensing info – Ganesh K S

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