Friday, May 9, 2014

The lessons in life....

While biking in the warm evening sunlight through Vincent Massey Park a few years ago (not long before I met my last girlfriend), I heard the sound of Caribbean pop music. "Women!" I thought, and raced off to find the source.

The sound came from a small bandstand, where festival musicians performed in front of a hillside lined with people in the golden slanted light of day's end. Several people danced to the music. I parked my bike near a line of trees and bushes off to the side of the bandstand, where I was mostly hidden from the crowd, so that I could dance, too.

Within a few moments, one of the musicians waved to me, invited me to step onto the bandstand. I laughed and shook my head, but he kept waving: Come on, get up here!

And so I went up onto the boards and showed the crowd my dance moves, which, in the past, have been charitably called psychotic. The crowd cheered; I bowed and said thanks. The concert was over. When I left the stand, the musician tapped my fist with his own, and said, "Respect! Respect!"

As I was unlocking my bike and getting ready to leave, a pasty-faced, overweight kid walked up to me and said, "Your dancing sucks."

I glanced at him; he could not have been much more than eleven years old. "Whatever you say, kid."

But he had more to say. "Learn to dance" -- lazy gesture like a horizontal karate chop -- "or get the fuck out."

I leaned on my bike and stared at him.

"Let me put it this way," I said. "When you turn 45, and you can do what I just did... good for you."

I could tell from his face that he had no idea what I was talking about, and so I shrugged and walked away with my bike. But at the back of my mind I had something else to tell him. I regret not having said it:

"Kid, we're only given one life each, and life is too precious to leave to experts. A few skills matter to us, and we learn them as well as we can. Everything else we do, not because we're on TV, not because we're being judged, but for the pure joy of being alive. If you're not willing to sing or dance because you're not as good as some peacock on a TV show, then you're not alive at all."

I doubt he would have understood, but I think he should have heard it.

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