Remember what is was like to be sung to sleep. If you are fortunate, the memory will be more recent than childhood. The repeated lines of words and music are like paths. These paths are circular and the rings they make are linked together like those of a chain. You walk along these paths and are led by them in circles which lead from one to the other, further and further away. The field upon which you walk and upon which the chain is laid is the song.
Field, John Berger, 1980 (1971).
There are many fields, paths, circles, rings and chains. So many different words, forms of music, songs. These form our cultures and it is our cultures that make us human. Ordinary cultures. Everyday cultures. I think about the field a great deal. Some want to break the rings and chains we make. Some want to make us follow their circles; to shackle us with their chains to their paths. And right now our humanity and our everyday cultures are under attack. They want us to forget our songs and our ways of being together – to dig up our fields.
My field has many chains and many words and many songs.
Dreary hymns sung secretly at Sunday School. Songs of ideological oppression.
Kraftwerk, Joy Division, New Order, Acid House, Techno, Free Parties in crop circles.
Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Gurdieff, Aldous Huxley, Blake. Songs of life and death. Innocence and experience.
Chains, songs, circles. Cultures, art, communities.
Experiences shape our fields – making it possible to see and connect with other, different fields.
Together we have hope.
Hopes and dreams and fears and nightmares.
Together we are stronger.
Together we share common ground and yet we are also intensely different. And that’s ok. That’s good. That’s what makes us human.
Different words, songs, chains, circles, paths, fields.
But we share our humanity. We share through our cultures, our art, our creative acts, our defiant acts, our communities, our spirits.
Let’s understand that art can be about much more than making do. Much more than audience development. Right now we all need to step up and understand that art can be part of a movement of movements for community development – for shared, common good, for social justice and radical action.
When we see our lives and our cultures, our hopes and dreams, in every grain of sand, we can begin to be free from the shackles of millennia of exploitation and oppression.
Those who take our grains of sand and fashion them into crass citadels for a privileged few then use them as bases from which to impose their words, songs and chains on us, impose upon our fields. They demand we abandon our songs, our chains, our circles. They make us forget our dreams, forget about what is was like to be sung to sleep.
But our heavens are not to be found in the manacles forged by the minds of the citadel builders.
Our heavens exist in ourselves, in our fields, and in how we share and stand together when we need to.
Common good. Equity. Fairness. Caring for everyone, no matter what. Standing with people being oppressed and murdered by the citadel builders everywhere across our world.
Heavens in our grains of sand.
Common and uncommon.
Our heavens cannot be enclosed by walls or watched over by Gods from their glass turrets.
Our seeds of hope and blooming dreams roam free.
They are not cultivated inside expensive walled gardens.
So let’s not forget the words, the songs, the music, the paths, the rings, the chains that we lay.
Because it is in the way that we lay them – as individuals and collectively – that we can grow together and make the changes we know must happen straight away.