Last Saturday, Portugal won the Eurovision Songfestival for the first time … after 53 years of waiting! I still recommend reading this post to all those who did not follow the Songfestival and who, honestly, do not care much about music shows. Last Sunday, many countries, including the Netherlands and Italy, celebrated Mother’s day! I still recommend reading this post to all those who do not care about ‘Hallmark holidays’ and who can barely stand other people sharing their thoughts and affection on social media to celebrate these festivities. This post is about … messages in different kinds of bottles.
“I want to say that we live in a world of disposable music. Fast-food music without any content, and I think this could be a victory for music, with people that make music that actually means something. Music is not fireworks. Music is feeling. So let’s try to change this. And bring music back, which is really what matters.”
This was the short and heartfelt victory speech given by Salvador Sobras on the Eurovision stage only seconds after he was announced to be the winner of the 2017 edition. To be fair, it has to be said that many self-proclaimed music lovers dismiss Eurovision music as (to use Sobras’ own adjectives) commercial and fast-food music, without any content and with more fireworks and glitters than quality.
Is Sobras’ speech a call for Eurovision redemption?
I do not think so; first of all, because the Eurovision has no sins to be redeemed! I like Sobras’ speech because it sounds to me as an appeal to look for content … beyond containers.
I see more and more of the trend to consider ‘good stuff’ only those things that are ‘niche-stuff’; to use the word ‘commercial’ as a synonym for ‘substandard’; to pronounce the sentence ‘I read a post on FB about…’ as a usual disclaimer before beginning a conversation about crap.
On the one hand, it is true that the wider the public (of speakers, of writers, or in general of ‘users’), the more background noise and the harder it is to be digging for gold… But, on the other hand, meanings can come in so many different shapes that you do not need a label or a special container for art, quality and beauty. You just need to get your eyes and ears ready to catch precious messages in whichever kind of bottles they come to you.
Once I was listening to the spoken-word piece by Leonard Cohen titled ‘How to speak poetry’, and I was impressed by the lines:
“(…) Speak the words with the exact precision with which you would check out a laundry list. Do not become emotional about the lace blouse. Do not get a hard-on when you say panties. Do not get all shivery just because of the towel. The sheets should not provoke a dreamy expression about the eyes. There is no need to weep into the handkerchief. The socks are not there to remind you of strange and distant voyages. It is just your laundry. It is just your clothes. Don’t peep through them. Just wear them (…)”
There can be poetry in a laundry list. There can be poetry wherever you are ready to listen honestly to someone else’s voice in the midst of all that noise. Listen to that voice and believe that the other has words that can be your mirror. At the end of the day, the choice to live in a world of disposable music and in a world of disposable words is entirely up to each of us. We can dispose of the tons of tracks we listened to, we can dispose of the tons of news and posts we read every day. Or we can decide to save a memory of those messages that have reached us in a bottle, floating in an ocean of noise.
This week, I decided to save two messages for myself. A Eurovision song… and a FB post, which a dear friend of mine wrote on Mother’s day. That post was so precious to me that I did not want to dispose of it. I did not want to like it on FB and then forget about these words in few days. So I asked my friend permission to translate her post and share it with you, so these words can keep traveling in a different bottle…
“Today: it has been 10 years since you are not around to celebrate this day. I just want to let you know that, here, everything goes as it went: I get mad for things I cannot change; I laugh to scare my fears away; I forget about what books I’ve read and I keep buying the same books … again and again; I still do not put on my warm jacket when it’s too cold.
Dad keeps forgetting things, sis takes care of everyone, but she does not pick up the phone. On Sundays, we grill meat and, after all, we are not doing too bad. But, you know, there is a Chinese proverb that says: ‘One Day, Three Autumns’. That means that when you dreadfully miss someone, a day feels as long as three years; well… let’s say that this is how I feel about you. Because, you see, what matters is not that I still do not put on my warm jacket. The point is that there is no one, here, to come after me to make me wear that jacket when I need it. ‘That’s what is called: growing up!’, they tell me. I always give them the same answer; maybe that’s growing up, but I just wish I didn’t have to grow up without you.
Anyway, I’ve learned to move on and to live with that. Now when I go to bed I make fun of myself. Then, I do what you used to do, and I tell myself: ‘Now get some sleep, Biancu’, you can still save the world tomorrow morning’. At the end of the day, it is sense of humor that saves life.
And, I must tell you the truth; I have still to learn how to prepare a tasty ragout. But I’ve discovered books, which you never had the chance to read and which, I know, you would have loved. I still do not know how to crochet, but I have been using my time visiting many of the places you would have loved to visit. Paris, for instance, it’s beautiful, you know?
I do not have your grace, I admit that…but I have honed the required skills to keep the crew’s spirits up!
At the end, it does not matter how hard I tried, I did not turn out to be exactly as you were. But I still do my best to be: truthful, courageous and smiling … as you wished. I do not see you. But I know you are watching over me and you never leave me alone. I just want to wish you happy mother’s day, mommy… and I just want to say that you can’t imagine how proud I am to be your child (or maybe you know it very well).”
Kunnen we leven zonder Facebook? Tien jaar geleden zou dat een rare vraag zijn,…
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Soms zit ik gewoon. Stel je eens voor. Wanneer heb jij voor het laatst…