A little over a week ago, I had the pleasure of singing at the North Bend Jazz Walk. For this annual event, venues throughout downtown North Bend host live performances that feature numerous jazz musicians from across the Northwest scene. This was the fourth year for the walk and, per usual, it was outstanding. The streets were full of jazz fans, friends and colleagues (According to Greg Williamson, co-organizer and chief of Pony Boy Records, there were over 1500 people in attendance). The music was incredible, and there was a nice variety of acts – from vocalists and big bands, to piano trios and modern quintets. Throughout the night, the energy was high and there was a palpable sense of goodwill in the air; people were happy. Chalk one up for the glory of the hang.
There is something innately powerful when people come together for a common passion. The collective generates a unique vibe and elevates the game for everyone. When we are around positive and enthusiastic people, we expand. We become part of a bigger flow, or purpose even, and in so doing, discover more possibilities for our own individual lives. When we show up on the scene, we’re contributing to a better and more vibrant community. At its core, I think it’s a love thing.
On the night of the jazz walk, I was feeling a little road worn. The universe had recently thrown some ugly boulders my way, and it had been a grueling week. But my musicians brought great joy to the bandstand, making everything easy and pleasurable. And the crowds were fantastic. It was exactly what I needed. After our set, I made the rounds and caught several other acts. I ran into many friends along the way. They were full of kind words and good cheer. As I drove home afterward, I felt invigorated and comforted. The hang can be sweet refuge. When the world feels cruel, the hang can undo the damage. Coming back to our tribe reconnects us with a sense of goodness. It reminds us that we are valued and loved. Hang is the antithesis of isolation. Isolation messes with our brains. It skews the view. And nothing darkens the soul more than prolonged periods of isolation. The hang brings us back to life.
Hang takes effort, especially in this digital age we live in. So many of our interactions happen on the vapid playground of social media. But sitting in front of computer screens contributes to the lethal isolation that I was just talking about. We need to take our communities offline and meet in real time. Nothing beats person-to-person encounters, not even one hundred “likes” on Facebook. But inertia is a pesky lure. Last Friday, a friend of mine was playing at a local wine bar. My plan was to go, but when the time came, a bunch of excuses started darting around in my mind: I’d just gotten out of a meeting and I was too tired; I shouldn’t be out late; I needed to go home and write; I shouldn’t spend the money. Blah, blah, blah… Fortunately, I powered through the momentary drivel and went to the show. I’m so glad I did. My friend brought it all, and the music was wonderful. At the break, I found myself engaged in playful conversation with a bunch of musician friends. Later, I danced with my buddy Frank. When we were all sitting together during the break, I caught myself thinking: “This is it. This is what life is about. It’s these simple encounters. The glory is right here, right now.” And in that moment, everything felt lighter and doable.
In his 2010 documentary “I AM,” writer/director Tom Shadyac set out to answer two questions: “What is wrong with the world?” and “What can we do to make it better?” After interviewing numerous scientists, philosophers, academics and religious leaders, he concluded that the main problem is that our industrialized civilization drives human beings to consume and compete. In this environment, we are often inclined, albeit sometimes unconsciously, to put our own self-interests first. But if we look to nature, we see that cooperation is the “fundamental operating principle,” as demonstrated by a variety of species. Shadyac also introduces scientific evidence that shows how our brains are programmed to respond favorably to feelings such as love, compassion and gratitude. These positive emotions are vital to our well-being, and we find them in our connections with each other. Further proof that hang is good for our health.
Hang is an investment of sorts. It provides a foundation for all kinds of great things to happen. It makes a space for ideas to grow, collaborations to form and for the highest of human potential to be realized. It colors the narrative of our communities. It gives each and every one of us someplace to land. While we don’t know how hang will impact our evolution as a species, I do believe it is key to our survival now. If my own experience has taught me anything, it’s this: We are meant to be together.
Here’s to the glory of the hang.
“Because we don’t make memories alone. We make them with other people.”
– Erika Napoletano
*All photos courtesy of Greg Williamson