It is refreshing when someone whose eyes are wide open to "the hosts of evil 'round us," and has suffered much in exposing them, finds evidence that all is not lost. Heather Heying writes about this in Natural Selections: "The Flame of the West Is Alive." The post, as usual, is long, and for quite a while is more dark than hopeful. But near the end, Heather tells the following story:
My sign-off for DarkHorse, which seems more apt than ever, is this:
- Be good to the ones you love;
- Eat good food;
- And get outside.
To which I would add two things: music and dogs.
When in Prague two weeks ago, after the launch of the Czech publication of Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide by Institut H21, several of us went to a pub and stayed late. Two Czech men with opposite politics sat across from me, disagreeing, laughing, drinking. I only met them that night, but I feel confident in saying that they are both good men. In part I have that confidence because I watched them describe positions of almost polar opposition—on Trump, on what is being taught in schools, on guns—and they listened to one another, and to others at the table who disagreed or agreed, and they did not dissolve into puddles or erupt in fury. How many places would that be possible in America now?
The director of Institut H21, the amazing Adam Ruzicka, had brought a guitar that evening, in the hopes that we could sing around an actual campfire after the book launch. Weather did not permit, but he broke out his guitar in the pub instead, and began to play Czech folk songs, of which there are many. I heard estimates that all Czech people know the words to at least thirty folk songs, which they can and will sing along to, given the opportunity. [Editor's note: That is not exactly how Adam's surname is spelled, but my platform's editor curled up in a ball and died when trying to swallow all the diacritical marks.]
Adam pulled out his guitar and began playing, and in short order a young man at the next table pulled out a violin and joined. The joy grew, and the singing got louder. A few women from a neighboring room came in and began to dance. And at the third table in the room, a man pulled out an accordion and joined in as well. I know—I must be making this up. Exaggerating. But I am not.
Everyone but us two Americans were singing along, including the men who had been arguing amicably just moments before. When one song ended, another began. The guitar was handed around and played by others before being returned to Adam’s capable hands.
It was late though, well after 1am. The pub was on the bottom floor of a residential building, and it was a Tuesday. The bartender came in from the other room and asked Adam to keep it down. The noble subversion of the Czech spirit kicked in then, inspiring Adam to raise the decibel level considerably, encouraging even more raucous singing, before finishing with a flourish.
Later, the bartender would tell Adam that in his position, he would have done the same thing.
I dare not quote a larger section than this, so to find out what she has to say about dogs, you'll have to go to the original post.
I'll close with the comment I wrote there:
A hearty YES! to the civilization-saving importance of music, by which I mean above all homemade music, such as you experienced in Prague. That sounds like an impromptu Czech version of the Irish seisiún, also found in pubs. Or the regular Friday-night pizza dinner/hymn sings at our daughter's house.
The difference between making music yourself, especially with other people, and what plays omnipresently in our homes, our stores, our doctor's offices, and our earbuds, is like the difference between raw milk, unpasteurized apple cider, or homemade sourdough bread, and what goes by the names milk, cider, and bread on the shelves of our grocery stores.