For a long time my young sons went to sleep listening to the music of Krishna Das. Sometimes we'd dance a bit (we called it "getting our sillies out") and then we'd end in a cuddle. We'd dim the lights and the music would exert its presence and begin to do its magic. I'd hoped that the trippy, hypnotic cycles, rich harmonies and spiritual bent would invite my angels into the loving arms of slumber and give them a foundation for being happier people. I'd sit on one of their beds, listen with them and rub their backs as they quieted, yawned and fell off, often me with them. It became our ritual.
I took them on a two hour drive into the mountains to see Krishna Das perform live and entered the large temple at one of the many new-age retreat centers where he appears annually. Krishna Das is an American musician (a Jewish kid from Long Island) who's created a remarkable niche as the King of Kirtan....a Hindi devotional call and response jam. He sometimes incorporates American folk or gospel lyrics into the simple rounds. It's sweet, mesmerizing music...each piece a study in harmony, rhythm and balance. Think sleepy Gordon Lightfoot meets clapping Thich Nhat Han.
A few hundred people were there, present and flexible from a day of herbal tea and yoga. My older boy was then five and he was particularly excited.
Slowly, the music began and we were left with the light of a thousand candles.. A few bodies swayed and the overall posture was exceptional.
A few minutes into the first piece, my son smiled big and said, "Dad....come con....let's dance!". I looked around and saw that no one was dancing yet and said, "Well, buddy....no ones dancing yet. Let's just wait a few minutes...." He sat slowly back down as he surveyed the crowd.
My heart sunk as I realized that I'd just introduced my perfectly happy, spontaneous and free child to the limiting drone of his untrained ego. In an effort to hit a cosmic "undo" button, I said, "actually, nows a PERFECT time", and stood up reaching for his hand. He said "no Dad....let's WAIT!".
I dragged him by the arm to an aisle, let go and began to...sort of...dance. It was the kind of dancing I think one does to music that's....not dance music. He stood in place, looking sheepishly around and then began to move just a little bit to the music. And of course within a minute there were a few dozen hippies up and dancing, twirling...showing up for their lives.
Afterward I tried to explain how HE'd gotten people up dancing....how HE'D made a contribution to all those grown ups. The full impact of being BIG and how important it is to just show up. That there were definatly people there with us who were shy or wounded, afraid or alone, who would never have danced had they not seen a group already dancing. And that since that shy, wounded person DID dance, they had a joyous experience that they would never ever have had were it not for his choice to dance first.
He wasn't impressed.
I know children change and innocence ends but after this incident I saw the effects of my misstep. My son resisting music lessons, refusing to go to dance camp, fearing attention, being less of a ham. He had noticed himself. He even stopped showing his beautiful teeth when smiling....saying how silly he looked when he smiled that way.
He became moody and philosophical, laying in bed with his eyes open sometimes saying that he was thinking about nothing. He began to pull away from me (right on time according to the books) which worried me deeply. A few times he said that he did not like his life.
And this all alarmed me because I arrived that point even younger than he did and I just began my second fifty years and so it's been a really long time since I first noticed ME and I still just don't always quite know how to BE me. All the time he'd want to play and sing and draw...and now he began to WITHdraw.
See, I'd hoped that there would be something about the way I showed life to him that reared him for the risks that could make all the difference between the hamster wheel of mediocrity and the manifestation of his hearts desire...his beautiful vision....whatever it is.
This is the kid that until then would say things like..."Look, Dad, the birds are having a meeting. I wonder what they're discussing". And when his little brother said he wanted them to grow up and get married to each other in a church so they could always be together, this boy was amused and smiled sweetly as he said said, "tsk....aww, Jules.....you and me can't get married in a church...we're Jewish".
And now, he wouldn't smile.
Last year we were at grand Bat Mitzvoh in Central America. It was lovely as can be but I'm very nervous and awkward at parties and this was an EXTREME party...The bells and whistles had bells and whistles. I watched the young people run around...contemplating my own inadequacies and my advancing age and doubting myself and aspiring to better things and worrying about my kids who were younger than most and didn't know anyone and who were NOT bilingual. All this shit going through my head mostly about me but projected onto my poor, vulnerable boys. This ridiculously awesome thing here is gonna suck, I'm thinking. And the loud music blasting. And the glow sticks glowing. And the strobe lights strobing. And the tight dresses...tightening. And the big empty dance floor cause everyone was still off to the sides either getting drunk or getting aclaimated. And I was standing there grinning but thinking what the fuck are we doing here? It was very very very uncomfortable.
And I felt a slap on my butt and a yank on my jacket and I turned around and looked down and it's was my now ten year old, older son...same kid......and I saw his lips move but couldn't hear him with the racket and I said, "what's up ?", and I picked him up. And he smiled this big, toothy smile, put his mouth right against my ear and screamed......"Dad....c'mon.....let's dance!!!!"
And we did. And within a minute or so, there were a few dozen people dancing, twirling....showing up for their lives .