The love of the arts and music as therapy
This Superbowl halftime show reaction post may be coming a little late, and you have probably heard it all, from it going against ageism, as well as it’s cultural and political stance. But I promise even if you didn’t care for the show, there will be a deeper moral to this story-and its not at all the one you are expecting (though the cultural inclusivity and empowerment was definitely a huge pro, but there is more..)
When I watched the Superbowl halftime show, I loved it; the incredible vigorous choreography that was made to look effortless only by so much work put into it, the showmanship and beautiful production and composition, the high energy, upbeat music with multilingual lyrics, and overall the incredible moment that was created.
And I loved the cultural diversity in the music, dance and customs, including the blatant tongue sound that Shakira famously made right into the camera, to the confusion of many, which is actually a normal Middle Eastern custom sound (like clapping) when celebrating and enjoying music and dance, and its called zaghrouta. Shakira is after all of Lebanese and Colombian heritage. It was an intentional celebration of diversity. Celebs are aware any superbowl footage can become a picture or meme (remember Beyonce?). It was a culturally proud and politically subversive superbowl show.
Anyways so here I was enjoying a show that filled me with nothing but positivity, energy and life. I loved the bellydancing which resonates with one of my cultural backgrounds. The show inspired me to get more active, had me dancing while doing dishes all week, and had me naturally high on bellydancing and working on creating bellydance choreo to teach (probably why I am still talking about the halftime show..working on some of the Shakira choreo to to some of those songs as well as traditional arabic songs). But there is a bigger point don’t worry.
So here I was enjoying the show and then after I heard the internet was in uproar about the show being too sexy, etc. And at some point while checking out the choreo in the vid- I did what I usually avoid doing- I peeked at the youtube comments. Yeesh- always regretabble isn’t it? Its like reading the toilet stall wall of the online world, with just a few reasonable comments in between. A lot of moralizing, yet condemming comments about the show being racy, and it scarring their children (sorry people, but it’s not the music industry, sexualized as it is, that ruins children-its usually extreme parents that ruin children-we’ve all seen that person raised super strict who rebelled, or got affected somehow..being puritanical can also be dammaging), about how its just sex selling (ok yes the industry is sexualized, and the camera angles were a bit odd, but I was not watching this for the sex. There was more of value there. I was looking at their choreo of many cultural dances, stunts, the (mixed race) children’s choir, the beautiful set, etc) …and it continued with other negative comments about some lip syncing (though often the NFL requires pre-recordings-and even with JLo’s stamina it may not be humanly possible to do it all constantly without getting out of breath..did people miss the whole huge jam-packed production while scrutinizing for something negative?) yada yada. And then others would try to defend their cultural dances and calling out how white-centric some of the people were who didn’t accept their cultural customs and dances…etc- you know the mess that Trump has stirred with so much hatred between different groups of people, and people who naturally feel the need to defend themselves..and it was just an ugly mess. And on the radio I heard how the FCC received 1312 complaint letters and about the uproar America was in over this show and how Shakira, a huge UN-awarded humanitarian and philantropist, is one of the most hated celebs—because there aren’t enough moral issues to address and uproar about in America, other than Shakira’s hips. And I went from feeling high on life to just wishing I never let in that negativity while learning some choreo steps. And I kept dancing and didn’t even think or want to write about it until I read the comment that touched me beyond any.
One real raw comment that hit me like a brick and I was compelled to write this article like a crazy person. Because that one comment, in light of many other superficial, or negative youtube comments (among some positive ones too) was the purest piece of truth, and is so much bigger than any show itself or any celebrity (who is not supposed to be any one’s idol anyways-they are not God- no one is. The entertainment industry is no church. Extract the good, and leave the bad or imperfect. People and art are not going to be whatever “perfect” is to you. And in the end “it’s not the critic that counts, the man who points out where the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of the deeds should have done them better, the credit goes to the [wo]man in the arena.”..and each of our lives is an arena of sorts. It’s not for someone else to determine how we dress, live, etc. Live and let live. And if needed parents can always provide context and explain things so they are not internalized the wrong way by young minds, but usually hiding them from it doesn’t work when they hear and see just as much or more in school and social media.)
But anyways it was this one quiet, non-aggressive comment that made me tear up.
This person said, “tomorrow I am going to Chemo, I am taking their music with me.”
And that hit hard.
That hit deep.
That put things in perspective.
Pause for a moment to let that sink in. (And if you know anyone struggling in any way, with cancer, or other issues, perhaps reach out.)
Among all the moral whistle blowers and critics, this was the only real moral and meaning. This was one of the few people talking about real problems. The type of problems that need a strong, positive Patronus shield, mantra or affirmation or upbeat playlist to keep one from going crazy when put through the wringer. (And yes I slipped in a Harry Potter reference, love J.K. Rowling..and all her symbolism- and all her wizardry that also scared some few people once upon a time, while expanding so many imaginations of young readers). And this is the upbeat music that made this person feel better through their difficulty. And especially with corona virus anxiety everyone can surely now start to relate. In fact its medically recommended now with Covid-19 to do something relaxing you enjoy every day. Play that funky music. Laugh at silly things. Hold on to those things that make you feel alive. Don’t let someone else make them feel trivial or not purposeful or not age-appropriate. Its those moments that make a lot of other BS we have to go through in life worth it. Like those moments when you submerge your head for the first time under water to come up again, gasping for a deep breath, a scared gift, and feeling like “Oh what a feeling, Im feeling Life” (Jay-Z nailed it).
Because activities like dance and “music wash off the dust of everyday life”. They raise people’s spirits, connect people to their soul, make them relate and feel like others are going through hard things too, and that they find ways to make it through. Or they make them forget their present circumstances and feel another side of life, another side of themselves that they don’t always get to express in everyday life. It makes people as well as children tap their toes, shimmy their hips, clap their hands, and yes, when having a good time in the Arab community, it makes them do a zagrhouta (the sound from the “tongue wag” by Shakira). And I doubt that the children watching the show even took in the more sexy few split seconds. I hope they were dancing along and playing, as children do with music and dance, across many cultures. And if its not their music or dance that do it for you, or maybe not dance at all that resonates with you, that’s cool maybe soccer or guitar playing makes you feel passionate. Different strokes for different folks. I hate horror movies- I don’t go attacking them, because I know others enjoy them. I don’t think having commercials of horror movies on radio or tv is kid friendly either. The halftime show was a 15 min positive non-fear provoking show of inclusion and joy. Too much of Shakira’s hips? Change the channel. That’s not a real life problem to cause uproar. But music, dance and passion, in any form, helps many other people through theirs, be it through escape or something resonating with people-or an unexpected mix of both- people often turn to the arts to escape and yet find unexpected depth and resonance, maybe just in one line, one message. You don’t have to take the entire message, it’s not going to be perfect, nor will the messenger be. You can glean a bit of something impactful or positive sometimes from a moment or a phrase. That’s the whole point of the arts. People will never agree on art tastes. I don’t get the deal about the Mona Lisa. But I have never seen her live so what do I know-I heard in real life, she is special. I do respect Leonardo Da Vinci’s craftsmanship and out-of-the-box mind for his time. And I do appreciate when people can teach you to appreciate something that you may not understand nor have developed a feel for yet, rather than tearing down what they don’t understand nor feel nor relate to. I don’t know how to play soccer, but I like how people in foreign countries get crazy excited over soccer (most of them call it futbol). Many other sports are aggressive. But people understand it’s entertainment, not real life. Your kids will not do that in the street if raised with healthy self-esteem and a healthy relationship with YOU (not the screen). Young people may internalize certain things from media as well as from their school peers in unhealthy ways (such as the idea of needing to be skinny and look perfect) based on criticisms (be it from parents or peers), but if they are raised in a healthy dynamic with open communication, they are more immune to it-because the world isn’t perfect and there are many other issues they will have to face growing up and even as adults.
Now I am not justifying the hyper-sexualized entertainment industry and everything in it (and this show was pretty tame compared to most, not just music industry wise, and the industry itself seems like it can get dirtier than we know). There is lots of violence, sex etc in shows-but I am not attacking these things either or blaming the industry for things that hardly affect a person’s real life growing up and real life problems, so much as their immediate environment affects them and shapes how they will react to things during formative years (I say formative, because eventually we do all have a chance to think freely, and people often will rebel against limitations and unhealthy extremes.)
Anyways I am just saying, many people all over the world and even in your neighbourhood are struggling with much bigger, and realer issues. And many governments and health care systems are often making these people’s struggles even harder to get help. Now that’s a real moral issue worth uproar. And yes, maybe I used the famous halftime show as a bit of justified clickbait to make a point that arose from it.
And until bigger issues are resolved in different governing and healthcare systems and until many hard circumstances are resolved or alleviated for all the many people afflicted, then as Shakira says, we are still not as progressed as we think we are.
And until then and always, at least music and dancing, in all their different forms, from the upbeat and inspiring, to the soul-bearing and relatable, to the cultural and diverse, as well as those silly generic or corny songs you listened to, or your parents listened to, when you were young and bring you or them back…yup all those songs and dances are such a positive force and often a healthy escape and passtime for so many and make other activities like exercise funner.
Brain surgeons and doctors even suggest dance classes to stave off dementia and keep one’s brain healthy.
That’s because learning steps, and kinetic learning (since your brain is also responsible to command movement) is very beneficial to a healthy brain.
Music can practically raise people back to life- yup, my aunt once told me a real story of how a lady in a coma woke up when being played the loved music of her youth..maybe coincidence- but, you can check out how doctors are recommending to play music for coma victims. Music is therapy. And if I ever go under I want to hear something lively like Let’s get loud or I like it like that or Hips don’t lie (esp. the Bamboo remix). And although someone like Adele is most likely a stronger live vocalist than Shakira and JLo (but I enjoy their voices and it’s not fair to compare the voice of who’s dancing and singing to someone standing) and as amazing as Adele is (I still have her haunting vocals and version of the George Michael tribute song stuck in my head sometimes)- if I would ever be in a coma or a funk, I don’t want only the strong serious vocalist; I want Let’s get loud or Chantaje or even Que calor. Or Crazy in Love or Survivor. Yes, this ain’t only about this year’s performers, Beyoncé of course is on that playlist. Lindsey Stirling or other ethereal instrumentals ( love her out-of-the-box ideas like her combo of violin with dubsteb and graceful ballet-like dance while playing). Troye Sivan. Country music for its good vibes. Dance Monkey. John Legend. Latino and foreign songs no one’s ever heard of. Variety. Diversity. Everyone has their own list of feel good tunes that they grew up enjoying. And you may think how generic and modern- everyone can have their own playlist, but it’s not like you’re going to bring back Prince or some of the Beatles on the stage, with all due respect. Let it be. Even Paul Mccartney has been open to modern music-but I don’t want this to be about Kanye. It’s not about comparing. Everyone has something unique to offer and at different times. At this time the appearance of the whole Latino gang on stage was a very relevant one during a somewhat divided time in the USA when many feel downtrodden.
But now I’ve digressed. I think I am just going to let the above highlighted quote by that one quiet person sink in because thats what has the most meaning and what I felt compelled to share. I am not going through cancer, but a friend of mine is, probably the most genuine, biggest light of the world who I’ve met, but he is going strong and will not be beat, thanks to his beyond positive force and a lifetime of practicing meditation and prayer.
And there are many other people who are going through different things, often silently, which is why replacing moments of quick judgement with a deeper understanding, compassion, tolerance and friendliness is so important. “Smile and be kind, for you never know who around you is going through a hard battle”. And if you are in a place to help, find a humanitarian cause to help. I admire Shakira for her real concern for humanitarian issues after seeing the poverty affecting children in Colombia. at a young age she determined she was going to get rich to not only help herself, but all these kids who don’t have food, access to school, etc. That is the most powerful motive for lasting success that’s meaningful and she is fortunate to be in a position to do so much more humanitarian work than the average person. But this isn’t about Shakira-she doesn’t need my defense, she’s living life to the fullest.
It’s about being tired of seeing judgment and criticism still used as the most common method by many as a form of trying to fix someone (often women) or something or “improve things”. The need for control which often stems much further than the internet comments about trivial things. And this notion seems silly to address with most people who already get it, but look at who is the American president-Trump. It’s judgmental tendencies like his and the human need to compare and pitt people or groups of people against each other. Latinos, colored people, immigrants, gays, whites, women (often being pitted and compared against other women), people with disabilities, etc…You know the list and implications already.
Angry criticism doesn’t improve things unless of course innocent people are getting truly hurt, and lawful intervention is needed, in which case why do I never hear a big enough uproar to change the laws regarding the fact that child rapists can get out of jail after just a few years with just a warning of “likely to re-offend”? How messed up is that, even in Canada which seems so progressive? Whose human rights are the activists defending; the criminal rights more than the victim and innocent?! Where are all these so-called “moral” people in these moments who have all this energy for negative uproar and complaint letters in mass numbers? On the radio they said The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received 1,312 complaints from viewers who felt the Superbowl halftime show too racy- I sure hope this many or more letters come in over more damaging issues such as child rape. (And this could create a whole other subject, hopefully more research and perhaps forced or free-will medications and rehab centres will be developed for people who feel the need to hurt kids to check themselves in as one offender once tried to do, with no medical system to deal with it…but that’s a different can of worms and not yet within our society’s means to address. But there are things that we can address.)
But I get it, we don’t all have the energy to add negative hard battles to our lives, so why add negative judgment?
So for the positive..Aside from Shakira’s work there are many charities like Plan charity which helps girls and communities grow out of vicious cycles like child marriage. Locally there are many disability groups and groups helping those who are ill or dealing with things that they would do anything to cure or alleviate something not of their own choosing. Many suffer silently or without being given a voice or a chance. You may know someone around you and not even realize.
All around locally there are many chances to offer a helping hand, or a listening ear, etc. And if you don’t have money, or even energy to always help, well then a little extra kindness to a neighbour or friend, praying for someone, or simply seeing the good in people and letting go of judgements, etc. goes a long way. I am going to reflect on some of this too because by no means am I perfect and I struggle with the prayer part, patience when stressed or hangry, etc and a helpless feeling like I cannot succeed enough to significantly help not only myself, but many others struggling. Which is why I felt so compelled to do one thing I can do right now by writing and hoping to reach people in a way that has meaning.
I only wish to learn and practice such a strong faith, grace and meditation practice as what my brave friend has. He is unshakable.
But until I do, dance and swimming will be some of my moving meditations- always- I don’t care if I will be older or married. As Shakira and J.Lo showed you can be 43 and 50, a mom, and still dance passionately and let it give you life. Its not just for the super-sexy celebs, its a healthy activity for everyone, of all ages. And it can create a fun community. And no, its not just to be sexy for men, or to be objectified, as some headline was debating. Believe it or not, many of us women like to dance, sensually at times, (weirdly at others, whatever we feel like) with all parts of our body, hips n all, for the hell of it, for ourselves, for artistic expression, for exercise, for life, for connecting to ourselves, for meaning (meaning to us, not what is meaningful to someone else), and to shake everything we deal with off, literally. So shake it off and don’t be afraid to live loud- or quiet if you want to- regardless of people’s opinions..at the end of the day its your life and yours only. And look for the good in people and their diverse cultures, instead of what tears others down. It never brings people (nor their kids) higher when people get in the habit of tearing others down.
To share the joy of my cultural dance I am offering bellydancing lessons… to learn to belly dance, whether as group belly dance or private bellydance lessons please contact me. Email me with the subject as bellydance at: firstname.lastname@example.org for private group or one-on one beginner bellydance classes in Vancouver, B.C.
Or dm me on instagram @dairyfreeindulgencerecipes
Namaste. Or should I say welllaallaa?
Note: As with everything when it comes to matters of personal truths or opinions and beliefs (versus objective truths like science), I am not claiming that I or anyone else has the comprehensiveness, lack of bias, nor godliness to carry the ultimate universal truth or that it’s even possible to have objective truth here, or for anyone to be “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad”. And that’s why everyone is entitled to their opinion when it comes to things like this. And everyone’s opinion is just an opinion, ideally meant to share one piece of reality (not everyone’s reality and not full reality) or to share an interpretation and ideally to provoke some thought and increased understanding for others, and to add to one’s own discernment for their own life while having understanding for other people’s lives- rather than claim right over wrong, good over bad (unless it’s a scientific objective matter where there is lots of scientific evidence etc for a “right” answer, and this isn’t one of those matters..so I just feel it’s best to leave the burden of judgement to God only, so long as people aren’t getting hurt of course.. and even for the religious, a large teaching that’s often first overlooked, is to not judge or condemn others, or we will be first to be judged as harshly, so it’s just a thought for all of us, including myself, to remind ourselves when the human tendency to judge comes up..I undesrtand of course people can express not approving of something, but it’s different and more potent when people say it from a non-hateful, non-extreme point of view. As the extremeness of any party can often undermine its own self. Of course that goes beyond the show itself. That is all.)
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