Yesterday my daughter sent me a link to a goofy youtube video of old people in choir robes singing rap songs. It was funnier to her than to me, I suspect, because with one exception they were songs I hadn't heard before, so I couldn't really understand how incredibly far their renditions were from the original tunes.
But of course whenever you're on youtube, you are offered other videos that might have some vague connection to the one you're watching. So I clicked on one of those offerings -- some sort of high school drumming performance -- and, well, I loved it. I remember loving those drumlines in high school, too, and, a few years ago, thrilling to the beat of the Seattle Kokon Taiko drummers; there's a sort of guilty primal pleasure in being swept up in those rhythms.
So it was with some amusement this morning that I read (again, in John O'Donohue's Anam Cara) that "The sound of the drum brings us consolation because it brings us back to that time when we were at one with the mother's heartbeat. That was a time of complete belonging." Ah, I thought, we're back to that hunger for belonging again. That's certainly a theme that's been playing a lot in my life lately.
Later in the day yesterday, after a somewhat abortive conversation with my husband about what might be next in our lives -- who gets a job? who might go to school? -- I got tangled up with some inner voices and had to check in with a friend to get them sorted out. Good soul that she is, she helped me retire a couple of battling personas to separate rooms in my head so I could get some peace and listen for the deep call of the one true voice of the self.
And then this morning, as I was nearing the end of my meditation period, I found myself remembering a song I had loved back in the 70's: Jungle Man, by a New Orleans funk group called The Meters. I was initially recollecting the song's opening -- a really primal thumping drumbeat -- but then the lyrics jumped out at me:
I'm the Jungle Man
That's what I am...
got my home,
don't need to roam --
the jungle is where I live.
Peace and love and harmony
is what I have to give.
I'm friends with the monkey,
I'm friends with the bird,
I'm close with the lion:
They all got the word...
In the jungle,
I'm the king
(Note: if you want to hear this, go to this Youtube video; the song starts 2 1/2 minutes into it)
Thinking about these lyrics, I found myself hearing the voice of that primal self that lives at the heart of each of us; the king of love who can befriend all those other voices in us -- the monkey, the bird, and the lion -- and pull them all back into peace and harmony.
Which somehow took me back to that quote from Sogyal Rinpoche in Offerings that I mentioned back on August 20th: "Confined in the dark, narrow cage of our own making which we take for the whole universe, very few of us can even begin to imagine another dimension of reality."
We humans do have a way of building arbitrary cages for ourselves: of removing ourselves from that primal, harmonious jungle and getting trapped in places and situations that are really not where we were born to live. We endeavor to hide the fact that they are cages by doing a pretty amazing decorating job, making the cage so attractive that we don't want to leave it. But the fact is that the cage -- whatever it may be: a difficult job, a challenging relationship, a role we no longer want to play, a task we've taken on that keeps us stuck -- is almost always of our own making.
While we're inside that cage it becomes very difficult to imagine a way to step outside, or to even remember the jungle from which we came. What it takes to escape is a distinct and determined effort to set aside all the chattering voices -- the monkeys, birds and roaring lions -- that keep us there (you'll recognize them: all their sentences seem to begin with the words "You should..."); to listen for the self, that king of love who is still quietly chanting his primal song of harmony beneath the turmoil.
If I'm feeling caged or trapped, my head seems to get caught up in lots of repetitive words and phrases -- not unlike the "you're an idiot" that kept tripping me up in the airport the other day. Somehow I have to sink down below my head into my heart; to get back in touch with that deeper voice of unity, of true self. If I can listen to that deep mysterious song of the eternal, feel again that drumbeat of belonging, I can begin to reclaim the sense of strength and purpose which will allow me to step outside my cage and rediscover the universe of possibility.
So what song is playing in your head today? And who's rattling your cage?