Clever gimmicks of mass distraction yield a cheap soulcraft of addicted and self-medicated narcissists. —Cornel West
Here we are at the end of another week, finding ourselves staring at the monitor in disbelief. As I’m writing, the death toll from a truck driver plowing into a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, France, stands at 85. We are shocked. We are saddened. We are fearful. We are furious. How can this keep happening? Is there no place safe? Are all our efforts to keep ourselves safe for naught? Is this the distraction or is this life?
Part of our frustration comes from that fact that most people know that love and compassion are the solution. In the days between incidents, we see those examples of selflessness and caring between people of disparate groups. A black child hugs a white police officer. A Muslim community gives aid to members of a Christian community in need. The pictures are quick to appear and pushed heavily by media. We want to think that there is still hope. We prefer the distraction of good things over bad.
The truth is that when such inconceivable horrors plague us on such a regular basis, we need the distraction to keep ourselves from going insane with worry and fear. With apologies to Dr. West’s quote above, knowing that we are being distracted does not deter us nor rescue us from the reality. Rather, the distraction of entertainment, specifically music, occupies the fear centers of our brain so that we can more distinctly focus on the severity of the issues.
Three well-known female vocal artists dropped new singles last night. They are a necessary distraction. Listen.
Katy Perry: Rise
You do have your dancing shoes on, right? The electronic-driven sound of this new song is made for dancing in a dark club with swirling lights. The words, “I’ll survive,” pop out early in the first verse and then you’re not sure of the rest of the lyrics for most of the remainder of the song. You don’t care. All you want to do is dance hard, until your body is soaked with sweat and you’ve forgotten all the hate and danger in the world. I won’t bother passing judgment on whether this is Ms. Perry’s best song ever. This is a distraction. Forget the world and dance.
Britney Spears: Make Me
Pop diva Britney Spears is always good for a distraction or two, though it’s not always the music that’s distracting. This is a sexy, sultry, summer love song that brings the heat in a good way. In fact, for those so inclined, this might be worth adding to your love-making playlist. The slow tempo never varies, even when rapper G-Eazy jumps in (because, apparently, there’s a requirement in pop music now to feature a rap segment). Steady, sensual, Ms. Spears does an acceptable job of keeping your mind off terrorists and insane politicians for a few minutes.
India Arie: Breathe
This beautifully calm song from one of music’s most beautiful voices feels more like inspiration than it does a distraction. The song begins with soft acoustic guitar. The lyrics start: Sometimes you just can’t believe the things your eyes see so much, injustice in this life. It’s happening right on the TV screen.” The song hits close to home for every person of color and anyone sensitive to the realities of being non-white in the United States. The song reminds us that sometimes, many times, the first thing we have to do is stop and breathe. Throughout the song, Ms. Arie is surrounded by a beautiful group of people who join her on the chorus. The elderly lady sitting just left of India is especially wonderful to watch.
Whenever the next tragedy strikes, and I’ve no doubt there will be another far too soon, this is the song you want to play. Play it over and over until you get the message. We all need to breathe.
A Time For Everything
I know emotions are running high today. There is a desire on the part of many to express their feelings of anger and frustration. There is a time for protest, and perhaps this is that time. I firmly believe that there is also a need to step back, let go of the issues for a moment, and reassess our place in the world. Take a moment to be distracted by something beautiful, something fun, something happy. It is the only way any of us survive.