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A one armed drummer?

The first CD I ever bought, with my own money, was Def Leppard’s 1992 album Adrenalize. I have fond memories of “taping” the cd onto a tape so I could listen to music on my Walkman, lying in my hostel bed, long after “lights out”. For those of you who don’t know, the drummer for the band is a guy called a Rick Allen. Rick plays bare feet and only has one arm, a rather unique situation for a drummer who played in one of the top rock bands in the world.

On the 31 December 1984 while speeding, Rick had a car accident. His seatbelt came loose and as Rick was thrown from the car, his left arm got tangled and was severed from his body. Lying in his hospital bed he started to tap out rhythms with his feet and 2 weeks after being discharged set about learning to play an electronic drum kit with his feet and right arm (which was also broken in the accident). He went on to become a rather unique drummer in the music world.

I’ve started with his story because I watched an interview with him the other night on YouTube that was shot in 2005. Obviously with the wisdom of hindsight and a man who is clearly self aware, I listened intensely to his story. In fact Candice and I watched it again the following night because I was so taken by the almost zen like quality that Rick told his story with.

He said that in 1984, the band had reached a level of fame, he had all the money he could have wished for, everything was easy yet he wasn’t sure he wanted to play the drums anymore. He had become ungrateful and the accident changed his life for the better in more ways than just the obvious. As I said, his story drew me in, but what I found so fascinating was how serene and non attached (no pun intended) he was in explaining how that event made his life better. Things he had taken for granted were put sharply into focus when he couldn’t do the things he used to be able to do, yet he found a way and was grateful for the opportunity to do so.

It took Rick losing an arm, to have his gestalt moment. A moment of realization that would change his life forever. It got me thinking that perhaps we are collectively having a gestalt moment with the craziness of the world right now. Things won’t be the same again and as I mentioned in my last piece, our lives are changed in so many ways. We probably can’t even comprehend right now just how much.

Even though uncertainty and fear of the future creates stress and anxiety for myself and others, I really am grateful for the opportunity to spend 3 weeks with my family. We’ve been finding our balance (sometimes easy and sometimes not) being together 24/7. Candice joked this morning that there must be emotional “stages of lockdown” we go through just like we would work through stages of grief😁. This is natural as we balance the energies and personalities in a confined space and all learn to play new roles.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to sit in the garden, with coffee, as a family in the morning, feeling the dew on my feet and the slight chill of Autumn on my skin. I listen to the unbiased, untainted (for now) stories and worldview of my kids and realize how I’ve forgotten to just feel joy at the most random things. The very act of being alive should be enough for me but society has taught me that accumulation and possession is the road to happiness. 3 weeks without society’s voice in my head allows me to see through the bullshit that’s been smeared in front of my eyes.

The world is quieter (I know because I live close to the highway and the Joburg “sea” isn’t as noisy as usual 😁). This quietness is good for me because I’m able to order my thoughts better. I’m less reactive and more conscious in my approach to most things and I’m aware that there really are things to be grateful for.

I said earlier that we probably aren’t even aware just how much our lives will be different in the coming months. We’ve lost a metaphorical arm. Things are slower, we’re adjusting to new ways. Better ways I feel. Ways that are more aligned with human values and closer to our true nature. What I do know is that we get to decide how we proceed from here. The dream is ours to create. I’ll leave you with the words of one of South Africa’s greatest story tellers Johnny Clegg.

”Spirit is the journey

Body is the bus

I am the driver

From dust to dust

Spirit is a story

Body is a book

I am the writer

Together we flow

We hold on, and when the story ends

We hold on, until it begins again

We hold on, we hold on...”

Chat soon

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