What's your thang?

May 31, 2014

It's the last day of May, and it feels like summer is here. It's also the first weekend off I've had in a scary long time, so my husband and I took a leisurely midday stroll with no destination in mind, and  wound up entering the local medieval fair.

 

It was my first time at one of these, so I didn't know what to expect. There were the mainstays of fairs of all kinds - face painting for the kids, funnel cakes and knick knacks for sale. But there were also several rings cordoned off for combat. People demonstrated their skill with swords, catapults (!) and even clocked each other on the head with what looked like big bass drum mallets. And all of this while in costume.

 

The highlight was the jousting, which happened in the rodeo arena. Men and women in lots of shiny steel and chainmail practiced one-on-one fighting that was a bizarre version of professional wrestling with knives and spears, and then riders raced horses at full tilt directly toward each other while carrying huge lances. Finally then I caught a little of the majesty of the experience. 

 

I looked around at the crowd, which was yelling "huzzah!" and eating giant turkey legs, and thought about what odd sub-cultures exist and thrive in the world. These folks travel with their weaponry and costumes to one little town after the next, because they love what they do, and they are completely committed while they're doing it.

 

My sub-culture seems equally odd to me at times. I play an instrument that surged in popularity centuries ago, and I teach children this antiquated tradition of music. I play concerts of music that is segregated to a very narrow bandwidth on the radio dial, and I feel utterly committed to that music, despite the small segment of the population who consider it relevant to their modern lives. I reinterpret pieces that have been played thousands or even millions of times, but I still can't get enough of them. In some way, I am resuscitating an old art, retelling its stories, but it always feels like it's actually the other way around. Every time I play this old violin, it breathes life into me.

 

We all have our joyous obsessions, our ways of honing skill and passion in order to craft our daily existence into something meaningful. What's yours?

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