Friday, March 26, 2010

Sometimes, there is beauty in pain

Thank you, man on the train.

Today something happened that was at once completely ordinary and yet also remarkable. Maybe it had something to do with the time of day, the time of the year, what the various observers are going through in their lives. Or maybe it was the song.

In NYC, several times a week while sitting on the train, buskers will come on the train - they are the people who play music and sing songs for money. After living here for a while one becomes so used to this activity that it barely registers.

Today after I watched the Hijabi Monologues at NYU and hung out with my soul friend Komal, who I hadn't seen at all this month so far, I got on the train and in Brooklyn, a man with a guitar got on the train.

As usual I continued to read my book, but then he started playing. And he played the Nirvana version of "The Man Who Sold the World." And he was really good. And he sang the song, and we could actually hear his voice loud and clear, as he had some sort of speaker device attached to him. The projection of his voice definitely got our attention.

Almost everyone was watching and listening to him, people from all sorts of backgrounds. This guy had something. He looked fairly disheveled; he was probably some sort of traveller. But clearly he had enough to afford a guitar, harmonica, and the curious speaker system that he had. But still, he grabbed our attention.

It was definitely an odd moment in time, all of us watching and listening to this man, singing this song, that is such a sad song, which was sung by a very sad man, Kurt Cobain. Again, maybe it was the time of the day, when its late and everyone just wants to go home and is tired and tired of thinking, maybe it was the time of year, an odd time when the weather is transitioning, maybe it was the things folks are going through in their lives - a combination of all those things and more that made that moment stand out for us.

I overheard two men sitting near me, remark that Stevie Wonder started out also playing music on the train. They appreciated what the guy was doing.

When the man was finished, instead of just the usual one or two people giving a busker some change, loads of folks pulled out dollar bills for him and thanked him. It was a sign of appreciation, for the moment that he had given us. Maybe we all needed it, for different reasons. It was meant to happen.

It was another example of how powerful and revolutionary music can be.