Yesterday I was walking around the San Telmo neighbourhood of Buenos Aires after dinner. Sundays are culturally significant as there is a flea market that takes place along the narrow calle Defensa, selling all manner of artisan and antique goods.
By this point it was late and the stalls had closed down and packed up. As I approached the intersection of this street, there was coming up the hill from my right a walking band of conga drummers, with a group of dancers freestyling in front of them. The sight and sound of these people totally absorbed in their ritual was captivating, and the drum beat mesmerising. Whatever I was thinking about at that moment must have popped right out of my head as I found myself standing there smiling and enjoying the experience. As the group of dancers and drummers shuffled up the hill, I quietly followed with the others who were watching. And then I moved towards the dancing group and started to dance too: at first, conservatively, and then more and more expressively until all semblance of self consciousness had burned off my soul, like early morning mist.
It was a truly wonderful experience, to be part of this. I didn’t know a single person there but all of us – young and old, black and white – were connected through the music, smiling and expressing love and joy in our own individual ways through dance. The beat of the drums, which at times became faster, was like the fabric that held our little society together.
When at last the drummers stopped, the energy of the group dispersed and we emerged from our trance. As I walked away, I was left feeling deeply nourished in my soul by something that I didn’t even know I needed until I came across it by accident.
I think that in so many ways modern Western so-called ‘developed’ consumerist society has lost the things most important to community and deeper human needs. But they are out there to discover, if only you take a bit of initiative. I’m very much looking forward to my next ‘surprise’.