Tuesday, 1 December 2015

For we are Living

“Does anybody know what we are living for?” Says Queen. “Does anybody know what we are looking for… Another hero, another mindless crime. Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking, but my smile still stays on.”  [From The Show Must Go On]

It has struck me recently that we have no idea what other people are thinking or feeling, what is really going on behind their smile. I believe this may be particularly true of people in the UK, though I imagine it is applicable for many other places too, and it is probably due to two things: we are bad at sharing our thoughts and our feelings, and possibly even worse at noticing, or caring, about those of others, at least until it is too late. Instead we seek an outlet for our thoughts, desires and emotions in often unhelpful places, which can lead to disastrous consequences.
Recently I saw a performance of We Will Rock You, the musical based on songs by Queen, updated slightly since its first release, and with a youthful twist (it was a school production). The musical is written as a comedy, and yet I couldn’t help being provoked by the themes of media frenzy and fitting in with the crowd, of immersing yourself in the internet and not looking at anyone beside you. These themes have been discussed in many mediums, and often in more serious ways than this play, but still this had an effect on me, reminding me what we all do too much, removing ourselves from the real world for the virtual.
Sometimes we realise that people do still live and breathe but mostly only when they stop living.
Having been reminded recently by news stories of how short life can be, the poignancy of the song No One But You, also known as Only The Good Die Young, was clearly felt by everyone in the theatre. (It may not technically be true, but who can say who is good and who is bad? That is a discussion best left for another time). Equally the song Who Wants To Live Forever struck me. We try to extend our lives, but why? Why do we want to live forever? Is it because we are afraid of what comes next, or that nothing comes next?
Under Pressure, a Queen classic, does remind me that there are things worth living for. The people on the street, families split in two, lifting the pressure that is on all of us. Pressure to perform, to conform, to survive, to do things because we should rather than because we need to, or because they’re good things to do. There is love, that ‘old-fashioned word’ which dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night (everyone), to stop being so consumed with your life that you notice someone else, that you listen to someone else and realise that they’re missing something and perhaps lead them to safety.

That may take courage, but as Ernest Hemingway said, "Courage is grace under pressure." It is a test of our ability to put others first, a good pressure to be under.
So, while the show must go on (and yes it must; we must not stop living and bringing life to others) it should go on for a good reason. It should go on because we want it to go on in others, because we don’t want them to stop going on. It must go on because there are great things to do and to believe in. We are all looking for another hero, a personal hero. May we find them, or they us, before it is too late.


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