Drummer Boy


The book “Blue like Jazz” by Donald Miller begins with this author’s note:

“I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. But I was outside Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes. After that I liked jazz music. Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way. I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened.”

This post isn’t about God, this is about the part that I put in bold and that I’ll copy paste again for additional emphasis: Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.

I guess the quote doesn’t directly relate to the point I want to make, but 1) I love that quote, 2) It’s a good segway to this:

The other day I was riding the “safa” tempo (tuk tuk) which is never clean as its name advertises, and in my mindless, destination-less thinking my peripheral caught the twitching of a hand.  My psychology studied brain recognized it as the withdrawal jitters of a junkie and I (perhaps not so subtly) turned my head to get a better look at him.

The fellow had peach fuzz scattered across his face, he wore one of those winter caps with the ear flaps, but the flaps were loosely tied behind his head and were the wings down, I might not have noticed the slight curl to his semi-long hair that peeked out.  His sweater, navy, looked oddly indie, and if I see if in a store I might buy it for myself. His pants showed more of Kathmandu’s dirt than mine did, and I don’t recall the footwear with certainty but in my mental image of him, he’s wearing converse. Scuffed, ratty, and somewhere between brown and black.

He tilted his head back and although his eyelids were shut, I could feel his eyeballs rolling back into his head and for some reason I felt a flash of him having an overdosed, unknown-drug induced seizure. I know CPR. I think. I learned it, in 7th grade.

My quick split-second scan of him gave me enough “proof” that he was, indeed, a junkie.  But I had missed one thing. In my judgmental scan down, I hadn’t taken notice of the wires that hung from either side of his head and somehow I had missed the ipod that he had cradled in the light but firm hold of his left hand.

His right hand had paused and around the time my brain registered that he was lost in his world of music, his hand began to twitch again, but it wasn’t his body announcing a need for toxic substance.  In fact, the whole time, eyes closed, lost in the world of rhythmical beats, the young not-junkie had been keeping time.

Clueless to the happenings beyond his closed eyes and music filled ears, I felt free to watch him.  I watched as, soundlessly, he played the drumbeat for me. I followed his wrist to the tip of his phalanges, his fingers pinched together as if holding out a diamond ring to the girl of his dreams. I watched as his head lolled back and I could see him trying to contain the energy that the music was giving him.

I loved watching.

I loved seeing how he was carefree.

I loved knowing that he loves the drums without knowing anything about him.

I guess the quote, “Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way,” still makes me smile and think, but I think what makes me smile just as much (if not more) is seeing someone do something they love.

Watching him, my understanding of drums did not grow any, my ears certainly can’t decipher  beats any better, and I definitely haven’t developed any skills or desire to bang a drum. But for a brief few minutes, seeing into a stranger, past his closed eyes and beyond his ignorance of my existence, I was guest to an intimate part of him….and that’s just cool.

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2 comments
  1. sam said:

    i felt the same way when i watched susan boyle’s video, at the time of her first appearance in Britain’s got talent. it was so nice. it’s good to know some other people also feel the way i do. as i watching the video, i feel something from the bottom of my heart is awakening and i felt happy to be alive to watch her singing the song “i dreamed a dream…” it was so mesmerising i didn’t feel that suddenly tears started to rol down my eyes….
    anyway this article helped me remember the moment …
    thank yo

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