I don’t need an opera

July 23, 2014 § 2 Comments

If you follow me on social media, you’ll know I am the self-appointed chief groupie of Lionel Bastos, musician, singer, producer and songwriter extraordinaire. And one of the reasons I love Lionel’s music so much, is his soulful lyric-writing. He doesn’t write about shaking your ass down at the club, yo. Instead his lyrics often tell a story, make you swoon at their romance, elicit a belly laugh, or even make you cry. They are that beautiful, that well-crafted.

A recent discovery for me is one of his older songs, Simple, off his award-winning album of the same name. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked it (sorry, Lionel) but it has grown on me, I’m pleased to report. It’s a song about writing a song for someone else, someone who likes to keep things… you guessed it… simple! The recipient asks the writer “Where’s my song?”, followed by these words, which have gone round and round in my head since I heard them:

“I don’t want a symphony/I don’t need any wise quotes/You don’t need more than five notes/I don’t want an opera”

I think those words have resonated with me because over the last while I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about stuff, about how much the world revolves around us accumulating stuff, and how little stuff we really need. And somehow, as I’ve hummed along to Lionel’s song in my car, somehow those words have changed in my head to: “I don’t need an opera.”

And I don’t. I really don’t. Increasingly, the things that are more important to me are the intangibles like laughter, fun, creativity, thoughtfulness, kindness and love. More and more I value a hug, a good sleep, an out-of-the-blue phone call from a friend. Because the rest of it is all just stuff, or as the Afrikaans language puts it, “wêreldse goed” [worldly/earthly things].

In the western world in particular, our stuff is consuming us. We live as if the things we own define us. We hoard and accumulate and acquire at an alarming rate. We’ve forgotten how to share, how to re-use, how to re-purpose. We just throw things away and buy new ones. And in the process, somewhere along the way we threw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater and forgot how to be human.

And that’s why children are being killed and maimed in Gaza, why our rubbish is throttling the seas and the skies above us, why so many are dying of starvation.

Because for the ‘haves’ it’s all about getting, not giving, and they don’t care who or what is destroyed in the process. As long as they have their stuff, the rest of the world can go to hell.




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