Life changing talks with a song and a poem to boot

Used discerningly YouTube, the video-sharing website founded in 2005, is a truly incredible reservoir of stockpiled knowledge no more than a click away. The vital thing is discerningly for like many things in the online world this too can become quickly addictive. It is not difficult to stray in this electronically fuelled atmosphere, particularly with such a visual and captivating medium as film. It can become overwhelmingly seductive. Otherwise it is indeed a marvellous place to visit. And so what we hear about “the good and bad sides of YouTube” is without doubt true.

Elsewhere I have shared some favourite pieces of music. Here I would like to share a sample of life changing talks I will turn to. I will visit these downloads when I need an additional reminder that tomorrow is another day where new and exceptional things can happen. That even the next hour is full of great possibilities and salvation from despair. I am sure you will find some of these very special YouTube talks helpful if not for yourselves, then at least for someone near and dear to you. These profound presentations touch on various dimensions of life and the shared wisdom of the presenters can benefit us even if this might only mean becoming a little more compassionate and understanding ourselves. The presentations below have at least some very significant things in common: (i) The speakers have themselves experienced the deepest aspects of the journey which they describe and [like all “wounded healers”] have experienced the ‘wound’ themselves, (ii) they are not asking for your money or selling you a ‘secret’, (iii) self-realization and affirmative behaviour begin with a brutal self-assessment of why we find ourselves engaging in destructive behaviour; (iv) once the problem which is hurting us is realized there is set into action a hard-nosed plan and a fierce determination to see the resolution for change through.

These points are summarised best perhaps by the physician and addiction expert, the Hungarian-born Canadian Gabor Maté: “Something else is possible and you are worth that possibility.” Muniba Mazari, the inspirational Pakistani artist and motivational speaker, tells us how that possibility might be entered into: “Behind every inspirational picture there is an untold story of constant pain, persistent effort, and determination.” We do not have to agree with everything we hear in these talks, and in some places we might noticeably diverge, but there is too much truth and loads of sweet honey here to at least not stop for a while and to consider both the implications and the possibilities.[1]

 

[1] In all these testimonies we will find in the words of Jerry Long, a logotherapist in the tradition of Frankl and someone who had his own great challenges to overcome, “the defiant power of the human spirit” (Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl, Simon & Schuster: New York, 1984, p. 171).

And a song and a poem, Leonard Cohen, Constantine P. Cavafy

Lucio Dalla’s Caruso

Qui dove il mare luccica e dove tira forte il vento Su una vecchia terrazza davanti al golfo di Sorriento…
Here, where the seas shines, and the wind howls, on the old terrace beside the gulf of Sorrento…

On an afternoon in the summer of 1986 the Italian singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla (1943-2012) wrote what was to become one of the most beautiful and heartrending songs of recent times. It has been covered by an impressive number of the world’s finest singers on a diverse range of stages and in different tones. The song is the unforgettable Caruso.[1] The story behind its inspiration was revealed by Dalla himself in an interview he gave to an Italian newspaper. He relates a story told to him by the owners of a hotel in Sorrento where Dalla lodged for some nights.[2] It was the hotel where the great Italian tenor Enrico Caruso himself had stayed shortly before his death from peritonitis in 1921. He was aged 48. At the time he was suffering from pleurisy and empyema and was in awful pain. The celebrated Caruso was giving singing lessons to a young girl with whom he would become infatuated. Lucio Dalla stayed in the same room, the “Caruso suite”. It was this impromptu story, of an impossible love emanating from a dying man who looks into the eyes of a beautiful girl in full bloom, which inspired the singer-songwriter and registered the song into our imagination.[3]

E’ una catena ormai Che scioglie il sangue dint’e vene sai…
It is a chain by now that heats the blood inside the veins, you know…

I first heard Caruso from Pavarotti and Bocelli. It resonated deeply from the start for its mesmerizing melody and elegiac lyrics. Even so, it was only when I was older that it struck me for all of its other implications. This happened when I unearthed the breath-taking Lara Fabian who gives perhaps the most impressionable of all the performances. Mercedes Sossa, the legendary Argentine singer known as “La Negra”, is probably the most soulful. I listen to the song often. It transports me to different destinations. Not only as I grow older and consider the decay and ruin of my own flesh, but particularly when I reflect on the relationship I have with my wife and on the miraculous circumstances which brought us together.

Ti volti e vedi la tua vita come la scia di un’elica…
You turn and see your life through the white wash astern…

The English philosopher Roger Scruton who specializes in aesthetics (the study of beauty and taste) has recently published a marvellously engaging and intelligent piece on the BBC’s A Point of View where he considers what it is that makes for great music.[4] One of his key contentions is that good music is “a language shaped by our deepest feelings” and not “put together on a computer from a repertoire of standard effects”. Dalla’s delicate song in the celebrated tradition of the canzone Napoletana does sit comfortably in the first category.