I’ve Got Rhythm

I wrote to a new parent tonight: “We had a bit of a weird day, really. But it was good. Flying Squad is a lot about people learning how to be with one another (a skill I so wish the world would practice more of!) and so, a lot of the start of the year is me following the lead of the kids, letting them be ‘bored,’ make ‘wrong’ choices together, form strange bonds with one another just by surviving this city together. [Your child] got a full taste of that today!”

Friday Flying Squad has had a slow start to the year, both because we’re a new group and still adding new members as well as because of the climate strike last week, which threw a whole different rhythm into the start of the year. And that’s just what Flying Squad is– it is a rhythm. When you watch a bunch of jazz musicians improvising, you see so much happening at once. There’s an agreement of song and key and tempo as well as a whole tradition of what this song may have been before this band ever formed and played the tune. The rhythm section holds the beat while the soloist gives an expression, a unique performance, supported by the structure of the band and the art medium to support them.

With that analogy in mind, we’re still working out our song and rhythm section, which can at times be painful but is so necessary if we’re to improvise and be together. So much of life is an improvisation of being together. Why are we not practicing this more with young people? I do not know.

We started out the day discussing youth rights. I read them an article on constitutional rights that have been stripped from children in schools, as has been supported by the Supreme Court. Then I showed them copies of three handbooks on youth rights, The Little Red Schoolbook, The Teenage Liberation Handbook, and Stay Solid! A Radical Handbook for Youth. We chatted about what to do about it all, discussed making our own zine to disseminate, and then we all got fidgety and need to go out. We headed to a playground, played tag and sword fighting and talked on benches. Then we got bored.

The general consensus was that we all needed to go to a movie. The only one playing that we could make and be back in time for pick up was Abominable, playing down by South Street Seaport. As usual in my own deschooling mind, I felt guilty going and running to watch a mindless film. But as we walked out and there were jokes among the group and a general silliness and excitement about the film, I realized yet again that following the group, listening to the rhythm, is the right way to proceed. There was a laughter, a camaraderie after the film that was not there before it. We all lived through something together. There was a shared experience.

Our bass line is going, the ding of a cymbal can be heard in the background, a key has been chosen. Perhaps next week we’ll have a soloist.