Friday, 20 May 2011

Simple gifts

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,

'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find oursleves in the place just right,

'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd,

To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come round right.


I received a simple gift last night - a family friend emailed me the link to a recently uploaded recording of my father. It's the second now in a couple of months and I listened to it as I went to bed.

It is hard to describe the absolute joy that I experience upon finding and sharing these recordings. It is the most extraordinary gift to hear a voice that was an every day overture to my entire childhood, defining what I saw, where I went, who I met, framing the realisation of how incredibly lucky I was, how incredibly lucky I am still. As a performer's child I am not alone in feeling this - it is almost as though I have siblings amongst complete strangers. 

There's nothing new in recommending YouTube or any other video sharing platform for that matter as a great communications tool. Yet often in the wave of enthusiasm for new features and technology we forget the simple gifts that increased connectivity brings, the human story of memories and affections, which mean so very much.

Technology is at its finest when it allows us to escape the narrow confines of daily life, but true reach is neither return on investment nor measurable output, so much as the capacity to create and innovate in new ways through the people we connect to. How many events, projects and start-ups have come about through people sharing ideas? How much faster, broader and more creatively can we do this online?

Creativity and innovation are our lifeblood and in communications technology in particular, there is a new kind of social mobility, in which potential is infinite. How sad therefore to see some of the finest architects of our age attempting to own human nature by patenting behaviour that has existed since time began. In a world strapped for resources we should be exploring opportunities, not shutting them down.

I could, if I wished, take royalties when people play Dad's recordings. Yet it is only through the digital platforms which increase Dad's audience that I experience the sensation of his living still. Comments and feedback are not possible when I play the recordings left to me. There is no spontaneity or element of surprise, no serendipity that an e-mail should arrive just as I am ready to sleep, creating my own perfect lullaby.

It is an insidious variation of poverty and oppression, when we are forced into paying for things that come naturally to us. There is nothing clever in screwing every penny out of ordinary activities and needs that people need to survive. If your idea has reached or passed its prime, move on, accept it and for goodness sake, make room for others.

Great wealth should be the outcome of rare talent, not some sordid little deal to stake your claim. You may not own my father, my childhood or dreams and any attempt to do so is nothing more than rape, robbing our world of its capacity to self-sustain. I will not be a slave to your debt-ridden connivance and the inheritance I leave will be to crush it. Rest assured that I am not alone. We, the people, are many.


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