This week, I came across an intriguing suggestion in a book by the Buddhist teacher Ken McLeod:
“How do you practice generosity? Once a day, give something you own to someone else. You may give a paperclip or a flower, but the object has to be physical and it has to be yours. It may be expensive or inconsequential. It may be old or new. But it has to be yours.”
This struck a nerve. For the last week, I’ve been recovering from a virus. I’ve had little voice, and almost no energy or desire to sing. At times it’s felt like I really lost the thread. This happens to us. We feel a natural ebbing of our own personal desire or ability — and hurtle into questioning the whole enterprise.
One way to find perspective again: Sing to give. Let the act of giving fill you up again. So here’s your prompt this week: Sing a song for someone else. Go ahead — give it away.
Option A: Keep it simple. Choose a person who you like, perhaps someone who’s far away, who you wouldn’t otherwise communicate with today. Don’t sweat this too much; choosing the right person doesn’t matter nearly as much as the act of giving. Keeping them in mind, sing for a couple minutes. Words, melodies, rhythms—whatever. After you upload, send them the recording, too. It’s that easy.
Option B: Embrace the complex. The act of giving is rarely simple. Often it can provoke strong emotional responses in both giver and receiver. In his book, Ken McLeod lists some of the possibilities: “…hope of reciprocation, pride, wanting to be seen as generous, desire for control, expectation of thanks, sadness, joy in the giving, relief, loneliness, attachment to the gift, irritation with the exercise, etc.” As you set out to give your voice, pay attention to some of these hidden dimensions of generosity. And let them into your song.
The steps are as follows:
- Step 0: Sign up for a free SoundCloud account here. Join the SSS group.
- Step 1: Record yourself singing to give.
- Step 2: Upload to SoundCloud and post the track to the SSS group, and send to your receiever.
- Step 3: Listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow singers.
Deadline: Your tracks should be uploaded by midnight wherever you are on Tuesday, May 17, 2016.
Length: The length of your finished work should be about the time it takes to give away a flower.
Description: It would be awesome to include a short description of where and when you sang your piece.
Title/Tag: When uploading to SoundCloud, put “[sss-give]” in the title of your track. Also include the term “sss-give” as a tag. This will help us find it.
Group: Once the track is uploaded, click on the “Add to group” button below the waveform and make sure to select the Society for Spontaneous Singing group. (This option will only appear if you have already joined the group! So do that now.)
Linking: You are welcome to include this info in your description:
This track is a reply to “SSS Prompt 68: Give it away.” More on the Society for Spontaneous Singing at http://singthis.org .
Thank you, sweet singers!
Jascha & Amado