Georgia nights in the summer tend to be hot, humid and generally uncomfortable. This past Saturday was no different. It doesn’t take long standing outside before you start sweating, even if wearing a lightweight habit. Still, the oppressive Georgia weather wasn’t enough to keep me from enjoying a tremendous gift that Br. Addison offered me this past weekend.
Following our Order’s retreat, Br. Addison led two of his friends and me to a small neighborhood land trust tucked away in Atlanta. The land trust was nearby Little Five, already a fairly groovy place in our sprawled city. By 10:00 PM, we had arrived and managed to find parking a few blocks from the event. As we made our way down the street, I could hear the faint beginings of what would be the sirens’ call for the rest of the night. As we got closer, steady rythms got louder, and the beat of the drum circle that we were coming to enjoy started to seep inside me.
It had been almost nine years since last I went to a drum circle. I remembered how amazing it was then, and I wasn’t disappointed by this one either. There is a wonderfully instinctive, almost primal, connection found in a drum circle. As various people bring their own intruments (usually drums but tamburines, shakers, flutes and bells are common), a beat starts and each person adds their own beat to the music – like a mass of artists in front of a large canvas with each adding his or her own color to create the masterful painting.
The crowd was mixed with people coming from so many walks of life. There were children and adults, preppy college kids and gray haired hippies, dancers charged with vigor and laid back observers that were happy to just watch and listen. The blacklight lit peace sign hanging under an awning added a curious backdrop to the whole setting.
If in a city as large as Atlanta, a microcosm of acceptance can be found around a bonfire in the heart of a neighborhood community, why can’t that same community be built elsewhere? In religious life, this is what contemplatives are called to experience. A sufi twirling in their dance is no different than Br. Addison and I finding God in the beat of the drums as we danced about the fire with others, or an ecstatic Jew dancing about in their own form of dance circle.
We all bring our own instruments to this drum circle we call religious life. The key is to find our own beat, to find how it fits with others, and to enjoy the Divine music we make together.