Sunday 14 December 2014

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music

A rolled down car window open to the elements on a cold autumnal evening might not be the first place one thinks of when it comes to finding a common bond with our fellow humans. But that was exactly what happened a few weeks ago as I was cycling home from work. For a fleeting instant and for less than twenty yards, a car and my bike found themselves almost side to side. Just as the vehicle was about to turn left, through the rolled down window I caught the notes of a melody I had not heard for many years...

“... my lips search for your lips/and I’m hungry for your touch/there’s so much left unspoken...

... and I’m falling apart all around you/and all I can do is surrender... I automatically finished the rest of the verse in my head as I cycled on.

Queen’s One Year of Love was the third track on their highly successful album A Kind of Magic from 1986 (it was also part of the soundtrack of the movie Highlander). Perhaps less known than the record’s standout hits One Vision, Friends Will Be Friends and the title track, it is still a beautiful song in its own right. It is also a cheesy melody. Even I, long-time Queen fan (as in real Queen fan, album tracks Queen fan as opposed to Greatest Hits Queen fan), have to admit that One Year of Love has “cheesy” written all over its schmaltzy face. But I never cared before and I still don’t. And on this chilly November evening I cared even less. The serendipitous combination of car and bike pulling up together at the junction, turning to the same side and the open window through which the lines “...and no one ever told me that love would hurt so much/and pain is so close to pleasure...” wafted into the cold early evening air made me believe that here was another human being connecting with me somehow on a deep musical level. It is not that I was surprised that someone was listening to Queen, it is simply that not many people would listen to this particular track at all. Most of the music that blares out of car stereos, flats and shops in my little patch in London, falls under two categories: chart/hip hop music or non-Anglo-Saxon tunes. The latter are usually Turkish, Kurdish, Somali, Hindu, Greek and in recent years Eastern European songs. Occasionally some reggae joins the chart/hip hop duopoly, played mainly by the guy who runs the bike shop just down the road.

An open car window, a handshake of the soul
I couldn’t see if the driver of the car next to me was a man or a woman, what s/he looked like or even what type of motor s/he was driving. The one, single element that stayed with me was this song that united us both for a few precious seconds. When people ask me what makes me a humanist I point at examples like this one. They might be seen as simple, but in their simplicity lies a more complex understanding of the ties that bind us, humans, together. A few days after my musical experience I came across a column by the priest-in-charge at St Mary’s Newington church, Giles Fraser, on humanism. I like Giles’ writing and I tend to agree with a lot of what he says but on this occasion I thought he was slightly wide of the mark. He cast doubts on humanism’s ability to value irrational beings in the same way as rational ones. I do not think that his comments were fair on humanism or humanists. To me humanism seeks to establish a common identity amongst all those who inhabit this planet, rational or irrational. Of course, we, humans, can make sense of this/these identity marker(s) consciously whilst cats cannot, or willows for that matter. That does not mean we think less of then; it only means we see them in a different light, but we still value their contribution to our world.

It is strange what a rolled down car window open to the elements on a cold autumnal evening can do to one’s intellect. But combine that with an unexpected song and you have yet another reason to believe that we have more traits in common as humans than some might think. Let’s have a toast to that, shall we?

This is my last post before I disappear for a month as I always do at this time of the year. It has been a very good twelve months during which I have listened to some fantastic music, read some great books and watched some very interesting and thought-provoking movies. Of course, I have also visited many good blogs on which I have seen some breath-taking photos, read some amazing poetry and well-crafted, entertaining posts. One of the reasons why I continue to blog after seven and a half years is that I feel part of a big family, an accepting family that keeps growing and getting stronger. Thank you all for your continuous feedback and support. And thank you for existing, too.

© 2014

Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 11th January at 10am (GMT)


  1. I'm surprised you heard this from a passing car, that would be a nice change since most car drivers (at least) where I live play awful music.

    And I thought I knew all of Queen's music! Just listened to One Vision... fabulous. There was a time when I couldn't get enough of Queen and Freddy's death was hard to believe. I could never forget him for another reason - my son was the image of him.

    Hope you have a wonderful Christmas break.

  2. Pues en general cuando oigo la música de otro coche siempre me parece horrible, por lo menos tu la pudiste disfrutar.
    Buenas vacaciones con buenas lecturas y música y de nuevo por ese mundillo que tanto apreciamos.
    Un feliz domingo.

  3. I suppose there are many traits within us all. Most songs I hear from other cars just make me wonder how they have any ear drums left

  4. I echo Valerie's comment. I would like to wish you a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year filled with love, peace and joy.

  5. May your holiday be joyous.

  6. Oh we have so much more in common than all th sillinesses that divide us.

    You probably weren't in Chippenham, many years ago, as two women rolled down the car windows and sang 'I wanna break free' at the tops of their voices. And yes, we did ...

  7. Those fleeting connections anchor me.
    I hope your Christmas (and your year and life) are filled with love and laughter.

  8. It is not quite the same, but I had an experience last week of being in a public place far away from home and overhearing the name spoken of still another city once familiar to me. Being the brazen sort, I approached the individual and asked him if he lived in that once-familiar city. He did, and we spent the next forty or so minutes talking about it and about people who live there. We actually knew several of the same people, although he had not moved to this city until seven years after I had moved from it. We parted by exchanging telephone numbers and invitations to stop by for more conversation should either of us find ourselves on the other's home turf.

    Much of life revolves around random encounters, our emotional reactions to them and how we handle them. I may have made a friend and, for sure, I did not make an enemy.

    Your post is food for thought, to echo a truism in cliché form, and a reminder that we are only strangers until we meet. I wish you an enjoyable and a restful holiday break, CiL .... see you later ....

  9. here´s to unexpected musical expereince.....SKÅL! (cheers in swedish :) )

  10. Those kind of coincidences are always heartwarming. Enjoy your blogging break

  11. Such a true sentiment. I think sometimes we are so wrapped up in being individuals that we forget to celebrate our similarities.

  12. Oh yes...I will definitely raise my glass to that!
    Music, more so in my opinion than some other forms of art, does appear to have the ability to connect us on a deep level. I find it can arouse just about every emotion known to mankind - and probably some unfathomable ones too!

    And I have to say, Queen's "A Kind of Magic" is one of my all - time favourites...:)

  13. Sorry!
    Also meant to say,

    Have a wonderful break...and see you in the New Year! :)

  14. I would have never guessed that such an emotional love ballad was by Queen. Thanks for sharing that special moment. What language were they speaking at the start of the video?

    Have a wonderful holiday break with your offline family. I'm grateful to have you as part of my online family.

  15. This is such a beautiful and poignant post. Thanks for sharing :)

  16. one vision was from a sound track as well wasnt it? Iron Eagle....i had to look it up real quick...i knew i knew it from somewhere....

    what a cool connection too with teh other driver eh? ha.

  17. Gotta love those moments.. those connections. The driver may never know what you felt.. or perhaps they did.

    Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season.

  18. I like how you weave this experience in to your worldview and then make a statement about how we are connected.

    I am pondering what you said about humanism--a word that seems to have been overly "politicized" lately.

  19. Wherever it is you are about to/have disappeared to I hope it is a place to your liking and that the music is such that it opens your mind and allows you to ask many questions. Whether you find the answers is another matter.

    Have a peaceful holiday.

    (It’s just been announced on the TV news that the US and Cuba are going to bury the hatchet (not in each other), so here’s to new beginnings.

  20. What a wonderful, superb scene you're describing here... Plus, I love Queen and I love Highlander...

    Have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

  21. Hi Cubano--I have to say I don't know much about Queen except the fame. But you are right that rolling down windows is powerful. I am very curious about your reaction to news in the U.S. K. (Manicddaily)

  22. VERY deep. When I hear something like that, I just think, "Dude, roll up your window. We don't want to hear your music!"

  23. Y escuchar Queen representa tener excelentes gustos, saludos amigo.

  24. yeah - let's have a toast.. cheers to those little but so important connection along the way... things like that often make my day..

  25. Music is a powerful unifier! (and the food of love... ;-))

  26. A stranger is merely a friend we haven't yet had the chance to meet. Your fleeting sense of connection over a snippet of music you heard playing in that car is a beautiful thing, I sometimes lament how many people we pass on the street day after day, each of us insulated inside of our own vehicles, sharing the road in a parallel existence, but not making eye contact or sharing ourselves. Any opportunity we have to connect with another human being is a good one, and not to be wasted.

  27. Cubano,

    You're full of surprises. I wouldn't have had you down as a Queen fan! Freddie did have arguably the best rock voice, I must admit. Very soulful in its own way.

    I don't believe so much in coincidences.I think most things happen for a reason, even some of the seemingly trivial things, although we might not immediately (if ever) know that reason. I also agree with some of the other posts about the transcendence of music. Although tastes might vary I believe it's a truly universal medium.

    In situations like the one you describe in the post, especially since you didn't actually interact with the person in the car, I think it's less to do with the personal connection. Instead I like to believe it's a little wink from God; a reminder that He knows us intimately; our tastes, pleasures, pain, strengths, weaknesses...He knows that we exist. The individual matters to Him. I appreciate you and others here might not share my belief in the Divine but I would call some occurrences 'God-incidences' to borrow an expression from a friend.

    I remember years ago I was listening to producer/singer/songwriter Tommy Sims' great 2000 album 'Peace & Love'. It was around winter 2005. He's worked a lot with Babyface and has a similar (albeit more polished) vocal. The album put me in mind of the Grammy-winning song 'Change the World' which Babyface, wrote with Eric Clapton and as I was to find out later Tommy himself. After immersing myself in 'Peace and Love' I had a hankering to hear 'Change the World'. That same day I was coming up the escalators from the Jubilee line at Canary Wharf station. Lo and behold a soulful busker, guitar in tow, was singing 'Change the World' near the entrance. Coincidence? Could be. However, in hopes this doesn't sound narcissistic, I like to believe it was a little cosmic gift. 'Before you ask, I will answer..'

    Wishing you and all your readers a Christmas full of peace and joy and may 2015 bring plenty of those cosmic reminders your way. I'm off to listen to 'Change the World' again...

    Shalom x

  28. PS. I just read the Giles Fraser article. I think his point about rational vs irrational was in reference to humans who are supposedly more rational than others not being of superior moral value. I don't believe it was a general comment about humans vs other sentient beings who do not have the capacity to make moral judgments such as the cats in your example. This might not alter your original point but thought I'd mention it anyway :-). Feliz navidad.

    Shalom x

  29. Thank you for your lovely comments. I am enjoying my blog-break and shall return in the New Year with my reflections on the recent news of the thawing of relations between the US and Cuba. Plenty food for thought there.

    Greetings from London.

  30. Looking forward to your comeback in a month. Enjoy your long break! Thanks for being a part of my 2014!

  31. Seasons greetings from across the pond - looking forward to your essays in 2015. Always original, thoughtful and interesting!

  32. Hello, I checked for the meaning of Humanism and this is one of the meanings I got.

    Humanism is a philosophy of life that considers the welfare of humankind - rather than the welfare of a supposed God or gods - to be of paramount importance. Humanism maintains there is no evidence a supernatural power ever needed or wanted anything from people, ever communicated to them, or ever interfered with the laws of nature to assist or harm anyone. Humanism's focus, then, is on using human efforts to meet human needs and wants in this world. History shows that those efforts are most effective when they involve both compassion and the scientific method - which includes reliance on reason, evidence, and free inquiry. Humanism says people can find purpose in life and maximize their long-term happiness by developing their talents and using those talents for the service of humanity. Humanists believe that this approach to life is more productive and leads to a deeper and longer-lasting satisfaction than a hedonistic pursuit of material or sensual pleasures that soon fade. While service to others is a major focus of Humanism, recreation and relaxation are not ignored, for these too are necessary for long-term health and happiness. The key is moderation in all things. Humanism considers the universe to be the result of an extremely long and complex evolution under immutable laws of nature. Humanists view this natural world as wondrous and precious, and as offering limitless opportunities for exploration, fascination, creativity, companionship, and joy. Because science cannot now and probably never will be able to explain the ultimate origin or destiny of the universe, I think Humanism can include more than atheists and agnostics. The lack of definite answers to these ultimate questions leaves room for reasonable people to hypothesize about the origin of the natural universe, and even to hope for some form of life beyond this one. In fact, two of Humanism's greatest luminaries, Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll, maintained a hope for an afterlife. On the issue of whether God exists, Ingersoll was agnostic, and Paine believed in a deistic God who established the laws of nature but then stepped away and never intervenes in the world. Those beliefs did not interfere with their ability to lead outstanding humanistic lives. Thus, in my opinion, people holding such views can be Humanists if they believe that humanity is on its own in this world, and the lack of any evidence for an afterlife means this life should be lived as though it's the only one we have. • Joseph C. Sommer

    This definition is somewhat similar to Buddist philosophy. We should be good human beings in this world and not worry what happens after we die.
    However, Christianity and Islam goes one step further. These two religions talk of next life. If we are good we will live with God in eternal happiness and if we are bad we will be punished. As you can see the vast majority of human beings in this world follow these two religions because we want to believe that we will not perish after death but will have an everlasting life after death.

    Best wishes. Happy New Year.

  33. I so enjoyed this post!
    Cheers to good music that is such a great connection.

    Happy New Year!

  34. I'm a Christian, and I thoroughly enjoy reading about other perspectives on life and faith, especially yours. You are gifted with a wonderful imagination and profound wisdom. I pray that you have a safe and happy New Year and many more years of writing fascinating blog posts!

  35. We all connect on a universal level. Prospero Ano to you and your family!

  36. "Un Cubano En Londres" has been included in our A Sunday Drive for this week. Be assured that we hope this helps to point even more new visitors in your direction.

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