By Tim Hayes
Back in the day, I and my fellow high school marching band members actually went away for a week to Band Camp – something one rarely, if ever, hears today.
Following the after-dinner on-field rehearsal of the main halftime show for that season, a bunch of us gathered on a grassy hillside, still holding our instruments. Mine was the tri-toms, a set of three drums played with mallets that required a brace and harness to hoist and carry them around while stomping all over a football field or parade route.
One of the trumpet players started fooling around, playing “When the Saints Come Marching In” on his horn. Other trumpeters joined in, along with a sax and clarinet or two, and me on those crazy drums. Before we knew it, we had a nice little impromptu New Orleans jam going, and the fun began.
For the next hour, we marched all over that camp, in and out of the girls’ dorm, the guys’ cabins, the mess hall, the chaperones’ bunks, playing that great old Dixieland song. Scores of other kids became part of the promenade, and if they didn’t have their instruments, they sang and clapped along.
It became such a vivid and treasured moment of pure joy, pure friendship, because it just happened with no planning or forethought. It was perfect.
We tried to do it again the following evening, plotting our route and seeing how many more musicians could play. But that second attempt fizzled within minutes. With no spark of spontaneity, the flame never blazed, and those saints went marching out.
When something happens that’s perfect as it is, just leave it in that pristine state. It can’t be improved with a second pass. You really can’t catch lighting in a bottle twice.
I wish more people would learn, or relearn, that lesson these days. Case in point: A new Harry Potter play will open in London next year. Author J.K. Rowling has called this stage production “the eighth book” in the Harry Potter story.
I’m left asking, why? Rowling’s original series of seven books embodies masterful storytelling. The saga of “The Boy Who Lived” had been brought to such a satisfying conclusion by the end of the final book, the last words of which read, “All was well.” It was perfect. So why rip the bindings from that incredible work of art, and artificially extend the story now? Why graft a scrawny branch onto a stately oak tree?
Second case in point: The travesty of “Go Set A Watchman,” the uneven, uninspired, completely unnecessary sequel to the Harper Lee classic novel, “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Again, why? Mockingbird has been universally acclaimed as an American masterpiece for more than a half-century. It was perfect. So why sully the image of its courageous and honorable hero, Atticus Finch, just to make a quick buck from the curiosity and nostalgia market?
And case in point number three: The new “Star Wars” film, set for release in December. The three “prequels” may be pretty awful, but the initial set of three movies that most people associate with Star Wars brought a sense of effervescent fun and adventure that had been sorely lacking in the cinema at the time. It was perfect. So why haul out all of the old (and much older) characters, shoehorn in a bunch of new ones, and insist that everyone in the movie house be as charmed and overcome with glee as they were the first time around?
Sometimes, it’s better just to leave things alone. If something’s perfect, it can’t be improved upon. I learned that life lesson one balmy late-August evening, with 20 pounds of drums strapped over my shoulders, and a magic moment that had passed, never to come around again. It was perfect.
Copyright 2015 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting