Tag Archives: building community

Chorus of Complaints

Things feel kind of heavy again, and I need to lighten up. I really don’t enjoy learning about some of the awful things going on in the country (or world), but I feel compelled to fight for the world that I want, so…the struggle continues. Part of being American is being able to relate to our fellow Americans – regardless of political bent; if we can’t do that, the Union is lost. This is why kids and animals are the great uniters, we all love ’em -this (adorable Christmas-y hedgehog is no exception). When we take a time out for a smile and a laugh, and share it with someone, we are building community. We are celebrating being human. Corporations don’t have a sense of humor, neither does policy, there are even some humans that seem to have lost their humor response. Many times our workplaces discourage such joviality (though we find a way to squeeze it in somehow). The truth is that we cannot function without taking breaks and doing some “human” stuff – we are not robots. We are a more productive society when we are allowed to be human and given the opportunity to be in community.

One of my most favorite youtube videos is the Helsinki Complaints Chorus – it moves me.This piece of music and the chorus embody community spirit. They are obviously orchestrated and well practiced – which shows an ability to cooperate, and they give voice to dozens of complaints from their fellow citizens. They speak for others as they speak for themselves because… well, there are a lot of things to complain about. Even though complaining is a drag, when you realize that you share a complaint with a few others, or a few thousand others – for some reason it makes you smile and get active. Maybe it’s just kind of fun to have a “bitch session” and have an airing of grievances – we need to be heard and able to express ourselves, but the other smile inducing aspect is in knowing that we are not alone in our struggles. Even our first world struggles like annoying cell phone features.

The Helsinki Complaints Chorus

Community performances like this are progressive in nature – the performances are in common areas free of charge. The words reach out to everyone with relatable lyrics. There is no condemnation, no convincing, no division, no agenda other than a tongue in cheek co-miseration. By the end of it all, it feels good. Along the way there are some real world problems that frustrate and exhaust so many of us, but even hearing them voiced by others lets us know that we are not alone. It is doubtful that any or much money was made on this project even though it certainly was productive – aside from bringing a smile (or tear) to its audiences in Finland, it has gotten nearly a million views from youtuve viewers at large (I can’t be more than a dozen of those). Productivity cannot always be measured in dollars; sometimes it is measured by the impact of connecting to other humans.

I’ve often fantasized about doing a complaints chorus project of my own, I’m so interested in democracy, I want to know what others struggle with. I want to share their struggle, empathize with them, and offer some understanding. If I had more musical ability, I might actually try. I might also want to add a response to the complaint chorus, one that celebrates the joys we can all share. Like this project in Helsinki, I imagine a big box in a public place, collecting the complaints and joys then turning them into a beautiful project of musical and visual art. If you could share a complain or joy today, what would it be?

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