Wednesday 11 December 2019

Brendan O'Connor: Thank you to the boy on the bus

DJ Shadow - Endtroducing
DJ Shadow - Endtroducing
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

I was experiencing a kind of exhilaration, blaring the new DJ Shadow album in the car. DJ Shadow produced some seminal early work but had been patchier in recent years. However, his new album is a worthy follow-up to his classic Endtroducing… and all he had to do was regress 33 years creatively to please us all.

I'm loving it. And it's making up for the disappointment of Kanye West's recent religious album, which I had expected to be a genius twist on a religious album but was actually just a really bad religious album.

One of the great things about the DJ Shadow album Our Pathetic Times is that I wasn't aware it was coming. I had vaguely known there was an album at some stage, and then I woke up on a Friday morning, looked at Spotify, and there it was, this wonderful gift, on my phone. I didn't have to go anywhere to buy it. I could listen to it straightaway, in the car, or walking to work, with little earbuds that don't even have a wire. Isn't technology amazing? We should be so grateful for so many aspects of it.

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So it was a crisp sunny day, and I was blaring DJ Shadow in the car, with no one there to tell me to turn it down. I was thinking how thankful I was for this unexpected joy. And then, stopped at the lights, I saw a bus with a giant ad on the side of it. It was a Christmas ad from Dunnes Stores depicting a kid with blue glasses full of joy. And praise the lord, he had Down syndrome. I nearly cried with gratitude and joy at how wonderful this was.

I'll tell you a secret.

Sometimes I find myself pathetically grateful for these kinds of acknowledgements and expressions of brazen joy. Because, regardless of where you stand on abortion, it sometimes feels as if we live in a world that doesn't want people with DS around anymore, and that works really hard to come up with more and better tests to help to stop them existing. Some of us wonder if our kids' generation will be the last people with Down syndrome ever. Another extinction.

So in a world that sees them as a mistake, as a problem to be eradicated, you can't help but weep with gratitude at such a giant, f**k-off expression of defiant joy as seeing one of the tribe on the side of the bus. They were hidden away for so long, and now we see them. We see them on buses. We see them everywhere, shamelessly displaying their difference.

Anyway, I digress. Today's sermon about gratitude. I know gratitude is the cliche of the moment and I find it as twee as you do. I can't stand people who say things like "gratitude is my superpower". These are the kind of people who put their hands on their hearts to acknowledge applause. They are the kind of people who talk of being 'humbled' when they mean the opposite.

But I've been working the gratitude thing again recently. It's my latest thing in my constant quest to heal myself from the sickness that is life. I had been feeling at war with things for a few days and someone suggested I try gratitude. Now this person puts a lot of work into searching for the latest answer. So when she swore that gratitude worked, I decided to give it another go.

And surprise, surprise, if you start developing a habit of focusing on the good things in your life, however small, it takes your focus off all the things that are getting you down. So it's basically playing a trick on your mind, to get it to avert its gaze towards the light. You don't need to believe in it. You don't have to buy the claptrap. Like meditation, it's just a party trick to get you through the day. And I suspect it works. I'm even finding that being more grateful for the people in my life, and expressing it more, is making them more tolerable to me and me to them - while freaking them out slightly.

Thank you all for reading. And thank you DJ Shadow, and thank you technology, and thank you to that joyful boy on the side of the bus and to the person who decided to put you there.

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