On Surf Music & World Peace

The other me, who in her head works as a columnist for a great metropolitan newspaper—kind of like Clark Kent—was inspired to write this by the wisdom of children and the Beach Boys.

Every Tuesday afternoon is a celebration around the casa. Our nine and seven year old grandsons come by. We crank up the music. And they cook. Tacos, of course! It’s a rule!

Second rule—the music better include a whole lot of Beach Boys! I tried playing the Beach Boys Pandora station, but they weren’t very happy with it. Too many other artists. So, I dug out a Best of the Beach Boys CD, and said, Surf’s up, dudes!

The first time I put it on, they kept reading the playlist, counting down the number of songs leading up to Good Vibrations—their favorite. When Wouldn’t It Be Nice came on, however, their ears perked up and puzzled looks crossed their faces. What are they saying? What’s that about, they asked.

I repeated the first stanza: Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older? Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long. And wouldn’t it be nice to live together In the kind of world where we belong.

I told them it’s about a young couple that wants to live together in a world that’s safe and happy and loving. We want to live in a world like that, too, they said. And then the nine-year-old followed with, I’m going to call the president and invite him here to talk about that.

Wow. Their instantaneous and profound reaction to those lyrics stunned me. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. For weeks, the seven-year-old has been asking: From outer space, our area looks like nothing, right? Translation: The North Koreans won’t drop a nuclear bomb on us because they can’t see us, right?

I answer, Right, but think, How can this still be happening? When I was their age, as I passed by the bomb shelter being built in the neighbor’s yard and ducked and covered under my school desk, I too was asking: The nuclear bombs won’t fall on us, right?

I thought a lot about our fractured world as I traveled this summer, because it was curious to me that I never saw it. What I experienced instead was wholeness: People dancing like nobody was watching to the sounds of a retro band on a soft salty-air evening in Cambria; People gathered on the Huntington Beach plaza at the Blessing of the Waves Service. Representatives from six religions provided the reflections and benediction that morning—religions over which wars are fought. Yet there we were—unified by water and waves and sand and seagulls. Oh, and surf music. Those Beach Boys, again!

When natural or human-made chaos occurs, I catch myself seeking signs of order. And I find it. For every act of violence, there’s a million of kindness. For every act of cowardice, there’s a million of courage. For every hate-filled word, there’s a million of love. It’s a fact.

I was on a business call the other day and the talk turned personal—to the way our interaction with strangers has changed—for the better. We shared that the more conflict-ridden the news gets, the more conscious we have become of diffusing that conflict, right where we stand. We are more in the moment; we make eye contact; we use opportunities to demonstrate kindness; we forgive transgressions—even of other drivers. How about that?

It got me wondering if others have experienced a similar metamorphosis of consciousness. That would be a YES. The strongest instinct in the human race is survival. Somewhere deep in those communal genes of ours, we know that if we allow conflict to reach epic proportions, we’re kaput.

My grandchildren don’t want that. And I don’t want that for them, or any of us. So, we’ve decided to make Wouldn’t It Be Nice the family theme song. It wasn’t a hard decision, as once we got it in our heads the music floated from one to the other of us in whistles and hums and lyrical fragments. We’ll probably even have t-shirts made.

Here are a few more lines we like, so you can get the song properly stuck in your head: You know it seems the more we talk about it It only makes it worse to live without it. But let’s talk about it. Wouldn’t it be nice?

How about harmonizing with us, passing this forward, and inviting others to join in the chorus?

And then: Maybe if we think, and wish, and hope, and pray, it might come true Baby, then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do.

Wouldn’t it be nice.

Thank you, Beach Boys, wherever you are.