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If you have watched any of the "Where the Hell is Matt?" videos, you know how inadequate a description of them this is: Matt Harding dances in various places, sometimes with people, to several tunes. The only transcript I can give is the lyrics to the songs for the second and third videos (they're below), but they are no more "transcripts" of the videos than the words to "Ode to Joy" are a transcript of the Ninth Symphony. What they are, each singularly and together severally, is an image of Eutopia, the good place, a real place, one that each of us can reach. If you haven't watched them yet, please do before reading further. The three are a sequence (though they didn't start that way) but if you really truly are tight for time, watch 2012; you can come back later (and you will).  







For my thoughts on them, and what they teach us about Eutopia and about ourselves, leap the orange wave crest.

Matt Harding began these videos as a lark, a way to have a memento of his travels. The 2006 video shows an amiable young man, dancing his own, charmingly awkward dance step in the foreground; behind him are glorious places, archeological monuments, geographic wonders, even some underwater shots. In most, Matt is the only person. A few have people incidentally and one shows Matt dancing with a village's children who are every bit as merry and light footed as Matt. He describes in his FAQs how this shot happened:

He [Matt] mostly just danced in front of iconic landmarks, but along the way he went to a country called Rwanda, and since there aren't any landmarks in Rwanda that you'd want to dance in front of, instead he just went to a small village and danced with a bunch of kids. The kids joined him immediately and without hesitation. That ended up being the best thing that happened to him on the trip. The kids taught him that people are a whole lot more interesting than old landmarks and monuments.
The 2008 video shows how thoroughly that lesson took root. He describes the 2008 video this way:
14 months in the making, 42 countries, and a cast of thousands. Thanks to everyone who danced with me.
No mere list can capture the amplitude, the diversity, the joy of these encounters. For the most part the people who join him are attempting his charming, awkward dance or freestyling their own. (I would love to know how he got onto the vomit comet to dance!). There are also the kinds of natural beauty that made up most of the first video.

What more? How could another video go further or deeper? The 2012 video again includes other people with Matt, but now the dancing is a movement of the whole, a dance that draws in everyone. Matt now is dancing with them, not merely ignoring them or imposing his own dance step. The words as well reveal this next step; for the first time they speak of "we," not just "I" or less frequently "you." Without setting out to do it, Matt Harding has shown a journey from the independence of youth, seeing the world through his own eyes, to Eutopia, the good place, the place where we genuinely meet, free to share joy without barriers, without guardedness, and still ourselves. Indeed it is precisely because people are bringing their own full particularity, with all the history and details that includes, that the dance of the whole is so rich, so deep, so joyful.

The last scene of the last video will bring tears to your eyes. I won't unpack it here, but may in the comments.



Lyrics

2006:

The song is based around a traditional Baegu lullaby from the Solomon Islands called "Rorogwela", and uses a vocal sample originally recorded by ethnomusicologist Hugo Zemp in 1970 and later released by UNESCO as part of their Musical Sources collection.[1] The lyrics refer to a young orphan being comforted by his older brother despite the loss of their parents.[2]
2008:
That's a difficult question to answer. The lyrics to "Praan" were taken from a poem by a Nobel Prize winning Indian author named Rabindranath Tagore. While the poem was written in Bengali (or Bangla), I chose it based on its English translation, which I later learned to be more of an interpretationthat captures the spirit of the original without matching it word-for-word.The English version of the poem is called "Stream of Life." Here it is:

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers. It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death, in ebb and in flow. I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

To fit the song, we had to chop things up a bit; turning one verse into a repeating chorus and omitting other sections. Here are the lyrics as they ended up in the song, translated in a more direct way from the original Bengali:

I will not easily forget The life that stirs in my soul Hidden amidst Death That infinite Life I hear you in the thunder A simple tune A tune to which I will arise (3x) And in that storm of happiness As your music plays in your mind The whole wide world Dances to your rhythm I hear you in the thunder A simple tune A tune to which I will arise (3x)

2012:
Lyrics to Trip the Light, the song in the 2012 video

If all the days that come to pass
Are behind these walls
I’ll be left at the end of things
In a world kept small

Travel far from what i know
I’ll be swept away
I need to know I can be lost
and not afraid

We’re gonna trip the light
We’re gonna break the night
And we’ll see with new eyes
When we trip the light

Remember we’re lost together
Remember we’re the same
We hold the burning rhytm in our hearts
We hold the flame

We’re gonna trip the light
We’re gonna break the night
And we’ll see with new eyes
When we trip the light
(x2)

I’ll find my way home
On the Western wind
To a place that was once my world
Back from where I’ve been

And in the morning light I’ll remember
As the sun will rise
We are all the glowing embers
Of a distant fire

We’re gonna trip the light
We’re gonna break the night
And we’ll see with new eyes
When we trip the light
(x3)

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