What’s it all about?
The Retune Blog - 13th October 2023
Do you ever ask yourself what is it all about? I mean, life? Well in 1942 Jimmy Kennedy penned an answer that still resonates with me to this very day. Jimmy wasn’t an academic philosopher. But he did go on to gain an honorary degree from Ulster University, an OBE, and two Ivor Novello awards for his contribution to music. He penned the lyrics of such greats as Teddy Bears Picnic, and of course, this week’s song choice The Hokey Cokey:
You put your whole self in, your whole self out. In, out, in, out, you shake it all about. You do the Hokey Cokey and you turn around. That's what it's all about.
Whilst my earliest memories of this song were from family parties, with everyone in a bog circle dancing and singing along, more recently I’ve come to recognise that in its simplicity and playfulness lies a profound truth.
Some have suggested the song is a dig at the Catholic Latin Mass, with Hokey Cokey being a substitute for Hocus Pocus and, therefore, mocking the mass as a form of magic. It seems unlikely to me. I think there is something far more obvious and yet deeply perceptive about the song.
As the song builds we are instructed first to put our left arm in and out. Then our right. Then our left leg followed by our right leg. Ultimately it's our whole body that goes in and out. So what is it all about? I mean life, if we learn from the song.
There is a Japanese word, ikigai, which translates as finding our reason for being, our purpose in life. To find our ikigai we need to find something we love and are good at, and if we want to make it our vocation, it needs to be something the world needs and will pay for. But how do we find out these things? Well, as The Hokey Cokey suggests, we dip our toe in one step at a time.
In The Hokey Cokey, as in life, we have to try things out bit by bit so we can see if they are for us or not. But when we’ve decided, we have to throw our whole selves in. It’s only by doing this that we can not just find, but live in a purposeful and meaningful way. Indeed, the five pillars of ikigai include starting small, releasing yourself and finding joy in the small things. So ikigai, like the song shows us, invites us to approach life with playfulness.
So this week, why not give The Hokey Cokey another try in your life?
Book of the week:
Ikigai: Giving every day meaning and joy by Yukari Mitsuhashi (2018)
Ikigai is a Japanese word made from two parts; iki - life, and gai - value. It refers to the idea of finding our own personal reason why, the reason we get up in the morning. In this small book, Mitsuhashi encourages us to pay attention to the small details of our lives to find pleasure and purpose in the moment, and beyond, to help find what gives us meaning. Full of wisdom and practical ideas to be implemented, this book is designed to be lived and to bring joy regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves by refocusing us on what is personally meaningful.