The Beat Goes On

By Joe Murphey


We’ve all had some version of this conversation recently with someone we haven’t seen in a few months.  For me, it’s usually taking place the morning of a Zoom mediation:


“So, how have you been?”


“Not bad.  Just tired of all the waiting to get back to normal.  It’s great we can do this by Zoom, but I miss doing it the old way.  And going to restaurants.  And traveling.  How’s everything with you?”


“Fine. Great.  I mean, nothing to complain about but inconvenience.  We know some folks who’ve had COVID.  Some pretty bad.  But for us, it’s just what you’re talking about. We just miss everything.  And everybody.”


And so it goes.  The caution, the danger, the risk, the fear, the unknowns, the feeling we’re doing too much, or not doing enough – it’s all still there.  Just as it all was in March and April, but now there’s something else.  Something that comes only in the fullness of time.  It’s the learning to live (not just exist, but live) with it.  It’s that time we transition to the “Keep Calm and Carry On” phase of our ordeal.  And this is the story of just one of the many way’s I’ve been blessed in that regard.


The London Blitz of WWII lasted from early September 1940 until May of 1941.  For more than 8 months, Londoners lived with the constant threat that within minutes of hearing the wail of air-raid sirens, their entire city block could be reduced to rubble.  And yet, the most enduring symbol of that era is the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster.  Our current pandemic is not the Blitz, but comparisons can be made.  Just over 40,000 were killed in the 8 months of the Blitz.  About that same number died of COVID in England this year during the first 8 months of the pandemic.  So how do we make our transition to the “Keep Calm and Carry On” phase? 


The key may be in the duality of the admonition.  The phrase is not just “Keep Calm”, full stop.  It’s “Keep Calm and Carry On”.  More and more around us we see people finding something to “Carry On” that helps them “Keep Calm”.  My version of “life goes on” has been “The Beat Goes On”.


About 10 years ago, as our kids were starting to emerge from the nest, I got back into playing music.  It’d been quite a while.  I had to evict a family of spiders from the bass drum of my old Ludwigs after I dusted them off and dragged them up from the basement.  New heads and hardware was all it took to restore the drum kit.  It took much longer to restore my (always modest) skills as a drummer. 





But after attending “jams”, playing anywhere I could, and getting to know a lot of other folks like myself — who suddenly found themselves with the time and disposable income to get back into music – I’m in a band.  We play mostly covers of the stuff we all grew up with (now oldies).  Gigging mostly for fun, and occasionally tips, and even more infrequently for pay, we’ve had a great run.  (I should mention here that Atlanta has a great local music scene populated by talented singers, song-writers and professional musicians.  My amateur foray into the biz poses no threat to the careers of these gifted individuals.) 


“It is my earnest wish that everyone finds that thing that, when they’re doing it, they completely forget every other problem, worry, concern and obligation they have.”


That one activity which demands and receives such undivided attention that the rest of the world, and it’s hold on our time and attention, is, for that moment, forgotten.  For me that thing is keeping the beat for a band that plays passably-good classic rock covers.  For others it might be golf.  Or triathlons. Or model trains. 


I am deeply grateful that, notwithstanding the pandemic, for me, the Beat Goes On.  Our band sessions are now outdoors – usually in my garage or driveway, weather permitting.  We’ve done some gigs outdoors as well (including a farmer’s market) but it’s mostly been weekend sessions in the driveway.  The forced isolation between practice sessions means someone will have always worked out a new song alone for the rest of us to try out together.  So, in many ways, the band is only getting better, and we’re having as much fun with it as we ever have.  And we all need it more than we ever have.


So as we all enter now into the marathon phase of lockdowns, social distancing, virtual meetings and the rest, I hope we can all find, or continue to pursue, in a safe manner, that “one thing”.  That thing that blocks out all of the negativity around you and allows you to re-charge your battery for the tough days, weeks and months yet to come.  And that thing might be as simple as the words to a catchy pop tune by Sonny and Cher.


The beat goes on, the beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, La de da de da



Since 2005, Joe has mediated nearly 3,000 cases at Miles Mediation with a success rate of over 80%.  When he’s not mediating, volunteering in the community, or spending time with his family, Joe is usually playing his drums and/or harmonicas with several local bands.