Off Kilter | Goosebumps and spectacles
Last updated 3/10/2020 at 9:24am
The word spectacle is derived from the word spectacular. How does one know you are witnessing a spectacle?
Easy, first and foremost you should feel a chill or goosebumps. That is your body telling you that you are seeing something special. Something you don’t normally see.
Here are some examples of things that always give me goosebumps.
Rock and Roll Concerts
A good concert is certainly loud. And if the band is any good at all, the rhythm gets into your bones such that you have a difficult time standing still. Just watch the Beach Boys during their Live Aid appearance – with over a billion viewers around the world. But way beyond the actual band, a rock and roll concert gathers together hundreds if not thousands of people who are sharing a sociological event. The event becomes a spectacle. For very popular bands (Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Motley Crue, etc.) many viewers are overcome with emotion and may actually pass out.
Gather a few thousand people lining up along a street to watch, for example, a military parade. Say on Independence Day. Again, the crowd creates a large, common, shared event about which just about everyone gets caught up in the spectacle. Add a couple of marching bands – some playing the Star-Spangled Banner and you can’t help but get goosebumps.
Large Sporting Events
To me, the National Football League easily wins first place in creating spectacles much like the ancient gladiators. Go to any professional football game and you see a) people with faces painted in the colors of their team, b) people wearing jerseys of their favorite players on the team, c) screaming in support of their team such that when I attend one of these events I need to wear earplugs to prevent physical pain from the volume of the noise. The “spectacle” is exacerbated by giant LED displays that say things like “MAKE NOISE” or “DEFENSE” or any other saying that gets the crowd involved in the game. Outside the U.S., we have the “other” type of football (soccer), which is the most popular sport worldwide. Soccer fans in some countries are so fanatical that fans have been crushed in mini-stampedes that may occur when something horrible happens (say when there is a goal or when the crowd goes berserk and attacks a home town player who may have committed such an outrageous offense.
Our current president seems to create spectacles whenever he has a rally. They seem to attract all his staunch supporters. These rallies are complete with patriotic music. Again, the crowd can create deafening noise. Now, we don’t have to go very far back in history to see among the worst of political spectacles. Hitler’s rallies seemed to attract the worst zealots on the planet. They would cheer no matter what this truly evil man was talking about. Along with these rallies are the military parades. Germany seemed to invent new highs (or should we say lows?) for getting all the brainwashed folk to stand and salute (with the Sieg Heil salute) as the armies marched by with their hideous goose steps.
It is virtually impossible to watch an air show – especially a military air show – without the visceral reaction a spectacle often creates. Just watch a video of a stealth bomber fly by – and see if you don’t get goosebumps. I know I do.
I defy you to not get a tear when you see one of your own marching in procession to “Pomp and Circumstance” at their graduation. The song combined with the significance of the event is by definition a spectacle.
In closing, let me remind you of an apocryphal story: A man who worked for a precision optical goods manufacturer fell into the lens grinding machine and made a spectacle of himself.