June 9, 2003
The Shrieking of Summer Children
This evening, my partner Jane and I sat on our deck and enjoyed a delicious meal. It felt good to eat outside surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature. A majestic, V-shaped formation of Canada geese swung overhead, beneath the blue evening sky. Bright new leaves on the maple trees fluttered back and forth. A gentle breeze carried the delicate scent of spring flowers. And then, floating across the back yards, came the shrieking of happy children.
When the weather gets warm, the neighbourhood kids start running, playing, laughing, yelling - and shrieking. On weekday mornings I can hear the shrieking of kids at the elementary school that is blocks away from here. What power they have. I love it.
Unfortunately, our society tends to discourage boys from partaking in this wonderful expression. Girls are more often the ones who let themselves shriek. Lucky for the girls. Many of them are allowed to squeal at the top of their lungs when they play. It may be one of the reasons, along with the acceptance of crying, that women tend to be more in touch with their feelings.
Listening to the kids nearby reminded me of the Beatles concert I went to in 1966. I was a young teenage drummer and I was there for the music. But when the Beatles hit the stage, it seemed like all 20,000 kids went berserk. I had never heard anything like that in my life. The shrieking sounded like a jumbo jet flying directly overhead. I was stunned. It virtually eclipsed the music and never stopped - even between songs! The hair-raising, bone-shaking vibration wavered in the "impossible" range for the entire show.
This unified expression of 20,000 young people created an unstoppable wave of emotional resonance. Kids were overcome with feelings that had been pent up for years. They cried, wailed, yelled, laughed, shook, and fainted. I was personally catapulted into an altered state.
These shows were less about music, and more about the communal sharing of emotion. They were giant feeling events - the world's first mass primal groups! I don't think it's a coincidence that a few years later, John Lennon did primal therapy and expressed those feelings in his songs.
The body needs to make sound, and, if allowed, it naturally does so when it is happy, sad, lonely, hurt, frightened, or angry. A full feeling release vibrates every cell and is like an emotional massage, a full-body cleansing. It keeps the body in health. It feels right. Animals know this. And kids know this.
I remember driving in the country one day with two special young friends of mine, Tyrelle and Brette. When I asked them if they'd like to see how loud they could scream, they eagerly said "Yes!" At the count of three they let out the loudest shrieks they could muster, and they were grinning from ear to ear afterwards. They asked to do it again and again, and I let them. It was loud, but it felt good.
So the next time you hear the shrieking of summer children, wish them well. Maybe you can find a safe way to try it yourself!