“Macarena,” a dance song by the Andalusian duo Los Del Rio, was all the rage in the mid-’90s. It reached number 1 on the United States Billboard Hot 100.
Legend has it that “Macarena” was inspired by a visit of Los Del Rio to the Country Club of Caracas, Venezuela. Indeed, the catchy tune follows a clave rhythm, a signature of a Venezuelan style of music.
On July 22, the contagious melody of “Macarena” made a comeback to Central New York when the unparalleled mastery of Groove Line DJ Chris DelGuercio made it the theme song of a party jointly organized by the Downtown Writers Centers and the State University of New York Empire State College.
Both entities threw the party in order to celebrate the publication by Empire State College Press of the book “Today is the Best Day: An Anthology of Empowered Writing.” This book presents the capstone projects of the participants in two workshops sponsored by the Arthur Imperatore Community Forum Fellowship: the English Language Learners’ Workshop and the Workforce Writing Enhancement Workshop. The volume consists of eleven poems and three short prose pieces.
These workshops were all about empowerment. The French anthropologist Andre Leroi-Gourhan (1911-1986) says in his essay “Writing and the Psychology of Peoples (Proceedings of a Colloquium),” published in 1963: “”The one who will shine in the science of writing will shine like the sun … Sun god, by your light you scan the totality of lands as if they were cuneiform signs.”
The co-authors of the book – many coming from countries like Vietnam, Jamaica, Cuba and Peru – shine with the skills learned by them in the workshops. An example of this shining is the piece “My dream is …” by Cicely Surtis, which says: “I know that is my objective, then it will be easy to follow the way and find the route. The most important thing is not to lose focus even when the situation is difficult, but not impossible. The difference is a person’s determination. The opportunity is there waiting for us. Take your time and do it now. Today is the best day.”
This piece is the one that anchors the whole book, which takes its title from the last line used in the piece. But now we have the issue of its interpretation. What does it mean? It could read as an general ode to voluntarism or it could simply be an anti-procrastination manifesto. We could even speculate that it follows in the footsteps of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), who says: “This world is the will to power – and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power – and nothing besides!,” in his posthumous work “The Will to Power.”
This columnist also has a chapter in the book. This chapter is titled “A Few Hours with Cornel West.” Interestingly enough, West stands in contrast to Nietzsche. When discussing Hungarian philosopher Gyorgy Lukacs (1885-1971), West says: “Yet Lukacs’ view does not degenerate into an irrational voluntarism. Although it permits free choices of historical agents, it restricts these choices to particular alternatives. The choices are free in the sense that they are not determined by a mechanical, causal necessity, but they are contextual in that they are constrained by specific realizable options.”
Yvonne Murphy and Georgia Popoff, two acclaimed poets who planned the writing workshops, are eager to offer more of them in the near future to Central New York residents. The first order of business for the new participants in the forthcoming workshops will be to solve the philosophical mystery posed by Surtis in her enigmatic essay. The second order of business will be to dance the “Macarena.”
About the author: Miguel Balbuena is a writer in the academic, scientific, journalistic and literary fields (in the fiction and non-fiction genres).