When What's MOGO Is Looking Within

My husband is a big Bob Dylan fan, so for our anniversary I bought us front row seats to a Dylan concert in Bangor, Maine. It was exciting to have such great seats, so close to the stage and with an unobstructed view. But when the concert finally began with Leon Russell opening the show, the woman next to us chose to stand and dance, blocking our and many others’ view of the stage. My husband and I were able to lean forward and peer around her, but others behind us couldn’t. And so after the set, a woman behind us asked a staff member to ask her to sit once Dylan started playing.

But when Dylan came out, she stood up and never sat back down. Even when she wasn’t dancing, she stood. In a crowd of thousands, she was the only one. The woman behind me asked if I would tell her to sit down, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing so. My husband, however, was really irritated, and even though he’s normally an easy-going man, he asked her if she would please sit down. She refused. And so we spent the entirety of the concert leaning as far forward as we could to see around her. At least we could do that, since we were in the front row. People in the rows behind us didn’t have that option.

Now, I’m a dancer. In fact, I often find going to concerts difficult because when I hear music I want to dance. With singers like Dylan – who are more folk than dance musicians – it’s easier to sit and listen; but more often than not I gravitate to dance concerts rather than sit-down concerts. So I know how it feels to want to get up and move when music is playing. What I don’t understand, however, is the kind of narcissism that compels someone to ignore everyone else’s wishes; to think one’s own personal pleasure justifies wrecking other people’s experiences; to believe that it’s okay to prevent others from even seeing the artist whom they paid quite a lot of money to enjoy.

I spent quite a bit of time during the concert pondering the MOGO (most good) thing to do. Would any good come from trying to talk to this woman? Would I be able to speak to her compassionately and respectfully when what I felt toward her was a combination of indignation, anger, and disgust? I wondered how she became this way. She was dressed to the nines in a slinky black dress with 5-inch spiked heals, a jaunty hat, and bright red lipstick. She often danced erotically, appearing to relish being seen and admired. She knew she was blocking people’s view and knew others were upset, but she didn’t care. What was it like to be her?

I never did say anything to this woman. My feelings toward her were unremittingly hostile, and even though I knew better, I found myself wishing bad things for her. All that did was further impact my own ability to enjoy the concert. In the end, what seemed MOGO was to focus on the music and practice letting go of my own anger and irritation, to better myself rather than focusing on bettering her.

Still, was there anything I or anyone could have said that would have made a difference for either her or those of us whose view of the stage was blocked?

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education

Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education

My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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