When I found out that my immunization period would end on May 4, I joked that it was perfect for a geek like me. International Star Wars Day – “May the Fourth Be With You” – what better time to wrap things up?
But lately, it’s not a John Williams theme I’ve been hearing. And that’s appropriate, too.
You see, while the mainstream world knows this time as the day before Cinco de Mayo and the would-be Jedi flood the internet with Star Wars memes, musicians know that there’s another meaning to 5/4. It’s a rhythm, and a tricky one for many people to feel. Compared to the steady walk of a 4/4 or the lilting waltz of a 3/4, it sounds offbeat, like there’s a slight hitch in it, even though it’s completely regular.
Only a few 5/4 pieces are well known to the general public. But one of them is very well known indeed.
You know it as the “Mission: Impossible” theme.
“Bum, bum, BUM-BUM; bum, bum, BUM-BUM …”
Heather and I have had a lot of Mission: Impossible on lately – not the Tom Cruise movies, but the old 1960s and ‘70s TV show where a team of sharp-witted agents had to think their way through a sensitive assignment. Instead of the abilities of James Bond, an Impossible Missions Team relied on the skills of the con man: planning, misdirection and an ability to steer an over-eager mark into engineering their own doom.
The structure was completely predictable and easy to parody. The team leader would get the latest assignment, “should you choose to accept it,” on a self-destructing recording. He’d assemble his team of experts – usually the same ones every time, unless a guest star was in store – and then put together an elaborate plot of fake identities, careful timing and a little technological magic.
And every single time – EVERY single time – that careful plot would go off the rails halfway through, if not earlier, requiring the team to improvise.
Does that last part sound familiar?
For more than a year, we’ve been living unexpected lives. OK, it’s fair to say that life is never utterly predictable (John Lennon did say “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”), but most of us aren’t used to the disruptions being quite this relentless. We’ve had to rewrite how we work, how we learn, how we live … not just once, but over and over.
It’s dizzying. Even infuriating to some. Certainly tiring. Constant alertness, constant adaptation can exhaust anyone.
But two realities from the old show are also in play for us.
The first is that survival and success require a team. We’re not in a Hollywood world where one superstar can save the day, no matter how powerful or famous that person might be. It needs all of us, looking out for all of us, doing what we need to do together.
The second? Simple. The team’s success was never based on “Did the plan anticipate everything?” It was “Did we accomplish the mission?”
We’ve learned. We’ve adjusted. Sometimes we’ve failed. And we certainly won’t see quite the same “normal” at the other end of the pandemic as we did at the start. But as long as we reach that other end, still together, still finding a way to do what we must … then we’ve succeeded.
It hasn’t been easy. But it can be done. Like a certain theme, we all feel a little offbeat, but we are moving forward.
You might even say we’re heading Fourth.