My Obsession

meaning behind flash mobs life as musical

meaning behind flash mobs life as musical

A version of this post ran last December: today’s version has been beefed up a bit for 2013.

My husband has a longstanding obsession with tattoos. It’s not just the image on the bicep that gets him, but the meaning behind it: why did someone choose to make that specific image a part of their very body?

A friend is obsessed with postcards. Not just the cards, but the meaning: how does someone choose which single image will carry their love home?

My own longstanding obsession didn’t used to have a name.

Back in high school, I drove my friends crazy by wishing out loud–too often and too excitedly–that life could be like a musical. There we’d be, just going through our days, when suddenly the clouds would part, the music would soar, and we’d break into song and synchronized dance steps.

In 2003, my dream became real, in a sense, when the flash mob was born. The whole idea seems silly but I love them all the same, these synchronized performances plopped right into the middle of ordinary life.

A flash mob may seem like just a song or a dance, but I suspect there’s more to it than that. That’s why they go viral; that’s why they make us cry. These musical moments plunked down into our ordinary lives give us a glimpse behind the curtain: for a few minutes, our individual stories merge into the same script, showing that we’re all part of the same Great Big Story.

Here are some of my favorite life-as-musical videos. Tell us your favorites–and leave the link to any others you love–in comments. 

Christmas flash mob at Mall of America

Isaac’s proposal (read about a follow-up video here)

Som Sabadell flash mob

WestJet Christmas flash mob (see their 2013 video here)

One Day More flash mob at Warsaw mall

photo credit


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  1. Linda says:

    I’ve seen the wedding proposal one before. I think I would have been too stunned to answer if my husband had proposed to me that way! I loved the Ode to Joy in the shopping mall. What a beautiful way to communicate the truth and give people a reason to pause amid the insanity that the holiday has become.

  2. And I thought it was just me. I’ve always felt like there should be more music in everyday life. There are often moments when I’ve thought “If my life were a musical there would be a song right about now.” Though I don’t know if I’d ever have the guts to join a flash mob. Of course I grew up in a house where my Dad could find a song for any occasion and both my parents sang often, so maybe that is why.

  3. Yes! I totally understand your obsession. My husband and I attended a Christian university, and I used to say going to our college was like living in a musical. It was not uncommon to be doing something normal, like checking mail, and a full-fledged 8-part rendition of the 4th Movement of Beethoven’s 9th would break out. In German.

    Our school filmed a flash mob a couple of years ago for their big spring weekend. It was hilarious and fitting.

    I love the above marriage proposal flash mob as well as the wedding video where the entire wedding party dances to the Chris Brown song, “It’s like I waited my whole life for this one night…” (not a flash mob, but equally awesome). Both of those videos just make me love life. I can’t help but laugh and tear up at the same time.

  4. Katie says:

    Oh my goodness! I’m with you 1000% in your obsession with flash mobs. They are the definition of spontaneous joy. I was in Chicago in July on a girls’ weekend. We were having a picnic lunch in Millenium Park when a flash mob broke out in front of The Bean. I was literally jumping up and down, grinning from ear to ear. That’s the only flash mob I’ve witnessed in person, but I love watching them online and actually being in one is at the top of my bucket list. 🙂

  5. Okay, all of those were simply amazing. But the first one…

    To hear the praise of our Redeemer come seemingly unbidden from human lips… can you even IMAGINE what heaven will be like?? I had tears in my eyes to see people singing His praises like that. And then when “Mary” and “Joseph” walked out, I broke down and cried like a baby. Wow. I hope they knew the truth that they were proclaiming!

  6. Erin says:

    Okay, so I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only one that ends up crying at every flash mob video I watch… seriously only made it about two minutes into the proposal one up there and I had to turn it off, because I’m at work and it wouldn’t be appropriate to be sitting here with tears running down my face! I love how much effort people put into flash mobs to make them happen!

  7. Tim says:

    You had me with the photo from A Chorus Line. I’ve seen that 3 times, twice when it first came out and once a couple years ago. In high school band we performed the overture, complete with shouting out “step kick kick leap kick touch … again!”

    For flash mobs, have you seen the Zorba the Greek one from Canada? One of my faves ever!


  8. I had never seen the wedding proposal. {sniff, sniff}
    So good.
    How could she possibly say no after THAT?!
    Oh my heavens!

    My kids could tell you that it’s pretty normal for me to break into song out of the blue.

    One of my favorite roles is Fruma Sarah, the dead wife from Tevye’s dream in Fiddler on the Roof. ♫”Have you no consideration for a woman’s feelings?!”♫

    I sing this when I find damp towels on the floor and stuff like that.

    • Anne says:

      Oh, I love that video!

      And you are so right about the Louisville Orchestra. How much goodwill would that have built, instead of all the contentiousness that was raised instead? (A lot, methinks!)

  9. Keri says:

    There’s just something beautiful about witnessing people united together in song, especially singing praises to God. I don’t believe it’s quite a common occurrence anymore. Beautiful! and a worthy obsession.

  10. Rachel S. says:

    Being in a flash mob would be a DREAM. If someone put on a flash mob FOR me—to entertain me, to make me happy, to propose to me (well, I’m already married)—I’d be so upset that I didn’t get to be IN it that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it.

  11. Shelly says:

    Great! Now I have a new obsession!

    Thank you so much for sharing! I soooo enjoyed and haven’t been aware of this before. There are only two in my office, can we make a flash mob? I need to break into song now.

  12. Melodee says:

    What a fun post! Those were all great (I cried). I’ve seen a couple new ones this week I loved: Here’s the USAF band at the National Air and Space Museum This one isn’t musical, but has to the most creative flash mob I’ve ever seen! And finally, have you seen the really old “Food Court Musical”? It’s good for a laugh. 🙂

    • Abigail says:

      The food court musical one is my favorite! Musical meets flash mob… what could be better! Here’s another musical flash mob that I don’t think anyone’s posted, done as a surprise for the bride at the wedding reception:

      I think I love them because it’s a whole group of people banding together, doing something different that is normally not done in public, and doing it to music. The only one I’ve witnessed was at my college, where the actors and actresses from the school all acted out a number in front of our coffee shop the week before the airing of the musical. I would love to see one on a larger scale someday!

  13. Ginger says:

    Yes! I too always wish life were like a musical. I remember rejoicing the first time I was introduced to the concept of a flash mob (Improve Everywhere troupe in NYC). It is on my Bucket List to witness a flash mob sometime in my life. While I can’t do anything to make that happen, I am taking part in a flashmob next week, when visiting my parents in Kentucky. Shh! Don’t tell. 🙂 Their church is practicing for one, and she invited me to come along. I can’t wait to see the looks on shoppers faces.

  14. Kristin says:

    Perhaps we’re long-lost sisters. I love flash-mobs, and always sob through them. Life would be a little better if we broke into song and dance more often. Thanks so much for sharing!

  15. Patti says:

    Have you ever seen the movie “The Fisher King?” It’s odd and pretty depressing, but there was a scene in which one of the main characters (who is grief-stricken) sees the girl he loves, and all of Grand Central breaks into a lovely choreographed dance. It primed me for my flash mob love.

  16. Shelly says:

    I don’t know how to post links with my phone or if it’s even possible, but if you go on YouTube and search “Roosevelt party in the usa”, you’ll see a flash mob at my kids’ old school before I pulled them back out. If you watch the time, at 1:13 (app.), it’ll show my son wearing a white tshirt, jamming out. He’s quite the dancer! (This was filmed 4 years ago.)

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