My friend Nadine says I have a musical heart…it is true that music serves as illustration for much of my life. My junior high science teacher, Mr. Barrow, would put an extra credit question at the end of every weekly test. It was always about rock and roll, and I always got it right. I knew all the words to all the songs…by heart. Strangely, most of my family played an instrument and sang, but always the outsider, I was asked not to participate…I was tone deaf and off key. (In their defense, the church choir didn’t want me either!) As a teen, I spent my days in headphones and my nights on the east side of Detroit at the Grande Ballroom and the Eastown Theatre…and I still circle through the music in my head hourly. Someone is often singing to me in my sleep. It is fair to say I have learned as much from music as from books, or teachers, or any form of information. Music has the unique ability to impart it’s wisdom physiologically: Right. Straight. Into. Your. Soul.
If you weren’t a Joni Mitchell groupie, driving to every concert within a hundred mile radius, you might not know how these men met. They all got their start opening for her on tour. We have her to thank for introducing them to each other, and to us. I love these men – truly – never having met any of them. They represent everything to me that God meant for men to express: deeply humble intelligence.
This song in particular spoke to me of the struggle between living “true to our inner promptings” as Hesse wrote, or engaging in the world with all of it’s futile expectations, “waving truce against the moon…”
The Vietnam war was raging on my television throughout my adolescent years. The images on the news were so gruesome, so awful. They showed cruelty beyond imagining. Those scenes of war are never shown on television anymore, by the way. They can’t sell anything that way…least of all the political agenda of the day. So for many of us naive souls, music became the voice of sanity in a truly insane world.
And like 911, every child of my generation remembers where they were when JFK was shot. I was in the 4th grade. The screens of black and white televisions were rolled out into our classrooms until the school decided to close early and send us home. I walked in on my Mother wailing…and somehow knew life would never be the same. I suspect that was the beginning of our cultural awakening. Our superficial values died a catastrophic death. No one I knew had ever really faced any personal tragedy at that young age, but now we suddenly knew what a broken heart was. I don’t think mine has ever mended, but then, I don’t think they’re meant to.
I don’t know about you, but the rest of my life has been a process of letting go. And clawing to hang on. And then a little more letting go…it begins to take on an eerie rhythm. Not that it ever makes any sense. The clawing to hang on never makes any sense. You will let go…breathing in and out, or kicking and screaming…it turns out we are all The Pretender.
For Kelly, Rodasi and Cilla, dedicated women. I am grateful for you.