Wednesday, October 25, 2020

Listen to The Words

From time to time, I am suddenly reminded of an important source of wisdom and insight that is usually either overlooked or derided. That happened to me again last Thursday, when I was driving to have lunch with my wife. I put a CD on in my car to help me pass the time I was spending waiting in traffic. The CD I selected was made in 2000 by a wonderful singer-songwriter called Mary Chapin Carpenter. The song that I want to draw your attention to is called “The Long Way Home.” It’s from her album titled Time* Sex* Love*. If you want to hear what I heard, go to iTunes or buy a copy. The CD still available.

As I listened, the words of the song suddenly hit me. Here’s part of the second verse (You can see all the words here):
Now you could be this woman, she’s the CEO
She’s got her power-suits and her IPOs
She punched a hole in the ceiling years ago
And she hasn’t pulled back since
Now there’s a gardener for the flowers, a maid for the laundry,
An accountant for the bills
A walker for the dog and a trainer for when she feels
The need to lose an inch . . .
It would be hard to find a better description of what so many people see as the state they are striving so hard to achieve, with all those long working days, frequent-flier miles, BlackBerries, and hours spent in meetings. But the song doesn’t stop there. It continues:
Funny how it all goes by so fast
One day she’s looking over her shoulder at the past
When everybody had to go, had to be, had to get somewhere
Somehow she forgot about what got here there . . .
What have you forgotten about in your life? What did you once have time to enjoy that you don’t have time for any more? Was losing whatever it was worth whatever you got in its place? Is it better to have the money to employ a walker for the dog, or to spend time with the dog yourself? To reach the top seat, or to have time to play with your partner, or your children? The choice is yours. And remember, it all goes by so fast. When you’re looking over your shoulder at the past, what will you see back there that you will regret leaving behind?

There are some beautiful lines in the rest of the song too, like these:
Accidents and inspiration lead you to your destination . . .

See your life as a gift from the great unknown and your task to receive it . . . Call in well sometimes and laugh when they believe it . . .
So the next time you listen to a song, try listening to the words as well as the music. I can’t guarantee that it will always be a good learning experience. Some songwriters, like some writers, have a gift for the banal and the trite. But sometimes, just sometimes, you will be rewarded with a gem that sets your mind thinking about the reality of life for days afterwards.

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Oh man, I had a very similar experience a year ago. WHile I was driving I heard Harry Chapin's "Cats in the cradle". It was not the first time I heard it, but the first time I actually listened - paid attention to the words. And how it moved me to tears! I have 2 kids ages 5 and 1. Since then, I have tried to consciously spend time with them and be there 1005 in mind and heart when I actually do spend time with them (instead of just being there physically and worrying about the several chores that need to be done around the house). But working full time and being there for the family is really tough. Lyrics are at
Thanks so much for this comment, Anon. This song's lyrics really get you where it hurts! Here's an example:
I've long since retired and my son's moved away.
I called him up just the other day.
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind."
He said, "I'd love to, dad, if I could find the time.
You see, my new job's a hassle, and the kid's got the flu,
But it's sure nice talking to you, dad.
It's been sure nice talking to you."
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me,
He'd grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.

Keep reading, my friend.
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