Cake, giants, and the meaning of life

I am a singer and a dancer; at least I am in my car. I am Pavarotti, I am John Mayer, I am Liz Phair and Ben Harper. In my car, I dance like a regular from Bandstand or Soul Train. I am a white middle class male J.Lo. From the waist up, I have more rhythm and moves than anyone I know. And when I travel alone, I perform a concert that puts Britney Spears to shame.

In my imagination, my movements coincide with the rhythmic bass of Linkin Park and the Beastie Boys; my singing is like the gravelly tones of Pearl Jam or the smooth silky song-styling of Jack Johnson. People drive by and stare into my car, enjoying the show I put on for each and every person on the road.

But what people don’t see is my internal tango, the blues and jazz and heavy metal of my mind. They don’t know that I am simultaneously processing the beats of the drums, the words of the songs, and the meaning of life. They see what they want in my car dancing, the hurky jerky movements of a crazy man, the guy who is talking to himself, what they don’t see is who I am…

As I gyrate under the comfort of my seatbelt, I think about the idea of being truly present with who I am. I am pondering what life would be like if I always lived in the moment. I am lamenting about the times where I have forsaken myself out of fear; grieving over my lack of initiative and my inability to speak words of love and care; crying out in frustration over my lack of action and the incongruence of what I think and how I act.

Belting out the songs on my radio, I also find hope in those moments. I hear the words of others and I think about the joy of sharing love and really meaning it. I soak up memories of where I shrugged off doubt and truly displayed the me I know I can be. I relish in my successes at the enterprise of life, and count each of them as blessings and moments of a life of congruence.

Today, I grooved along to Cake’s remake of “I Will Survive.” All the while I thought about the words of a supervisor who quoted a Tim McGraw song that went something like “you never start living until you die.” Not sure if those are the exact words but the existential truth of it is amazingly deep for country music. It is a shame that some people never take life by the horns until they are reminded of their finitude.

I admire those people who put themselves out there constantly, riding the waves of support and derision as they practice the art of life. I am amazed by those who are unfazed by the idea of their own death, and instead choose to live lives based on the present moment, unencumbered by past mistakes or regrets. These are the people who “will survive” best and look back at the end of their lives and smile. These are the people who lived in the highs and lows of life and were better for it.

Then, as Cake wound down, the CD player shuffled to They Might Be Giants. The sun is a mass of incandescent gas…” is forever etched into the playlist of my mind. Suddenly, the seriousness of existential thought gave way to its sister, play. I think play is the notion that life is about living. Sure, we will all die, and no amount of nutrition, exercise, or surgery – plastic or otherwise – can stave off the inevitable decay of our bodies. But you know what, life is here, life is now, life is real. Sometimes it sucks and we can’t explain why, but I believe we are rarely alone when we live in the moment, and that can mediate “suckiness.” No life is lived in a vacuum, and no life is lived without the hope of play.

So, I think I want to dance, and I think I want to sing like tomorrow may never come. I want to gyrate and groove and belt out the songs of my life. Whatever the radio throws me, I want to be present with its melodies and movements. No matter the content, I want to feel the life of music coarse through my body and show me the depths of emotion and connection. Whether loss, grief, joy, hope, anger or happiness I want to feel them in the moment; share them with those around me; live as though life were real, and I am real, and they are real. It is not enough for me to wait until death is imminent and my finitude realized; instead I must accept that they are real so that I can live a life of meaning, so that I can be present to the moment. All songs must have a beginning and an end, it is what we do while the music plays that matters.

Now if I can only get this damn car door open…

grace and peace



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