05 Aug I Have to Find that Melody Alone
My wife and I saw The Avett Brothers live for the third time a couple weeks ago. We went down to Washington state to the Gorge Ampitheatre. The kids stayed home with their Grandma. We enjoyed the drive. Music, conversation, and scenery. At one point in our drive Google maps took us a way we weren’t expecting. After driving through rough terrain we hung a left and slowly we found ourselves in what felt like the strangest place we’d ever been. Wheat fields everywhere, people nowhere. We were laughing and making jokes that we were going to end up in a bad horror film. That our car would break down and the people to help us would say “we’ll give you a ride” and then proceed to take us back to their torture chamber in the middle of nowhere, where screams cannot be heard. At one point you could see the horizon in all directions and there were no structures anywhere. It was disconcerting. The wheat was beautiful though. I wanted to get out and take pictures of Kristi running through it so I could put it in slow motion but she wasn’t having it.
I just kept yelling “where is everybody???!” We had just been near civilization and now we were in the middle of nowhere in a matter of minutes. It’s powerful what space like that does to you. The expansiveness of the world can be overwhelming. The dependence we have on luxuries that make our lives comfortable and safe. Land that just keeps going in the dead of heat makes you wonder how you’d survive out there if you weren’t driving this metal machine quickly down the road. How will I survive if I have to?
Two songs the Avetts played put a lump in my throat based on their lyrics. One was the song I posted about yesterday entitled “Head Full of Doubt, Road full of Promise” where they sing about a kid with a head full of doubt and that because there really are no excuses you should “decide what to be and go be it.” The other one is from “Morning Song”. There is a line they repeat several times at the end that says “I have to find that melody alone, I have to find that melody alone, I have to find that melody alone.” Something about the live performance, being present there, and how I have been feeling lately came together and spoke to me. I felt like I really needed to hear this.
I have to find that melody alone.
While I am not alone of course and have people around me that care for me, no matter how much I try and get others to help me find clarity about what I’m supposed to be doing creatively, it doesn’t work. They can’t do it. Some might have a bit better sense than me but I don’t think anyone has actually been able to help me break free. It’s my melody. It can only come from my voice. I have to sing it. While we may never be fully independent of others, there are aspects allowing our individual being to carve its place, to be.
Nietsche wrote: “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
The way the land in Washington quickly expanded out and left us all alone with the wheat is what it can feel like to step out and follow your path. It starts to diverge from everyone you know, the places that looked familiar, the luxuries and security you had been feeling. It is frightening. But to keep following that path leads to the privilege of owning yourself.
I can feel anxious when in large groups of people at a concert. I can also feel anxious in large expansive spaces. Ernest Becker talks about our dual desire as humans – to be a part of the tribe and to step out and be apart from. Both bring anxiety and a fear of death. We can either get completely lost in the tribe and never know who we are and what we have to offer or we can step out and feel paralyzed by the expansiveness, with how alone and frightened we are. I see the way forward similar to going on a pilgrimage and coming back. Leaving the tribe to have experiences that help further illuminate our individual soul, then returning there to share ourselves and enjoy others.
While it scares me, I need to keep making that drive into the wheat field, into the expansiveness. I need to go alone. I’ve never had a fear of being alone but something about this process feels different. I have to find that melody alone and it excites me and scares me all at the same time.