I went to a Lucinda Williams concert a couple of nights ago. The guy introducing called her music “heartland soul”. It’s a pretty good description. Better than “country”, especially mainstream country, which is a little too sappy for my tastes. (Love the older country stuff, though — Hank Williams, Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark. What characterizes this music and Lucinda Williams’ tunes is that they are directly from the heart, raw, edgy, real, and (with Lucinda anyway) erotic. The lyrics and music to “Right in Time” are a good example:
I take off my watch and my earrings
My bracelets and everything
Lie on my back and moan at the ceiling
Oh my baby
Think about you and that long ride
I bite my nails I get weak inside
Reach over and turn off the light
Oh my baby…
Her band was kick-ass. The guitarist made you feel like he could do whatever he wanted with his instrument. Every song he played was a clinic. Same for the bass player and drummer. Malcolm Gladwell talks about how so-called “geniuses” put in their 10,000 hours in order to become genius. Sure, there might be natural ability, but these guys, and Lucinda, have put in their innings.
And here’s my point. Whenever I see this kind of full-throttle, leave it all on the stage, kind of performance I always feel the same way. Something awakens in me. A longing to be all that I can be, to use this one precious life in a way that undeniably says to the world “Bruce was here” arises. It’s a longing to be more of who I am, and offer more of who I am to the world. This is not perfectionism. It’s too easy to dismiss these feelings when they arise, chalking it all up to a lack of self-acceptance. We need to practice “being” and all of that. I get it, but this urge to become is also part of what it means to be fully alive.
I do know what it feels like to delight, absolutely delight, in the love of another – to be beheld and to behold another and to know that all is well, right in this moment. Nowhere to go, nothing to accomplish. We’re already loved. It’s a beautiful thing. But it doesn’t tell the whole story does it? This unconditional love is foundational, but I don’t believe that it's the end game. It’s the milieu from which to set out and become, by which I mean to express oneself with as much fullness and freedom as possible, and to offer this self-expression in service to the evolution of the universe.
The question arises: Have I given it all I have? Have I shown up as the deepest and most authentic expression of the universe? Has the fire of the cosmos burned brightly in me. Am I offering myself as a reconfigured sun that burns 4 millions tons of hydrogen every second in order for life to flourish on Earth. Am I at least in the ballpark?
I’m pretty sure that many of our addictions are the result the repression of this instinct to burn in the service of life. The addictive substances and processes become substitutes — sort of compulsive distractions — for our desire to give 'er. Or perhaps, the high we get approximates the natural high of being in service through self-expression. But in the end, our addiction merely dissipates our creativity. We get a hit of courage, a hint of the hero, but walk away from the 10,000 hours which is the true hero’s path. And then regret sets in, and then the downward spiral.
In any case, I have to remember to go to concerts like this one, because I think it’s a kind of spiritual practice to allow the creativity and passion of other’s to fan our own creative spark. One life, friends. One life. Give ‘er. It’s never too late.
This piece is reprinted (with permission) from Bruce Sanguin's blog If Darwin Prayed.