Music As An Awakener Of Life
Lately I have been using some of the slower, early morning time at work to relearn poems I used to know by heart. Poems like “The Cremation of Sam McGee” and “The Shooting of Dan McGrew,” for example, by Robert Service. I can recite them, moving my lips behind my mask, and no one can even tell, unless they’re close enough to hear.
I added to my repertoire, the other day, while working on the bread section (my day job is in a grocery store), by learning the exact lyrics of Tom Petty’s “Running Down A Dream.” I suppose I’ve listened to that hundreds of times, in my life.
It’s interesting how, with so many songs, you know most of the words and can sing along with it, as you have for years but, if asked, you couldn’t sing them exactly, stitched all together, by yourself. It’s almost like the music is some invisible glue or thread helping you get from line to line. And without it, you’re stuck.
I’m not sure why that particular tune was of interest on that particular day. I have been listening to his greatest hits, but can’t say why that one surfaced.
Anyway, I enjoyed that and sang it all day. It didn’t take that much work, as I did know most of the lyrics. Then, driving home I blasted the song and tested myself to see how well I did.
It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down
I had the radio on, I was drivin’
Trees flew by, me and Del were singin’ Little Runaway
I was flyin’
I might well have said “The trees flew by, me and Tom were singing, Running Down A Dream, I was flying…
The chorus goes —
Yeah, runnin’ down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
Runnin’ down a dream
Damn good advice there, too. Usually dreams don’t just come to you. They have to be chased.
Last verse says —
I rolled on, the sky grew dark
I put the pedal down to make some time
There’s something good waitin’ down this road
I’m pickin’ up whatever’s mine
It suggests hope, faith in the future and that it’s perfectly fine to get your share of the blessings and joys of this world.
There is strange power in music, for sure. It caffeinated me, while I was working, just singing the song, pretending I was a bad-ass rock and roll star, like Tom Petty. I moved around like a jungle cat.
Why, I’ve wondered a lot over the years. How can music do that?
Joseph Campbell, teacher and historian of mythology was once asked “where the human capacity and feeling toward music came from, when you consider that music has no real survival function?”
His answer was — “It has an awakening function. Life is rhythm. Art is an organization of rhythms. Music is a fundamental art that touches our will system. In Schopenhauer’s The World As Will and Idea he speaks of music as the sound that awakens the will. The rhythm of the music awakens certain life rhythms, ways of living and experiencing life. So it’s an awakener of life.”
A clarion call, I think. Music is a way we can still be awake, even in this dark virus winter. “There’s something good waitin’ down this road.”