One of the coolest and most unanticipated things about writing this blog is the sense of engagement it offers with the things that I’ve written about. And this is most evident with songs that I’ve heard, or seen videos for, all my life.
I once wrote about the alternate lyrics for Steve Miller’s “Jet Airliner“, and about singing Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” in the shower, and even about hearing Lynrd Skynrd’s “Freebird” in a setting that I wasn’t expecting to. Those songs, and many others that have appeared here in some way, are still just as they always have been, but I can now hear these songs on the radio and think “I’ve written about that.” They don’t become my songs, but I have at least attached some of my own words to somebody else’s songs, and that’s something to me, at least.
Last weekend I was with my family at a theme park north of Chicago. There was a karaoke stage set up, and people (mostly kids) could choose a song and then go up on stage and sing it. When adults do karaoke, there’s typically alcohol consumption that precedes this. Why? Because adults need their inhibitions lowered before they will prove to the world they can’t actually sing, and alcohol is apparently the preferred method of accomplishing this.
I decided that, although I haven’t had a drink for some time now, I also wasn’t yet ready to give up on doing karaoke. I can’t sing very well, as I’m constantly reminded around my house, but I wanted to go ahead and do it, anyway. And alcohol wasn’t going to be needed to pull it off, either.
Driving into work a few days earlier, I had stumbled upon Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” and I listened to its lyrics intently. The sense of all things being temporary really appealed to me, as I’ve now entered the stage in life where I pay more attention to the deaths of notable people from my childhood, like Gary Carter and Andy Griffith and Sherman Hemsley. However long my own life lasts, the time will come when I float off into the wind, just like everyone else. And Kansas seemed to grasp this idea when they wrote this song.
So even though there was a big book of songs available, there was only one that I wanted to sing, up on the stage and in front of whatever strangers might be happening by at the moment. Since looking ridiculous didn’t bother me, I didn’t need any chemical assistance in lowering my inhibitions. I only wanted to close my eyes (which is the first line in the song, coincidentally enough) and acknowledge the fact that life is a passing gift to all of us. And that’s just what I did, over the next three minutes.
My voice cracked, and the rest of my family was mortified, but when the song was over, I felt as if I had made some kind of a primordial affirmation about life’s transience. And by writing about it here, this affirmation can live beyond whatever time that I have left on this earth. Or, to paraphrase Kansas a little bit, “Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky. Oh, and the internet, too.“