Who’s driving this life, anyway?

Lyrics should amplify the emotional impact of the music. Or is it the other way round?

As I’m gearing up for a major life change (leaving a home I love in northern Wisconsin to move to Phoenix, Arizona for the sake of my family) some music on a long trip reminded me that I’m not always doing my best. I skated through school. Straight As, but still, I skated. I could have done so much more with my time and resources, but being just a little above whoever was in 2nd place was good enough — because all I cared about was being 1st, not about being best.

Most people think I’m wildly productive, writing book after book, managing 3 family businesses, and still having time for friends and family.

What I see most days is a person who won’t do the work to lose weight and eat healthier, turns in about 1/4 of the art he could be producing, and is a little too quick to call it a day and watch TV.

In Mark Knopfler’s Speedway At Nazareth from Sailing to Philadelphia he sounds like a man who blames everyone but himself, losing race after race for an entire season because, for instance, “She went around without a warning” and as anyone knows “the Brickyard’s there to crucify anyone”. He points out that “we were robbed at Belle Isle” and lost another because “my motor let go”.

Near the end, one last excuse about how “we burned up at the lake” and then, the last line puts it all in perspective:

But at the Speedway At Nazareth I made no mistake

Not a whiner making excuses, but a guy who knows whose job it is to win the race, and who sometimes can’t look that truth in the face.

Until one single win gives him the courage to admit who’s driving this life.

On the same stretch of road I revisted John Cougar Mellencamp’s Scarecrow. I’d forgotten what a great album it is.

Minutes To Memories is the rambling commentary on life of an old man on the bus, as recorded by the young man singing. The last lines of the chorus sound at first like a curmudgeon’s denigration of a younger generation:

You are the future
So suck it up and tough it out
And be the best you can

It may sound like Don Henley singing “get over it!” but, really, is there another way to live? What we do today, what we do every day, is our future, ours and that of everyone our life touches.

Is there another option when things go sideways but to suck it up and tough it out?

Is there ever a time, a place, a circumstance to not “be the best you can”?

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