While writing “It’s a town full of losers…” it occurred to me that I had a lot more to say about Bruce Springsteen.
Aside from his musicality– the way the pianos and horns and guitars and drums collide, making music that can be heard yes, but also felt on a very visceral level– I love the cinematic quality of his lyrics. His songs read like literature. They house conflicted characters and thematic scope that rival any Hemingway or Fitzgerald novel.
Of course, Bruce inspires me to dance (albeit not gracefully) yet his songs offer something deeper, something like a prayer, three minutes of moral reflection. And in those reflective moments the Boss provides an unabashed, multifaceted and often rambunctious examination of life.
Like any great writer, Springsteen teaches his readers about themselves and the depths of their humanity. In fact some would argue he has taught us more “in a three-minute record than we ever learned in school.” ( I may tend to agree.) I’ve been an open-eared, wide-eyed pupil in Springsteen’s School of Rock for close to 25 years. In that time the leather-jacketed professor from New Jersey has taught me 5 valuable life lessons…
Well sir I guess there’s just a meanness in this world
Lesson#1- The world is a scary-ass place. Your local news shows will sucker punch you nightly with many forms of human meanness. Too often people are reckless and cruel. And malice often crosses your path without prejudice, explanation or warning. Sometimes meanness just happens. I wish I had better news my friend but earning your victim badge is the unfortunate price you pay for accepting your invitation into this earthly party.
I just want someone to hold on to/And a little of that human touch
Lesson #2- Poet John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island”. As tempting as it sounds to slip on some sandals, pack the boat and live like a Corona commercial we weren’t meant to exist in solitude, even if solitude is on a tropical island. We need companionship. We need physicality. We are meant to help each through this ordeal called living. And as scary as it sounds, in order to grow, we must embrace vulnerability and share the deepest parts of ourselves with others, not a coconut.
Take your best shot/let me see what you got/bring on your wrecking ball
Lesson #3-People will judge. Don’t listen. Too often we shudder to think what others may think of us. This sounds like high school musical problems but fear of judgment equally petrifies both teenagers and adults. We make our choices, or fail to make them, for fear of being judged. If we live shackled to that fear we will never experience the freedom of our humanness. We must be defiant enough to prevent the world from bending us into the person the world wants us to be.
Well if I had one wish in this god forsaken world, kid/ It’d be that your mistakes will be your own/ That your sins will be your own
Lesson#4- No matter the magnitude, please understand , you will leave a mark on this world. Your decisions will affect someone. Sometimes immediately, sometimes those effects are not fully felt until many years later, in ways we cannot currently fathom. Knowing that our choices will leave a long wake of both influence and damage is just one of the burdens of living. So choose wisely my friend.
No I ain’t a boy , no I’m a man and I believe in the promise land.
Lesson #5- Damn it, you gotta dream. It frightens me to see so many adults give up on dreams, become paralyzed by complacency and drown in an aboveground pool of boredom.The art of dreaming rekindles passions, fuels resiliency and gives us the courage to hope. No matter your age or place you’ve got to look out beyond the present and into the wondrous distance where imagination and possibility meet.
I know I promised you 5 lessons but “tonight we’ll be free and all the promises will be broken” and plus what would a Bruce show be without an encore.
Ohhhh, Growin’ Up
Lesson #6-Life roars by at breakneck speed. I remember being 8 and fishing in a little aluminum boat on a golden summer afternoon with my grandfather. He’s dead now. And I’m 35 with 3 children and my parents are now grandparents. If we cling to the past we will never move forward. As hard as it seems, we have to let the past go, accept the present, and gaze hopefully into the future because there is nothing you can do– life rushes on.
I ain’t here on business baby/ I‘m only here for fun.
Lesson#7- And this above all else: enjoy life It’s the only one you get. Bruce’s music implores us to have fun. Not recklessly of course, but in ways that inspire others to do the same. Rosalita’s musical bravado is infectious, as if the song is daring us not to dance and sing along with Bruce. I know few songs so supercharged with sound, so packed with passion that make you glad to be alive… and according to the Boss, “that ain’t no sin”.