I seem to be on a Ray LaMontagne kick lately. The lyrics, the melodies, his voice- all resonate with me on several levels. In the afternoons, after spending the day in front of the computer making my art, I like to toss on the iPod and wander through the streets of Quartzsite. This little town still has a few swap meets that lingered after the big January Snow-Bird fest of gem shows, art shows and flea markets. When you need an item, you hit the swap first, then drive to the over-priced general stores.
I was looking through a massive collection of antiques the other day with these lyrics finally resonated with me on a deeper level than normal.
“…through the years I’ve know my share of broken hearted fools.
those who couldn’t choose a path worth taking
there’s nothing in the world so sad as talking to a man
who never knew his life was his for making…”
There truly is nothing sadder than talking to a man that never understood that his life- his one and only life- was completely his to live. His choices, his paths, his triumphs and his failures were all his for the taking.
I stood there, staring at an old history workbook from 1945, and all the people and conversations I’ve had over my many years of traveling and unconventional living who embody this song flooded my mind.
This conversation- that your life is yours to design and your decisions are only yours to make- comes to me often. Sometimes its a casual acquaintance at a party who begins to question his path in life after asking me questions about my own. Sometimes its a stranger who strikes up a conversation in a coffee-shop and begins to question his path after we talk for a bit.
Yet sometimes the conversation comes from someone I care about deeply. Usually a friend who I’ve known for many years or just a couple, asks me the questions about how to seek his own path– or he just talks about how insanely miserable his life has become. I answer these questions with as much care as possible- for someone approaching this dialogue is usually in a precarious place of questioning the very foundation he’s built his life upon. He is asking these questions because the identity he has built- the validity of the many years he has dedicated his adult life to- are being called into question.
This man has reached the awakening. He has seen- be it through a dream, an interaction or the disproving of a tautology he held dear- that the core beliefs he absorbed through society, media and family are wrong. These beliefs are toxic. These beliefs are killing him slowly. And he feels it. As Ray puts it, “its a crime, growing old before your time.”
“…and it ain’t bought time he realized
it aint worth keeping score
you win some, you lose some, you let it go
what’s the use of stackin’ on every failure every stone
till you find you spend your whole life building walls
lonely– and old before your time…”
So when this man crosses my path and asks these challenging questions, I guide him through the Matrix. Gently and with care ( I don’t give him the blue pill and yank the power cords from him, sucking him into the slimy vortex of the beast). I affirm his awakening and show him that there is a different way to live.
I tell him that his life has been, and always will be, by his own design.
I can see the energy shift in this man. His spirit lifts, his energy increases and his creativity shows its timid little head. A new man begins to emerge. A man with hope, with possibility and with ideas. A man ready to truly live his life.
And seeing this phoenix rise up helps to quell the sadness within me that this man, usually in his 30s, has spent so much of his life living an untruth, living according to someone else’s intentions, living at the mercy of the ego.
But what is truly depressing, what steps beyond that initial sadness of the truth of this man’s life, is when he returns to me after some time, only to have abandoned his dream, his vision and the path of his own design. He turned his back on himself and all his potential and all of his brilliance- because he succumbed to the wills of someone else. He buckled under the pressure of harsh words from parents, friends and other people who spent a lifetime sucking the precious vitality of this man.
He didn’t have the balls to stay true to his vision, to stay true to his soul. And now he’ll spend a lifetime wondering what he could have become. He’ll wonder, for the rest of his days, what he turned his back on. He’ll harbor that vision we shared in a conversation until it turns into a bitter, poisonous tonic- reminding him everyday of his weakness, his cowardice and his fear. That vision will grow into resentment, into something he loathes and despises. And he’ll crush not only his dreams, but the dreams of others- because he will harbor more resentment than I could ever fathom.
Yet, sometimes the man that realizes his life is his for making- and then takes the action to make this a truth- wins. Sometimes, that man comes to me with his doubt, his fear and his vision and we have the conversation about living that vision.
And that man goes forth and manifests his vision into a reality. And my faith in humanity is restored and I am joyful. And that man helps to counterbalance the overwhelming sadness in the reality of the man who never took action toward building his own life.
Because truly, the decision is simple to me. You live a life of your own design, according to your truths, your passion and your art ( in the craft/art sense- not the fine artist sense) or live a life of untruths and falsities, based on someone else’s ego and intentions.
And correcting a man’s course down the wrong path is simple. You just stop what you’re doing and do something that gives you joy and makes you want to live. That’s not rocket science, folks.
The lyrics are posted below, and I have to say, its worth a read and a listen.
When I was a younger man, lookin’ for a pot a’ gold,
ev’rywhere I turned the doors were closin’.
Took every ounce of faith I had, to keep on keepin’ on’,
n’ still I felt like I was only losin’.
I refused then, like I do now, t’ let anybody tie me down,
I lost a few good friends along the way.
I was raised up poor an’ I wanted more,
n’ maybe I’m a little too proud.
Lookin’ back I see a kid who was just afraid.
Hungry and old before his time.
Through the years I’ve known my share of broken hearted fools,
‘n those who couldn’t choose a path worth takin’.
There’s nothin’ in the world so sad as talkin’ to a man.
Never knew his life was his for making.
Ain’t it a-bout time you realize? It’s not worth keepin’ score.
You win some, you lose some, you let it go.
What’s the use of stacking on every failure another stone,
’til you find you’ve spent your whole life buildin’ walls.
Lonely and old before your time.
It took so long to see, that truth was all around me.
Now the wren has gone to roost, the sky is turnin’ gold.
Like the sky my soul is also turnin’.
Turning from the past, at last, and all I left behind.
Could it be that I am finally learnin’?
Learnin’ I’m deservin’ of love and the peaceful heart.
Won’t tear myself apart, no more, for tryin’.
Tired of lyin’ to myself, tryin’ to buy what can’t be bought.
It’s not livin’ that you’re doin’ if it feels like dyin’.
It’s cryin’, growin’ old before your time.
Cryin’, growin’ old before your time.