Notes From The Middle Of The Road
Most of the roads that I've ever traveled have featured a helpful line that runs down its center. Whether dashed or solid or a combination of markings, this line is a defacto guide that aids in keeping vehicles from smashing into each other nose-to-nose and causing much pain, misery and higher insurance premiums. It's a marking that can be ignored or embraced but a good many people are alive and happier today because of its existence. It works. Usually. Multi-lane highways are a slightly different story and require a bit of rethinking on your technique. Still, the concept works. Usually.
Over the years, my relationship with that line down the middle of the road has evolved, from needing to cross it laterally, as a child, in order to discover why I'd been told not to and right on up until today, where that centrist point of passage is the best place to stand directly on the road and not get creamed. Always use caution when playing on the highway. Not everyone considers the stripe.
There are few things in this wacky world that require me to take sides. I don't have sports team devotions, am firmly in the "live and let live" camp and I don't vote along party lines. Very few things, besides zebra crossings and police cruisers, are simply black and white. Labels attempt to make choices easier for people but, if you dig beneath the surface of any package, they can be highly misleading. I feel it's better to give careful consideration to the Whole of a thing, person, belief, discipline, etc., and sort out what's good, bad and otherwise about it.
With Donald J. Trump now officially the President of the United States, all of the racehorse statistics, approved messages from candidates and colorful yard signs have dissolved into a blurry rear view. You may, or may not, have noticed that I was completely silent regarding the run-up to presidential election. This was a big one that caused a lot of division between families, friends and Facebook buddies, all trying to make their points known and invite people to come on over to their side of the road. Meanwhile, I stood on that center divider and watched as the cars, trucks and motorcycle convoys screamed by on either side of me. With both sides of the road filled with shouting, emphatic, fired-up followers, I definitely felt more at ease standing in the middle of the road.
A label that I'm perfectly cool with is "musician." I don't have to boldly convince anyone about my dedication to it, don't need to apologize, rationalize or demonize it and until it's outright outlawed (history shows us that this sort of thing has happened in the world), I won't go to prison for doing it. In fact, I believe that music has a way of healing divisions and bringing people together. There are enough borders and walls between us; racially, economically, religiously, sexually and other effective adverbs. Babel's curse can be effectively undone by the application of music. Not just listening to music, because there are labels and divisions there, but the actual performing of music. Getting your hands on an instrument is the great equalizer and inspiration. It's part of my quest to plant little nuggets of melody in the hearts of children, teens and adults to the point where they'll come to embrace the art as a way of coping, understanding, creating, believing, sharing and emoting. Through art, in general, we can express ourselves without doing physical harm to anyone ("one good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." - Bob Marley.) We can get so caught up in the soundbites and lower third screen crawls in media. We're all so busy rushing around and trying to cram as much Life as possible into our too-short 24 hours each day; how did it come to be like this?
I'm not attempting to simplify the day-to-day, that's just crazy-talk. What I am trying to do is be more of a white stripe down the middle of the highway as opposed to one of those big, thick speed bumps that bottoms out your vehicle. There are times to take sides ("take a stand for something or you'll fall for anything") but mostly, I feel the need to be available. As a friend, as a teacher, as a participant in The Great American Experiment, I don't ever want to close the door on discourse or wear a label that renders me unapproachable. I'd be that way even if I was deeply passionate about all of the stuff that gets people so wound-up. Truth is: life goes on and it's a collective effort. No single person holds the keys to your future unless you toss those keys into their basket and walk away. The dividing lines between us weren't put there by other people. Those lines exist because we've allowed them to exist; as a people. There's no easy way forward, but I can certainly try to make it that way by not contributing to the firestorm of opinion and attempting to show how similar we all are as opposed to highlighting our differences.
So, am I depressed the day after the inauguration? No. Did I vote for the man? No. Do I hold out hope that things will go well? Yes.
As I've said time and time again, true hope and change begins at the street level with you and me. Government, media, entertainers, they can all influence our worldviews and introspections but the real work is done inside of your heart. I'm not a policy wonk or expert in climate change nor am I a sociologist or archaeologist. I do know a few good tunes from around the world and the notes always carry the same message: we be of the same blood, ye and I.
That's why, with my words and actions, I'll continue to take a middle-of-the-road walk down the highway. It may sound dangerous, but when I look at the burned-out husks of vehicles on either side of the road, fought over by squabbling masses like some unholy confluence of a presidential election and Black Friday, I know that this neutral path may yield its share of close-calls and hair-raising passes, but I haven't been side-swiped yet.
Plus, it's kind of thrilling to be somewhere in the middle. You can see and hear everything.