Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Of life, truth, and Robert Plant

Led Zeppelin, in case you didn't know, is my favorite band, hands down... and long has been. Though not currently my favorite of their albums, my first Zeppelin album, and the one that led me to fall in love with their music, was their "untitled" album--commonly referred to as Zoso, or simply IV. Everyone knows the classic "Stairway to Heaven"... but the song I want to mention here is slightly less known. Track 7, "Going to California." It's a beautiful acoustic ballad about a girl "...with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair." It's music. It's art. It's lovely. But what makes the song for me are not the lyrics, not Robert Plant's enchanting vocals, no. It's right there in the intro, about five seconds into the song, when you hear Plant take a little breath. There is something haunting in that breath. Isn't there?

Bob says it must be because I have a crush on Robert Plant. Well... Maybe I do--but that's beside the point. What that small breath does for me is hit me with the realization that these are people, real, living people, who created this song. People who express themselves gloriously through lyric and melody... but people who also need to breathe, and sleep, and be loved, just like I do. People who were born, people who will die, people whose lives are quite different than mine but whose needs and feelings are probably much the same.

The things that are most important to me--indeed, the things that keep me going--are those that allow me to feel connected to another human being. I've never been great at small talk; I have no patience for surfacy relationships; I passionately despise falseness. Such phenomena only make it easier for us to put up barriers between ourselves and our fellows, when what we should do is let others experience who we really are... and experience who they are in turn.

Why do I love to write so much? Because writing is the best way I know how to let others see what makes me me, and the best way I can hope to move other people in a way that really, really matters. What kept me going through tax season at work? I'm not a workaholic. But working for several weeks under great pressure around others who were doing the same allowed me to see the parts of my colleagues that are not so fastidiously put together. I saw them stressed, I saw them exhausted, I saw them lose their poise as that last-minute demand from a client caused the warped bough to break and the cradle to come toppling down. It has nothing to do with sadism; it has everything to do with the fact that humanity inevitably includes imperfection in our character, as well as a full spectrum of emotion. Seeing that side of the people with whom I share my life means more to me than every smile that has ever been faked and every cheery greeting that has ever been BSed. Because every single one of us is human, and I think we all sometimes need to feel like we're not the only one. And because honesty and transparency are the only way that any of us can ever hope to lighten the burden of someone else's life.

I'm not selfless, though I deeply wish I could say that I am. Sometimes I find myself trying to be the center of my own universe, marginalizing the desires and struggles of those whose paths cross mine. Usually, though, it does not take long for me to realize that I have become miserable, shutting people out, living inside of myself when I really should be living--for better or for worse--in an honest, uniquely human way. I believe that we all cross one another's paths for some reason--that we're all pilgrims who must help each other make this strange, painful, wonderful, fleeting journey. And that means that we have to learn to trust each other with our deepest selves, not fearing if we are caught in our shortcomings or in our basest weakness.

So I hope I get to cry at movies with you. I hope I get to walk with you through your deepest fears. I hope I get to feed you when you're hungry, dance with you when you're happy, hold you close when you're sad, and hurt for you when you're so broken you don't think you know how to hurt anymore.

...and I hope you will do the same for me.

1 comment:

Allison said...

Very well said!