SEVEN OR EIGHT LIVES AGO
“And what are songs but dreams, at the end of the day? “ — Bruce Springsteen
I stumbled across an interview with Bruce this week, and that was one of his reflections. He talked about his process of collecting ideas from life, and his process of writing songs. There was so much meaningful insight worth sharing.
“…you take something out the air that isn’t there. There is no existence of it whatsoever, and you make it physical — literally…You have your antenna out…you’re just walking through the world and you’re picking up these signals of emotions and spirit and history and events, today’s events and past remembrances.”
In many ways very similar to how we write, for we are all writers, we are all poets. We just have a different stage and a different audience. But we all write about life, for that is all we really know. It’s moments, its flavor, its brevity.
“Whether it’s the train whooshing by you in an instant or the end of summer… it’s a carnival that comes through town for a week and then it’s gone. Whether it’s the sound of your feet on a gravel road and you look up and the stars are there, then they’ve disappeared. About the swiftness of death, I suppose, but also the richness of living.”
Bruce is 71 now so reflects a lot on closure, life, and the journey. These are topics we all stumble on even as we move in younger years from phase to phase, chapter to chapter. We grow and change, then grow and change again.
“Life goes by quickly but slowly. I heard something of mine from 1975 on a record the other day, and I said “That was about seven or eight lives ago. It was a full and entire life of its own.” And I lived that one, and it was a great one, and now I’m living another one. I lived a life where we raised our children. That life is gone now. Now, Patti and I are living another life. So, you live a lot of lives over the course of your one life.”
My wife and are both 52 and have walked through many sections and chapters ourselves. Even raising three young kids felt like a different life than raising three teenagers. Getting them through their early twenties and the start of families was yet another. Then a period of refocusing, meeting mortality face to face, and finding who you are puts you in a new place, a new life. Peace comes from finding yourself. Relief comes in learning that your spouse loves the new you just like she did the old.
“I carry so many ancestors with me on a daily basis…they visit me in my dreams quite often…So, this idea is you don’t lose everything when someone dies. You do lose their physical presence, but their physical presence is not all of them, and it never was all of them, even when they were alive. Spirit is very strong. Emotion is very strong. Their energy is very strong.”
In the past few years, I lost both a grandmother and my mom and my wife lost her dad. Things are never the same after that. No matter where you are at that time, that section of life is truncated and closed and a new chapter begins to be written. There are times, certain days when the new chapter contains an empty page or two — a numbness. But there are other days when it's flooded with memories, reflections, insights. Our job is to capture those moments and record them to share with others, whether we write essays, poems, or songs.
“It’s like my friend George passes away and leaves me with all of these songs. Clarence passes away and leaves me with all these songs. Danny passes away, leaves me with these songs. And what are songs but dreams, at the end of the day? It really is all my dreams that I put down on paper and on tape.”
As a new writer, I am learning to capture these dreams myself — but it takes a new level of realness to allow your thoughts the freedom to be captured. Those dreams and insights were comfortably tucked away behind the masks and filters built up over decades. As a writer, I am committed to peeling that back and sharing.
This reminds me of a line I highlighted recently:
“…when the author passes beyond the superficial aspects of his own life and tosses us small pieces of his soul…” Thomas Plummer (Medium)
Isn’t that what the great writers have always done? They tossed us pieces of their soul. As the train is whooshing by and the carnival is packing up, let us be real enough to do the same.