Just got back from a chilly Lunch Loop ride and the coffee is brewing in the Bunker. This album has been on repeat for me since I came across it a week or so ago. It’s 15 tracks of instrumental guitar sweetness and the perfect companion to this time of year and the prevailing meteorological conditions.
My 3 cords of firewood were delivered and I set about stacking it to dry. I worked a little each day, in chunks. Partly because it was a good mental exercise break, but also because the heat was pretty serious at times.
There’s been volumes written about the merits of manual labor – in case you haven’t read any of it, the TLDR is that it’s good for you.
I most often stack my wood in silence, choosing to enjoy and absorb the sounds around me and the voices in my head. On one particular occasion, I decided to listen to some music via my Air Pods. It was different.
I was stacking my wood like usual, thinking about all the other things I had to do, what was currently wrong and all the other things that had to be sorted as my playlist churned out in the Air Pods. Gary Clark Jr’s live version of ‘When My Train Pulls In’ came on. I thought how amazing it was that I was walking back and forth in the middle of my yard, in the woods – in the middle of nowhere essentially – on a nice overcast day with a slight breeze keeping the bugs down and at the same time I was being steamrolled by the music this man was making – or channelling – in another time and another place.
As the solo in the song peaked, I realized that none of that stuff I was thinking about prior really mattered. That, indeed, there was no place I could be other than where I was right at that moment, doing what I was doing, because everything had led to that moment – there was no way things could be otherwise. There was no way I could be anywhere else, doing anything else, there, or in the Universe at large. Nothing could have changed the things that were wrong, or sorted what needed sorting, or finished what needed doing. I was supposed to be right where I was. So everything was alright – and couldn’t get alrighter.
That was my satori moment with Zen master Gary Clark Jr.
I’ve been a Rush fan since high school. Being a drummer I was attracted by that, then eventually got into Neil’s lyrics. He influenced me in so many ways. He made me realize rock musicians could be smart. He got me to read again. I wrote poetry.
Over the years I have owned all the albums on CD and cassette. I’ve read all his books. Several times. I’ve read all the magazine articles. I own the DVDs. As I mentioned on my About page,
Rush albums mark and coincide with distinct periods of my life and I have memories of time periods that jive with each release.
In contrast to many celebrities, he’s always been an intensely private guy – a weirdness with fame that he addressed in songs such as ‘Limelight’.
“Living in a fisheye lens
Caught in the camera eye
I have no heart to lie
I can’t pretend a stranger
Is a long awaited friend”
Though he shared little, what he did share was thoughtful, thought-provoking, and at times brutally honest. I felt like I did know him, ironically – though that’s far from the truth.
What I do know is that he aimed to live a full life – and inspired others, including me, to do so as well. In this capacity he far surpassed simply ‘being a drummer’ – even if he happened to be one of the best of all time. An article in Rolling Stone at the end of their last tour summed it up:
Neil Peart likes to ask himself a couple of key questions. One is “What is the most excellent thing I can do today?” The answers lead him to travel between Rush’s shows on a BMW motorcycle instead of a plane or bus (creating scheduling nightmares for the band’s management), and to embark upon extracurricular bicycle trips through West Africa and China and Europe. He aims to fill every minute of his life with as much much-ness as possible, which may also help explain all those 32nd notes.
While I am sad at his passing – it is too early, the paradox is that this supremely private man still had so much worthwhile to share with us, musical or otherwise – I know that Neil managed to cram several lifetimes into his unfortunately abbreviated one and for those of us that remain remembering him, that is his last lesson and reminder to all of us.
Get out and find as much much-ness as you can my friends, and perhaps pause a beat once in awhile in the rhythm of life to remember those that have inspired us and moved on.
If you had to choose only one to have, which would it be? Could you choose? Are they not both components of the essence that is life?
For some years, whenever I have a kid approaching 6th grade, this is the letter I get from school. Due to what I can only assume is a lack of resources, kids have to choose if they’d prefer to have an art or a music class moving forward.
I have always felt, and continue to feel that this isn’t a choice kids should have to make.
Can you even separate art and music? Should we? What about language, storytelling, and culture – which are components of both – will kids at some point have to choose to leave behind some or all of those as well?
There is nothing I could add to this that would make any difference. Jimmy Page discusses the creation of Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in a sublime 8 minutes.