I am Springsteen

Huge conundrum, people:

Elysha compared me to Bruce Springsteen.

She told a friend - not even me, so it must be true - that I’m like Bruce Springsteen because the two of us are tough, rugged men who make great art.

While I admittedly can’t repair a hinge on a cabinet, change my own oil, or even hang a picture on a wall, I’m fully equipped to keep the family alive in the event of a zombie apocalypse or similar collapse of civilization. My years of Boy Scout training and my ruthlessness in the face of danger make me capable of keeping our family alive when it matters most.

Plus I write good books and tell good stories.

Not unlike Springsteen, who also appears tough as nails but writes and sings great songs.

Wrote a terrific memoir, too. You should read it.

My conundrum:

What do you do in your marriage when you know you’ve reached the absolute pinnacle and everything from this moment on is going to be significantly less perfect than this very moment?

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Bruce and Clarence sharing a kiss, over and over and over again

I love these photos of Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons kissing on stage, which they did routinely when Clarence was still alive and performing with Bruce.

I love these photos for three reasons:

  1. As a fan, I love witnessing the love shared between two men who I admire so much. 
  2. I love the way this expression of friendship and love runs so counter to what you'd expect from two rock and roll icons. 
  3. I love the way it enrages the bigots who love their music but are repulsed by the notion of two men kissing each other on the lips regardless of the context.   

Springsteen on parents (and perhaps a path to my salvation)

We honor our parents by carrying their best forward and laying the rest down. By fighting and taming the demons that laid them low and now reside in us. It’s all we can do, if we’re lucky.
— Bruce Springsteen

I have walked for a long time in the shadow of parents whose decisions I could not understand. Decisions that still hurt me to this day.  

I have been unable to find the forgiveness required to put the past behind me and move forward. Perhaps I never will.

But these words have perhaps shown me a path to that forgiveness. A means by which I can step outside that shadow and find some light.  Whether I can ever take those steps is still uncertain, but for the first time in my life, I feel like I can see the way. 

Bruce Springsteen understands the cliff. Do you?

I'm listening to Bruce Springsteen's autobiography Born to Run. It's incredible. The man speaks truth with eloquence again and again. 

How can someone be this talented?

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One of the aspects of this book that speaks to me most is the way in which he understands the cliff. If you've never stood on the edge of the cliff, it's hard to describe or understand, but once you have stood there, it's difficult - perhaps impossible - to step away, even when all seems right in the world.

The cliff is the place where you have nothing. No money. No home. No future. No hope. The cliff is the end of the line. The place were unbelievable misfortune and unknowing misstep have taken you against your will.

The cliff is the place where you turn around and see nothing. No mother or father standing in support. No childhood home awaiting your return. No safety net waiting to catch you when you fall. There is a wasteland behind you and the cliff ahead you, and there you stand, alone on a sliver of substance in between. 

The cliff is the place where you wonder about your next meal. You worry about staying warm. It's the place where you learn to stay low and dodge the law and the lawless. It's where you wrap worry around you like a blanket because it's all you have. The cliff is the place where you endlessly debate how to spend the last $10 that you think you will ever have.  

The cliff is the place where you wonder why your life didn't turn out like everyone else's life. It is a place of shame and regret and fear and resignation.

But the cliff is also the place where you find strength. It's the place where every cell in your body universally and unequivocally points in one direction for the first time in your life. You become a being of one purpose. One singular goal. If you do not fall - do not plunge into the abyss as so many will - the cliff is also the place where you can rise up. It's the place where your mettle will be tested, and relentlessness and confidence are forged in the fires of solitude and survival.

Once you stand on the edge of the cliff, I don't believe you ever leave. You stand or you fall. If you stand, you remain in place, feet planted firmly on the edge of oblivion. Someday, you may turn around and discover that you are no longer alone. No longer lost. The wasteland once behind you you is now green and lush and full. But the cliff remains before you. A reminder of what could have been and still could be.

The cliff is both destroyer and salvation. Shame and pride. Fear and courage. The cliff was where I became me, and I believe it is where Bruce Springsteen became The Boss.  

Springsteen's second album was abandoned by his record company. Executives at Columbia Records did not believe in his sound, and so they did not support his music. In fact, the actively petitioned against it. Torpedoed it. Fought for its demise.

It could have been the end of Springsteen's musical career. He was standing on the cliff. He faced oblivion. No money. No career. No safety net. Little hope.

Here is what he writes about this moment.  

"The basic drift was these guys thought we were just going to go away. Return to our day jobs. Go back to school. Disappear into the swamps of Jersey. They didn't understand that they were dealing with men without homes, lives, any practicable skills or talents that could bring a reliable paycheck in the straight world. We had nowhere to go, and we loved music. This was going to be it. We had come to liberate you, confiscate you, and all the rest." 

This is the edge of cliff. Springsteen stood. He remained, and the world is better for it.

If you are standing on the cliff today, please know that you do not stand alone. Hope exists even when it is impossible to see or even imagine. I find myself on this Christmas morning in a warm home, alongside a loving wife and two happy children. I am the teacher and writer that I once dreamed of becoming but never thought I could be. I am more than I ever imagined I could be.   

But like you, I am still standing at the edge of the cliff. I will likely be here forever. But today my feet are planted firmly, and that once arid wasteland at my back is now green and lush and full.

It can be like this for you, too. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday. 

I am living in my someday. It's a someday I never thought would come. 

Stand firm and fight for your someday, an inch at a time if necessary.   

Quite possibly Bruce Springsteen's most brilliant and perfect observation ever

Most people’s stage personas are created out of the flotsam and jetsam of their internal geography. They’re trying to create something that solves a series of very complex problems inside of them or in their history.
— Bruce Springsteen

Springsteen is an obvious musical genius. A brilliant writer and musician and performer. My favorite. 

It also turns out that he also has the clearest of windows into my soul. 

Question: Which person alive today deserves immortality for the sake of future generations?

I saw Springsteen on Wednesday night. After watching him perform for almost four hours, I felt so fortunate to have seen him sing and play almost a dozen times over the course of my lifetime.

As I exited the stadium, I thought, "That man can never die. No one does it like him. No one will ever do it that way again. We need that man."

It got me to thinking:

If the Gods were kind and just, they would allow humankind to choose immortals. Human beings who we decide are so universally unique and beloved and needed that we can freeze them in time. Stop their aging process. Hold them as we have them now and forever more.

And it's not like we need an infinite amount of immortals. Let's say that we get ten names. Ten immortals to keep with us forever.

This is what I proposed to my friends as we left the stadium.

Who would those ten people be?

I added the stipulation that the person needs to be alive today. While someone like Abraham Lincoln might be deserving of immortality, once a person is dead, they cannot be brought back.

Given these parameters, which ten people deserve immortality? Who would we choose to keep in place forever?

Bruce Springsteen is on my list. 

I have yet to find a second name worthy of inclusion.