No, this will not be a missive on the 1983 classic film starring Tom Cruise. (Sorry if I’ve just disappointed you. Now I feel like watching that movie again!)
I’m thinking more about the risk of everyday life. I don’t mean the probability of disasters or accidents or poor health – although those are certainly all worthy of some measure of consideration.
I am talking about the risk to be yourself. The risk of being honest.
I’ve been told that I can be honest to a fault.
I don’t know about you, but I find myself biting my tongue on occasion, fighting the urge to speak out against what I perceive to be the downright thickheadedness of others.
“How can he/she/they not see how stupid he/she/it/that is?” (Haven’t you ever said something like that before, either out loud, under your breath, or in the safety of your thoughts?)
Then, I remember: I’m stupid, too.
Stupid to someone, that is.
I can’t help but quote Mark Twain here: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”
I have extremely strong opinions about a lot of things (don’t we all?), and yet for the sake of preserving precious energy, I reserve the free expression of those opinions for the company of my very closest friends (lucky them, ha!).
Living in civil society and adhering to social etiquette can be challenging, especially now with so many opinions on so many issues emanating from every direction – Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, the endless news cycle media machine, the blogosphere, and so on. Technology has created an infinitely large soapbox from which anyone with a Internet-capable device can project their virtual voice and find an audience of like-minded souls – but it also ensures regular contact with opinions and paradigms that wildly differ from one’s own.
And yet, despite all my best efforts to conform to social norms, I still find that energy stirring around in me, begging to be expressed. (Don’t you?)
Some people just spout off. You know the ones I mean. They’re constantly airing every grievance, every single shred of dirty laundry. The kind of person who would complain “if they were hung with a new rope”, as my father used to say.
Then there are the ones who have a hot button topic, who never miss an opportunity to bring it up, and who weave seemingly unrelated topics of conversation into the web of their personal passion.
Then you have the quiet ones who don’t say much. Maybe they erupt once in a while, maybe they don’t – but the lava is most certainly there at the heart of that volcano.
For me, honesty is not necessarily about saying what’s on my mind all the time – it’s about striving to express the truest part of myself in the healthiest possible way.
Sometimes it’s best for me to not speak my truth aloud, but rather, to bring that same emotion or reaction into a lyric, or into a piano solo, or into the way I sing or strum the guitar. I try my best to save my truth, warts and all – the angst, the outrage, the amazement, the sadness, the awe, the marvel at both the good and bad in life, the beauty and ugliness in the world – for the catharsis of creating music. I really just try to distill all those emotions into the energy required to put on the best damn show I can, every time.
For what it’s worth.
Being a full time working musician has really driven home an important lesson, over and over again: honesty really is the best policy.
And take it from me – honesty of any sort is risky, no matter what form it takes. Some people just won’t get you. Expect that. Some people won’t even like what you have to say, no matter how you say it. Expect that, too.
A life well lived is worth the risk – and risk means you’re going to screw up from time to time.
I once read that good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgment.
Round and round we go.
Ain’t life grand?