Yesterday, a new writer friend, Marta, suggested that I listen to Uriah Heep’s song Tales, as she felt the song might have something important to tell me about the novel I’m writing. Tonight, as I listened to the song on YouTube and looked up the lyrics, I found the words applied to much more than my novel. You may remember these words from Tales that I found particularly inspiring:
Thus we have learned to live
While mortal men stand waiting to die.
How can we do what must be done in
Just one short life.
And if you ask, then you must know. If you still doubt, you should be told.
It was not we that made it so.
It was by those who went before.
And there you sit, tomorrow’s child
So full of love, so full of life
But you must rise to meet the day
Lest you become another tale
Though these words were written some thirty, maybe forty years ago, I needed to hear them again today.
When I was driving home this afternoon from my son’s weekend basketball tournament, the miles and miles of winter brown Illinois farm country called forth many long forgotten memories.
From the time I was 12 through 18, I lived in a secluded little community, some twenty miles outside of a small town where I went to school in Geneseo, Illinois. It was a slower time then. I spent long days and nights wondering who I would become. My friends and I fished in a small pond not far from my house. I felt out of place in this world yet fascinated by it and of course there was the backdrop of the array of different types of music in the seventies.
As we drove homewards this afternoon, we passed through many towns that our high school football team played like Metamora and LaSalle-Peru. The small towns and the fields look the same as I remember from the 7o’s. I rarely drive through these places anymore. Here’s a picture of downtown Geneseo, which still looks much like I remember it.
It was in the 1970’s that I began to realize that I had some talent as a writer and a deep love of literature and philosophy. My favorite heroes were writers. Life has a way of turning out differently than the dreams of our youth. Certainly, my life path meandered down different roads than I would have ever imagined taking when I was my son’s age. I was 13 in 1975, around the time I first heard Uriah Heep.
More than thirty years later, I was having one of those existential days spent wondering about the futility of all my strivings, and pondering if maybe it’s time to leave hopes and dreams for writing tales to people much younger than me. I was feeling the words from Macbeth that my high school English teacher had made us memorize:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
The idea that my life was “just another tale” was weighing heavily on me.
Then Tales came along with the tonic for this kind of existential angst:
A reminder that we must rise up to meet the day and do what must be done in this short life of ours. We must learn to live knowing that our life is short and vulnerable.
So, for another day I must find a way to do what must be done . . . I must keep writing and listening and responding to the messages that the world sends me . . . and you?
How must you rise up to meet your destiny this day?