“Hey man, how do you play Mr. Jones by Counting Crows?”
It’s been years since I’ve even heard it. During discussions yesterday with a guitar buddy, we pulled up the chord chart, and started to jam. Those lyrics, man.
“I’m gonna paint my picture, paint myself in blue and red and black and gray.” A painting indeed, and an impression of a lot of us. Yeah If you haven’t heard the song lately, here ya go:
A line was pointed out to me last night:
I wanna be a lion
Yeah, everybody wants to pass as cats
We all wanna be big, big stars, yeah
But we got different reasons for that
I so wanted to be a lion.
The fellow I was discussing this with is 17, and this tune brought me right back to that age. We talk a lot about life, and the challenges of adulthood. Here’s a few thoughts on the subject.
When we’re young, we’re nothing. We’ve “got our whole lives in front of us”, yet this is juxtaposed with the view ahead: the hills we must climb are fierce. There’s the inanity of setting up a checking account, and the soulless teller gazes disapprovingly at us over her cheap glasses every time we botch up the deposit ticket. ISN’T THERE MORE TO LIFE?! (Not that I’d know this from experience or anything.)
Not only are we not lions starting out, but it seems like the cats are raining down rocks from their smug little perches at heights that, while not “star level”, are still higher than our early existence at Square One. It’s annoying to be told we must settle. It’s infuriating when the words come from someone who actually owns a car (especially if it works!) We’d like to get to Square Fifty, but the fool on Square Ten is stealing our thunder. And, he’s got an IRA. Bugger.
The ardor of youth sometimes rightfully suspects the Devil, in fact, hides in the details. “Well, it’s complicated” they’d always start with as they killed something. “For the sake of the nation, this Jesus must die.” (Jesus Christ Superstar)
Compromise is easy to confuse with nuance. Absolutes can be aimed at, but what is right/good for us is harder to discern. Our different reasons for “wanting to be big stars” don’t matter in this approach, absolving us of the work necessary to wrestle with “why.”
So I held the Cats in contempt. If I transcended them, “coming through in stereo” (another song reference here), then I’d “never be lonely.” (What a song!) “Beware the cats, for they have nothing to offer.” Well…is it the game’s fault if I’m losing? (That’s a matter of personal opinion, but it’s easier and far more empowering if I see if perhaps it’s my fault.)
Much to my chagrin, I was forced to contend with the world instead of floating above it. (Thank God.) My 17 year old self would scoff at me now, a raggedy old tomcat with half an ear strutting through the weeds, meowing in a hoarse way with a bit of an attitude. It would be nice to have less gray hair, but if that’s the tuition cost, so be it.
I want to be an old lion. The mane will be earned, and it won’t be to solve the problems of fitting in with the world, as the fellows in Mr. Jones hope to do. Direct engagement seems much better. The constant asking of “why” seems vital. Echoing the Peterson idea of aiming at the highest goal, moving towards it, realizing when it shifts, re-aiming, moving, and repeating…and never stopping. I want to have the vision of Youth, and the thought of Experience…an engine, and a steering wheel.
And then I will be someone who believes.