Last night I enjoyed playing an opening set for a presentation by Mark McDermott, a Seattle activist who has worked for years on behalf of laborers. He related a compelling family narrative about the rise of unions in the US and their effect and effectiveness to bring change. I played with my talented friend, Mark Iler, before he spoke.
I had some songs I had been wanting to “try out” and thoroughly enjoyed my time doing so with Mark, who is one of my favorite side guys. He can fill up quiet moments with some juicy leads and vocal harmonies. Plus, he’s just a great human being. (He brought me eggs from his ducks. That ought to tell you something right there.)
The songs I have been writing lately are pretty optimistic. It is an intentional writing effort. These days I get easily bored with my own inner skeptic. And everyone else’s for that matter. I guess I have vampire fatigue. By this I mean, that sucking of life force that happens when I spend too much time around those attitudes who drain me, (You can read more about energy vampires here http://wp.me/p1p3zn-zs.)
The closing song we shared before Mark’s talk may have been a wee bit optimistic for a social activist trying to create a dire historical context to make his point. And it was a point well-taken. The song I sang, though, is called, “All will be well”, and is taken from the words of the 14th century mystic, Julian of Norwich. The chorus goes like this:
All will be well and all will be well; everything’s gonna be just fine. All will be well, all will be well – All manner of things will be well.”
Not a perfect lead into stating the case for why we need change. But, like I said, I have “vampire fatigue”. (And, no, it has nothing to do with Twilight.)
Sometimes I hear encouragement from people with a little too much clarity to “clean out” anyone who keeps you from your fire. The theory is that these forces only pull you down, so be rid of them! And while I know it can feel like this, I don’t think my life is all about living in my happy place with only those that nod and clap when I talk – or sing. (Though heaven knows, it’s comforting and more fun there.)
But truly. This is no way to live: ignoring people who might have something to teach you … Only hanging out with those you feel most comfortable with.
Why? Well, for one, it will make you a pretty poor conversationalist. You’ll become boringly narrow-minded – even you who consider yourselves pretty open-minded. Your open-mindedness will become your anthem and pretty soon you will be unable to tolerate those intolerant people. Which… makes you narrow-minded. Watch out or some day you’ll find yourself singing that song at the top of your lungs on talk radio.
We don’t want you to be one of “those”.
The worst part of hanging out only with those who think like you do is that it creates a circle of fire that will only keep you and your bffl’s warm. This cannot be a “ya’all come over and roast a weenie” fire. Sure, you’ll have your kum bah yah moments, but the fire will eventually die out without some oxygen.
And that is what people who disagree with you are: oxygen. They help the fire burn. They make it possible for it to burn brighter and bigger.
I hope Mark was alright with my song choice. Vampire fatigue happens. And I do have limits. Perhaps it is my burgeoning optimism, but I can’t help but believe that if I consciously choose to be open to these vampires, I may find one day that my vampires have changed. Or maybe I have.
Plus, what if that vampire is in her own process of coming out of “vampiredom”? What if he has been dying to join the circle, but just doesn’t know how? What if I am wrong? What if she has an enormous life gift for me?