We often harp on the ways in which doing what we enjoy and what we think is good for the world need not be mutually exclusive. It’s refreshing to find we’ve struck an arguably better balance than ever before between the two – or rather, with both supporting one another. The things we find personally fulfilling seem to coincide quite well with our vision for how to build a better world, and things which bring us a deep sense of satisfaction, joy, and meaning seem to elicit reciprocation.
But geography can be a motherfucker. And of course time, that intermittently looming cloud of mortality, lingers above us as a reminder that what we’ve got here is precious, of limited supply, and of uncertain lasting extent. And with all the magic of satellite communication, we still can’t feel the embrace of people we love, or truly be in the presence of those we miss dearly and care for.
This free-spirit, experimental, nomadic lifestyle is amazing. And it’s a struggle too. On one hand we’re learning more about humanity and the world, better understanding what that love is that binds us all as a species, through the vast expanse of history, that’s woven into our DNA. Yet on the other hand we’re separated from those we feel closest to. And while we’re also better understanding the notion of a global community, its complex web of culture and language, mountains and rivers, commerce and politics, we’re lacking the sense of being a part of a more tangible community, one where we can walk down the street and recognize faces, help friends through hardships, fight for causes, celebrate achievements, and water gardens of vegetables and of the mind.
And so sometimes we stumble into amazing scenarios like we did last night at the Yeti in Tulsa. We’re surrounded by strangers chumming up with us like family, singing songs we love, dancing conga lines tallying bananas, marveling at shirtless men in Village People get-ups gesturing giant Y’s, M’s, C’s, and A’s en masse. We inhale the thick cloud of smoke and exhale fire until 2:00 in the morning. Until 3:00, we belt out The Lumineers and CCR and a dozen 90s pop hits, with the most committed night-owls, in defiance of the 35-degree night air. And then we huddle back indoors in dim-lit secrecy with the regulars and employees until 4:00, sharing stories and basking in short-term nostalgia.
Their faces seem familiar. Their demeanor is warm. The atmosphere is light – though smoky – and smoothed over with an alcoholic buzz. And it feels so much like home that we love it here as much as we imagine we might love it anywhere. And then I find myself longing for the faces that – for a second – I think I’m recognizing when I meet someone new, out here, in the “buckle of the Bible belt.” I find myself missing the streets I could navigate by smell as I cursed the stench of a failing sewage system.
I find myself torn between my love for humanity and my love for humans, between my thirst for knowledge and my appetite for companionship, and most essentially, between what I already have and what I’ve yet to find.
So as a reminder to myself, and as an attempt to share these sentiments more poetically, here are some lyrics to a Grey Milk song that you’ve probably heard before if you’ve ever seen me play in a basement or on a street corner.
If no tomorrow comes from today
We watch the night fall and moonlight fade
Until only darkness and cold remains
I will not vanish, I will decay
Swallow the world in a breath of air
Exhale myself and now I am there
And I am here and I’m everywhere
I am the oxygen and I am the core
Of the world
Than of the world
I breathe in sunrise, I breathe out night
My lungs are blackened, my lungs are lighted
I breathe in oceans, I breathe out plains
My lungs are golden, my lungs are salted
And oh, I am whole
If I leave today, please don’t be afraid
I’ll be okay, things work out in ways
When I go away, I’ll come back some day
If not to your arms, then down with the rain
I’ve slept in the arms of these Eastern hills
For long enough now to realize the Sun
Sets in the West to rise in the East
And home is to me the whole in-between
Lo! I am home.