Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Show the Way

I don't know the lyrics to many songs. Usually, this doesn't really matter because I can't sing. Or as I like to say, I can't carry a tune in a bucket with help. But something about a crying baby in the middle of the night seems to require singing, if only as a last ditch attempt to keep from screaming myself.

Have you noticed how ... problematic the lyrics to lullabies are? Themes of rampant consumerism (papa's buying you what?) and traumatic arboreal cradle accidents don't seem very restful to me. Plus I only know 2 lines of each of those songs anyway.

So anyway, there is one good, appropriate song that I know all the words to. And that song is "Show the Way" by David Wilcox. You probably haven't heard of it, because David Wilcox is not exactly top 40 material. He's more like Methodist church basement concert circuit material. He's a middle-aged guy with a guitar and his lyrics typically use a Metaphor to talk about some Big Idea.

Usually, my cynical brain would dismiss this construction as simplistic and these Big Ideas as quaint, which they are. But the other part of my brain is trusting and optimistic; and this song is that brain's anthem.

Here's David Wilcox singing it:


You say you see no hope,
you say you see no reason
We should dream
that the world would ever change
You're saying love is foolish to believe
'Cause there'll always be some crazy with an Army or a Knife
To wake you from your day dream,
put the fear back in your life...

Look, if someone wrote a play
just to glorify
what's stronger than hate,
would they not arrange the stage
to look as if the hero came too late he's almost in defeat
It's looking like the evil side will win,
so on the edge of every seat,
from the moment that the whole thing begins
It is...

Love who makes the mortar
And it's love who stacked these stones
And it's love who made the stage here
Although it looks like we're alone
In this scene set in shadows
Like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us
But it's love that wrote the play...
For in this darkness love can show the way

So now the stage is set.
Feel you own heart beating
in your chest.
This life's not over yet.
so we get up on our feet
and do our best.
We play against the fear.
We play against the reasons not to try
We're playing for the tears
burning in the happy angel's eyes

One time I sang this song for a group of my college friends, temporarily ignoring the fact that I have all the melodic talent of a cucumber. They all smiled and nodded politely, (and most if them refrained from covering their ears) but none of them seemed to really GET it. Guys, guys - the metaphor is about a play! Isn't that amazing?

I was a drama major, I was very excitable.

I don't think I have inflicted my performance of this song on any other adults since then, having gotten even more self conscious about my tone-deafness over time.

But babies are a captive audience, and at some time or another I have sung this song to every child I nannied. Partially because I know the words, but also because it has been my hope for all these children that they believe that love wrote the play.

And now, singing to my own child, I am filled with this hope for him; that he grows up to believe that the universe is a fundamentally good place and that the goodness and worthiness of people outweighs the instances in which those people are assholes and that standing up against fear is a worthwhile way to spend one's life.

And I also hope that he learns better sentence construction than I have.

1 comment:

  1. I used to sing Mountain Goats songs to the baby I kept because they were the only ones I knew all the words to. They are mostly about marriages falling apart, buildings burning down, and how complicated it can be to be alive. But as you said, babies are a captive audiences, and they probably won't remember the words, anyway.