Sunday, February 13, 2011

Faith In Faith Itself; Stew and Bruce

About 3 or 4 years ago during a conversation over breakfast, Stewart Francke told me about the new songs he was writing for his next album. As a close friend, I consider myself fortunate to have been a part of his music for the last 20 years. Usually men have their most intimate conversations while driving, because they don’t have to look each other in the face. But the most rewarding part of Stewart’s friendship has been watching it grow by leaps and bounds as his ideas are born or revealed; face to face, friend to friend and heart to heart. Watching his work transform from its creation to completion has been nothing short of amazing. I know I’m one of the few people he listens to when it comes to the direction of his music and it’s an honor that I covet. I also like to laugh and remind him that it’s a damn good thing he listens to me, because I also listen to him. He’s seen me at my best and more recently, at my worst.

One of the many things Stewart and have in common is our incredible admiration of Bruce Springsteen. During the past several weeks I’ve been living on the sustenance of Stewart & Bruce; music that means something and for better or worse has sustained me, as I’ve been forced to get to know my broken heart. Listening to them feels so right because of where I and so many others I know find themselves; living in a town with a bitter wind, broken dreams out on the street and a fractured faith. Thank God their music brings hope within the helplessness and color even forms in the grey matter.

As Springsteen fans we had to wait 30 years for the tenderness and unfinished story that “The Promise” delivered. But looking back to that era, Bruce gave us a different kind of promise showing us that faith isn’t always happy or clean and it isn’t always pretty, but the results of it can produce an extraordinary beauty when revealed.

Tonight I'll be on that hill 'cause I can't stop
I'll be on that hill with everything I got
Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost
I'll be there on time and I'll pay the cost
For wanting things that can only be found
In the darkness on the edge of town

Broad streaks of faith have always been on the face of Bruce and Stewart’s music and they'll generously reveal themselves to you if you want to listen. Lately, I’ve been looking for meaning in everything I do; hoping it brings a chance for me to reach a place where I can move forward instead of building bridges made of leaves over the emotional chasm I’m trying to cross.

The problem with writing about faith is that so many artists have cheapened it with songs that do nothing but make it memorable and easy to obtain, while using the same worn out rhymes. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the writers of those songs, but often question their depth. This is because faith isn’t something you talk about, have, find, get or buy into; it’s a verb.

It’s taking that uncertain step and occasionally looking behind you, not to be reminded of the past, but to see how far you’ve come. As I listen to The Promise, I hear two friends who understanding that in order to let go they needed to be moving toward something else at the same time.

All my life, I fought this fight. The fight no man can ever win
Every day it just gets harder to live, this dream I’m belivin’ in.
Thunder Road--- for the lost lovers and all the fixed games.
Thunder Road--- for the tires rushing by in the rain.
Thunder Road, remember what me and Billy we’d always say
Thunder Road, we were gonna take it all, then throw it all away.

2010 started with great hope and a lot of firsts for me. For the first time in my life I had a woman I loved and who loved me with a shared passion. She took me to my first Kentucky Derby, just after the stresses of my former employer sent me to the hospital to get injected with radioactive material and test my heart. My second book sold out and a second pressing was completed to fill the soft but steady “demand.” My third book was completed and pressed in June, I had my first play produced in July, and suddenly people were interested in other things I’d written.

As life ramped up with my girlfriend we began sharing hopes and visions more often, and we were close to fulfilling a lifelong dream we both had of buying that “little place in the UP” and living happily ever after with 3 months of bad sledding from June-August. But life started unraveling. In August, I was unceremoniously fired under the new “management” of the agency where I had worked without any disruption for almost 10 years and I didn’t take it lying down. In September, the UP dream fell apart. In October I lost the woman I loved, leaving me with a lot of time on my hands to contemplate life, its meaning left me wondering why I’d hit rock bottom but kept on digging. Through a miracle, I became reunited with my her at Thanksgiving. Suddenly, each day was a gift again and because we knew that love was a choice. It actually felt better than falling in love the first time because the heart can be incurably deceptive. I was seeing the world in wide screen and our relationship was ramping up every day. I began writing again and many people thought I was finally finding my own voice or relevance. I lost 50 pounds and was the happiest most productive and busiest unemployed person in the Midwest. I was hittin’ on all cylinders.

At Christmas, I was blindsided again when she got scared and uninvited me (via an email) for the holidays. It came the night before I was to leave. My bag was packed and a diamond ring was inside it, but it was not to be. I guess it was better than getting a text at the altar telling me “sorry ,but I can’t,” and after weeks of trying to keep my end of the promise alive, I’ve learned that nobody can’t chase a scared, unsure and runaway heart anymore than they can fix a broken one.

I’ve been trying to convince myself that that the opposite of love is freedom and not hate. But each day it’s like an addict trying to forget the smoke, the bottle or fine white line. It still feels like I’ve been robbed of everything except my pain, but I can finally feel a momentum shift. But for the grace of God, go I, but I still don’t buy green bananas and the first thing I do every day is to scan the obits for my name. If I don’t find it, it tells me God still has a plan for me and maybe today will be the day it is finally revealed.

I’m trying to hold my head high tonight, but faith in faith itself feels like a feeble crutch, because even faith has its weaknesses---like when I woke up this morning and realized it's is Valentine’s Day and I’ve got a really beautiful diamond ring in my dresser that’s never been worn.

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