Monday, January 3, 2011

Reflections on The Ballad of Love and Hate

The Ballad of Love and Hate (see previous post) by the Avett Brothers has become one of my favorite songs. While watching the Avett Brothers Live Volume 3, I found this little ballad to turn the wheels of my heart and my head. It is filled with images and lyrics that grab different parts of my imagination. If you haven't heard it and only have eight minutes, I'd suggest watching it and reading this later.

It is the story of Love returning from vacation to find Hate who has remained in Love's absence. This song speaks to me in many different layers. It is, in its construction, the story of the relationship between two people. It is, in it's depth, the story of the competition that continues for my heart. And it is, in my experience, the story of the relentless pursuit of each of us by love. At a given moment, I can relate to either party. On my best days, which usually begin as my worst, I am overwhelmed by the truth of the last verse.

I have played it for many of those close to me. At one point while watching the video, one of my co-workers, impressed by the audience's singing nearly every word said, "They all know this song!".  "Exactly", I thought. In the midst of me (or each of us?) is an ongoing ballad (Battle, dance?) of these two mysterious entities.

Tonight, the following lyrics stirred up a bunch of thoughts...they describe the young taxi driver's reaction to giving "Love" a ride home. His encounter with love is unmistakable as she carries with her

"the good things we know
a reason to live, and a reason to grow,
to trust, and to hold, and to care."...

His brush with Love, like all of mine, is powerful, yet much too brief.

"As soon as he sees her, Hope fills his eyes,
but tears follow after at the end of the ride,
cause he might never see her again."

And then, in this version (the same concert as the youtube video of the previous post) he, apparently speaking directly to me, ad libs..."patience, patience, patience".

I am (and have been) the driver of that taxi so many times and in so many places in my life. Merely an observer, a deliverer of love and all of the things she carries with her. There are times when I experience love and the hope wells up within, and yet I can feel an accompanying sense of fear and pain at the thought of it leaving for good. I can now recognize this feeling and realize I have experienced it from a very young age before I even could recognize it.

I remember this feeling the day my grandparents left Walt Disney World when I was about five. We were staying a few more days but they were leaving ahead of us and I "knew" I would likely not see this day again. The vacation was perfect as I saw it, with nearly everyone I loved in one place for pure enjoyment. This was powerful stuff for a little boy then, and it is powerful stuff even for that little boy today.  

A few years later, our close family friends hosted the Midwest Farm Progress Show. Our family, our church, and our community came together for the big event. The sloppy, muddy day was everything I could hope for and at the end of the day I could feel that same feeling. At home, Granddad (my folks helped until late that night) could see some of my emotion and asked me what was wrong. I was unable to express, or even understand, what I felt at the time, that this day full of love, community, and adventure was one of a kind, one I might never see again...

I recall the day years later that I said goodbye to Smooth as he left for the Air Force. We had attacked life together for a few years. We had shared ups, downs, long runs, Star Trek, NBA playoffs, Sega Genesis Joe Montana Football, hundreds of sets of tennis, and more laughter than two people should be allowed. We were completely at ease with each other. Then he had to go.

"And tears followed after at the end of the ride,
cause he might never see her again."

I recall the last day of Coursendonk (a topic of upcoming posts) at Thousand Oaks in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2005. Jones, Pablo, Smooth, and I wrapped up another week of immersion in golf, friendship, and retreat from the worlds in which we live. As we finished  the last round, I could sense the weight of the moment. It was the realization that another magical week that happens with the four of us each year was coming to a close. I think we wondered if the love that shows up for this week would leave us as we returned to our lives at home. It hit Jones and me at about the same time and the tears flowed for each of us as we made our way up the final hole.

As I sit on the plane tonight after another great Christmas/New Year's week in Indiana, I can feel it again. Parents, cousins, brothers and sisters-in-law(two of them counting down the days to parenthood) shared a few short days. The younger generation coached the older generation thru iPads and emails, and the parents and granparents showed the younger generation that you could actually play solitaire, crazy eights, and war without any electronic devices using only a deck of real playing cards. Meanwhile my boys basked in the attention and aura of their older cousins, rock stars to them. My boys also got to feel like the rock stars as both sets of grandparents gave them the usual treatment.

The short time seeing my brothers, playing scrabble, building snowmen, riding snowmobiles, watching and having snowball fights, taking long car rides, talking with Holly and even listening to the back seat fights of my boys were just great, just beautiful. It was again, many of the people I love, together for pure enjoyment. Surely, this time, Love rode with us on vacation, even if it was in a minivan instead of a taxi.

After all these experiences and years, one would think I would know it to be just a short time until I recognized the next encounter with love. One would think I would rest assured that I'll see love again. Eventually, I might even realize Love doesn't take vacations.

Part of me knows that, but the other part of me (the other guy in the song) struggles to keep the faith. The other part of me is afraid I'll be gone when love comes home. That part of me knows I'm too often the one who's out of his mind, the one who screams in the drive, the one who's lucky to be alive, yet sits alone on the hood of his car (sometimes smack dab in the middle of these beautiful weeks). The truth is, I relate just as much to this other guy. It is this guy who feels left home alone when love takes a vacation.

I am amazed at how often it seems to me that love is on vacation. Those days usually begin with a sense of something I lack, or shame over something done or something left undone, or a bit of anxiety about my ability to handle the day's tasks. Some days it may just be a feeling of loneliness. Throw in a little difference of opinion, a change in plans, or any amount of concern for the health and well-being of myself or a loved one and Bingo, Love may as well be in Tahiti! What gives this song its teeth for me is precisely this, it happens time after time after time. When I twist off, Love shows up. This lasts until the next time I am convinced love has left and then I feel the slide again from "Whatever" to "Weary head hung, eyes to the floor".

It is this guy, the weary one with his head hanging, who is undone, overwhelmed, and filled with hope at those words,
"You're mine and that's it, forever".  

1 comment:

  1. I needed this today. The image of you and Smooth departing after having "attacked life together" brought tears to my eyes. I was reminded of the wisdom saying, "where can I go from your spirit,where can I flee from your presence...if I make my bed in hell you are there" Surely this must be an ode to love. I have made my bed in hell many a night, only to be found by love - usually in the form of friendships and experiences that you so beautifully describe. Thank god that love has a bitchin tracking device or I would be screwed.