Friday, March 21, 2014

The Soul's Memory

In late 2011, singer Glen Campbell announced to the world he had Alzheimer's disease, and his wish was to go on the road for one last tour. His farewell tour had a scheduled stop near me in early 2012, and I had the pleasure of seeing this talented musician in person before the ravages of the disease slowly faded him away. Wichita LinemanGentle on my Mind, and my favorite Still Within the Sound of My Voice wafted from the stage as this man played guitar like no other, fully engaged in his music. He was on fire.

Between songs, during the conversational portions tucked into the gaps at every concert, he told stories of his career and life. A few times in these moments, though, the disease showed its effects as his words grew silent, and he looked to his daughter (on keyboards) for help. It was in these moments, the new reality of this man showed, and the audience seemed to emanate a collective hug. But, as soon as the first notes of one of his classic songs filled the hall, he came alive again. He sang with passion and played guitar better and faster than a man half of his 76 years. The disease might be slowly taking his day-to-day life, but it was not taking his soul, the soul where his music lived. That was fully healthy and fully present. The music and talent deep within his soul knew who he was and would always be there. The soul remembered.

A couple years ago, I felt directionless, like I had gotten lost on my path, losing sight of who I really was. Turning to a road trip to cure my ills, as road trips always seem to do for me,* I returned to the Midwest and to the company of long-lost family. Sometimes when you lose your way, rather than trying this road or that road to get back on track, it is best to return to the beginning, back to where you stood on solid ground.

And so I did. I returned to the roots of my family to find my footing. Sitting on the shore of a lake in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, alone in silence, I let the memories in those waters wash over me. Nearly a thousand miles away from my life, I returned to the beginning, the place that always made sense to me, the place that always felt like home (though, strangely, I never lived there). In this stillness, all the noise of my life fell away, and I was able to listen -- really listen -- to what was deep inside me. That's where it can be heard.

This was not a moment where a light switch flipped, and life was sunshine and roses again. It was, however, a touchstone -- a reminder that the soul never forgets. My soul knew who I was, even though I had forgotten. My soul, silently keeping watch just off-stage, knew I would someday return. I still stumble; I still get turned around and look for direction. Yet, the road will reveal itself to me if I return to the silence and listen. It speaks in the silent moments.

Memphis musician, Rob Jungklas, captured this feeling in his song Horse. The song of release and surrender reminds us "the horse knows the way." Yes, Rob, it does. Sometimes we have to relinquish control and let the soul show us the way. Let go of the chaos and speed of our lives and be still. Be still, close our eyes, and open our hearts to hear that faint voice just off stage that knows the way. Even when we forget, the soul remembers who we are.

*You'll notice a theme with me.

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