Saturday, December 06, 2008

No Fire Inside

Good song lyrics make you think about stuff. Life. The Universe. Why you're here. Whether there is a 'why' at all. Where you are going. Why bother. Things like that.

When you come to think about it, the lyrics of that Bob Seger song are pretty grim. Some might say 'morbid'. He's done other stuff like that, of course, so it's par for the course. And it's not like this kind of tone isn't adopted by a gazillion of other poets of the era, or any other era. Still, it's different—at least it sounds like that to me. There's something different about Bob Seger, the poet, that makes me pay attention, where others leave me either yawning, or closing the book of going into another room, so I don't have to listen to their productions.

Maybe it is form. A lot of Seger's 'poetry' is told in the form of stories. Look at his lyrics and you'll know what I mean. Some stories extend over just an evening—like Fire Inside—and others over his favorite time-span, or at least it looks that way, of 20 years (Like a Rock, The Ring, etc).

It might be form, at least for those 'story' type lyrics. But I think it's more than that; in fact I know it is.

For one there's the music. It kind of matters, because we're talking about 'music' here. Might say the same for the likes of Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave and, say, Springsteen, of course; because they, too, 'sing'—in a manner of speaking; and they put their stuff to melodies. Said melodies, this tends to be the trend in music, are usually intended to enhance the lyrics—or, in other cases, the lyrics are something that's supposed to 'go with' the melodies, ot 'tunes'. In the best of cases the two become a synergy of...well, whatever it is that we're hearing...message, story, reflection, musings...and so on. Like a movie and its musical score can become this 'whole' thing that is greater than the mere addition of its parts.

So, music matters, and its integration with the lyrics matters and how they play off each other. But is that all?

Sometimes a musician reveals something of himself—not in terms of personal details, but just about his character and who and what he is—in one of his songs; and methinks that Fire Inside is where Bob Seger does it; where he catches that glimpse inside himself and pulls something out and shows it to us. Never mind that the song is about a girl. It is about all of us—and it's about what some of us have and others don't; or what some once had and don't anymore; and what some never really had, because it was extinguished pretty early in their lives; and what yet others don't have, because their brains—and, yes, it does have to do with their brain structure and chemistry!—just didn't turn out to support this thing...this 'Fire Inside'.

What is it: the 'Fire Inside'? How do you know it's there—in others; in yourself? How do you recognize it? What does it do to people? Is it a good thing? What is its influence on human beings?

I'm still not sure, though I can usually detect its presence by many, sometimes extremely subtle signs.

I can tell you what it is not: the myriad phenomena and characteristics used to conceal its absence. Some of these are often associated with what one might consider very worthy activities, driven by what's commonly seen as 'passion' for this, that or the other. Now, nobody is suggesting that said activities aren't worthy or that they are merely used to conceal the lack of Fire Inside and basically help the general 'denial' process. That's not at all what I'm saying.

No, Fire Inside is something else altogether, though often it does express itself as a form of energy that's directed and mis-directed into pursuits that can create havoc or be beneficent. Fire Inside is neutral, like 'The Force" in Star Wars maybe, though it isn't that either.

It is... well, listen to the Bob Seger Lyrics again and maybe you'll get a hint of it.

No matter what you dream or feel or say
It ends in dust and disarray

Like wind on the plains, sand through the glass
Waves rolling in with the tide
Dreams die hard and we watch them erode
But we cannot be denied
The fire inside..."

Whatever lurks behind those words...that's it.

Think Batty in Bladerunner...

And if you need to know even more, it should be this: Fire Inside is what most people are truly afraid of. It's the thing that occasions a deep sadness, carefully denied, when it has died—and all that's left is the afterglow that sees them through to the point of dying. It's what they killed, but whose extinguishing most will blame on others or circumstances—though for many that is actually true, but maybe not as true as one would think. It's their greatest attribute, and yet it is thrown away and carelessly left to sputter and go out, when all they had to do is tend to the flame and nourish it.

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