Monday, September 26, 2011

Blessed By “Two Hearts On Fire”

One of my favorite country songs was first recorded in 1990, a year after I moved to Durham to jumpstart community/destination marketing here, a job from which I retired after more than two decades.

There are three reasons that Hugh Prestwood’s “Ghost In This House” resonates with me, both in the original version by Shenandoah and as interpreted a decade later by Alison Krauss.  On three occasions during my life, if only for a day or two, I’ve felt as low as the lyrics in this song describe but for other reasons three lines in particular resonate with me.

I’m just a whisper of smoke

I’m all that’s left of two hearts on fire

That once burned out of control

It also describes my parents relationship but, of course, I’m not all that’s left.  I have two incredible younger sisters.  We’re fortunate to be the children of two parents whom we now realize were and are (my Mom’s still living) incredibly passionate, strong-willed, full of life and laughter and ideas and who sacrificed so much for us.

By age 14, I knew they were burning out of control but they held on until I was on the backside of 30 and we were all of age with lives of our own before they went their separate ways.

The lyrics have another meaning for me.  They represent so many people I see who seem to sleep walk through life, afraid of their shadow, rarely if ever making a difference, sometimes barely disturbing the air through which they walk, like a “whisper of smoke.”

Over the years I’ve worked and dialogued at length with many of these souls who sadly never seemed to feel really passionate about anything, let alone fully engaged. Many were good workers, some weren’t but that didn’t stop me from futilely trying to breath fire into them.

Maybe they are trapped in a way articulated in another favorite song that was co-penned and recorded just a year after “Ghost In This House” by Travis Tritt and Jill Colucci, entitled “Anymore.”

Maybe lines from that song are really about a relationship with life such as “I can’t hide the way I feel…I can’t hold the hurt inside…I’m afraid of pretending…I’ve got to take the chance…If I expect to get on with my life…I’m tired of pretending I don’t love you anymore.”

I always thought I had picked up my passion, drive and sense of engagement through imitation from my parents, but from the seemingly inherent nature I see in my single-mom-healthcare lawyer daughter it seemed like these traits were inherited.

But maybe it is both/and, as Jim Taylor expresses in his new book, “…the new understanding of genetics, contrary to the old argument of nature versus nurture is nature via nurture.”

I’ve also learned that passion and engagement and drive seem mystical to those without those traits which is why they so often mistake them as anger or conflict or confrontation.  Sadly, as all children seem innately passionate and engaged, I’m certain at one time these people must have felt what researchers call “the flow” and then shut down at some point in their lives, maybe for the same reasons they seem to “fear failure.”

In his excellent book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink reviews scientific evidence that people who are passionate and engaged are motivated intrinsically because they were given an incremental vs. fixed mindset about intelligence that “prizes learning goals over performance goals,” something one of the researchers he cites, Dr. Carol Dweck reviews in detail in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Maybe Graham Nash got it right with another favorite of mine that he penned while with The Hollies of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” fame (that’s Elton John on piano) and later made famous with CSN&Y as Teach Your Children (for those who love pedal steel as much as I do, that’s Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead sitting in to give the song its distinctive sound.)

It doesn’t just fall on parents or grandparents or school teachers to embed the right mindset, it is the responsibility of each of us (including conservative inclined to finger-wagging) whenever we have contact with a child to, as the song says, “feed them on your dreams, the one they picked, the one you’ll know by.”

I know one thing for certain.  I’ve been fortunate to feel “the flow” for as long as I can remember and now even into retirement.  A good part of the credit goes to being blessed into the home of those “two hearts on fire.”

1 comment:

Bill Geist said...

Beautifully said. And all so powerfully true.