We recently took our 7-year-old son to his first concert. Because it’s what my husband and I have been listening to almost daily for the last couple of years, one of his favorite artists is Jason Isbell. Isbell came to play at a venue about 45 minutes away so we made plans to take the kiddo.
Leading up to the show, he would grin every time we mentioned how cool it was to go to your first show at age 7. He wore his Jason Isbell shirt the day of the concert. We dropped his brother off at a sitter and we took him to deli that we go to every time we see a show in this town. Sandwiches piled high with processed meats and cheeses. Cash only. Delicious and so bad for you and perfect, really. The kiddo ordered a kids meal–a huge grilled cheese sandwich, potato chips, a pickle, a soft drink, and a cookie and ice cream…all for $2.95.
We finished our meal, paid up, and headed to the auditorium. We were there in time to see the opening act that started at 7pm. The band was good, but not quite our favorite kind of music–and certainly not who we were there to see. Kiddo’s attention was drifting. Finally, Jason Isbell came on stage. His face lit up and I could tell he was a little overwhelmed. He played the opening song, which we all knew every word of, and it was so good.
By the third song in, I looked over at our son and he was sound asleep. It was right at 8:30 (his regular bedtime) and he was completely out. I wanted to wake him. I didn’t want him to miss the music. Especially when I heard the beginnings of “Flying Over Water”, an older song that I didn’t expect–and kiddo’s absolute favorite one. I patted his leg and whispered in his ear but he did not wake up.
The music played on. We were there for our son–not for ourselves. We have seen and heard Isbell live a few times, once at the Ryman in Nashville. After that, nothing will sound better. We were here so our son could be blown away by live music. He wasn’t really blown away. He was just sleeping. We enjoyed the show which seemed to last forever and then left before the encore so we could make it to the car ahead of the crowd. He slept the entire way home.
The moment illustrated a haunting truth: the music plays on even if we miss it.
The kids play happily, pretending they are fast cars in a race and help each other to the finish line. Pure joy expressed while you are on the phone in the next room.
Trees drop their leaves in a beautiful act of surrender and you are in the house vacuuming.
A customer in the next line pays it forward in an act of simple generosity while you are busy thinking of what you’ll order.
A musician belts out poetry to indescribably beautiful sounds and you’re asleep.
Last week I wrote about false choices. Our awareness is a different story. Our awareness forces us to be single-minded. To choose. We can’t be two places at once. Our awareness has boundaries. We can’t be fully present with our spouse and also be outside talking to a friend. We can’t be at work and playing blocks with our 2-year-old at the museum. We can’t be asleep and rocking out at the concert.
My first reaction to my son’s sleeping at the concert was disappointment and a little bit of panic. He was missing out. We paid money for him to see this and he never got to take it all in. He was missing the beauty, the sound, the fun. How could I allow that?
My second reaction was joy: the music plays on. For those of us who are awake. Even for my sleeping son. What better lullaby than this? The music plays on. If for no one else, for the one playing it. There’s something really humbling and magical about living in a world where beauty happens just for happening’s sake. Flowers bloom whether you see them or not. Babies smile in rooms all by themselves. The music plays on while you sleep.
There’s a big difference between “I’m missing out” and “the music plays on.” The first says that there isn’t enough. That the world is a scarce place and I must hustle to get my fill. The second says the world is a place of abundance–so much so that even when I don’t show up, there will be enough. As Geneen Roth says, “Enough isn’t a quantity–it’s a relationship to what you have.”
We are surrounded by more magic and beauty than we’ll ever be able to take in. I am reminded to pay attention. To be a witness to the life around me. I am reminded that the problem of scarcity is a problem of my own attention. The problem isn’t that the magic doesn’t exist–it’s that I miss it.
Here’s to a 2016 of awareness and attention and gratitude. Here’s to a 2016 of the second response: The music plays on.