The Right Stuff

The old guys were back today.  The brothers have been coming in to visit me at the music store every month or so for awhile now.  If you didn’t know them, you wouldn’t think that they were nearly superstars once, not so many years ago.  I have seen them sporadically through the years, all the way from their arrogant, invincible youth, in the days when they played music with the best of the best and were well-known far beyond the reaches of this little corner of the world.  It may come as a surprise, but they weren’t always that nice to be around.  I wasn’t even sure I liked them all that much.

They kissed their wives and children goodbye and traveled for the biggest part of the year, repeating this for nearly a decade, coming back to divorces and troubled teens, finally realizing (almost too late) that there are more important things than fame and renown.  Even the dissolution of their family band led indirectly to more tragedy for this family later, but that is a story for a different day.

Photo: Andrew.Beebe

For the last several months, they have come by to see me and make sure that there is nothing in my music store that they can’t live without.  I’m happy to reminisce (and to take their money), but also to look to the future with them.  They recognize the follies of their former life and wish they could change more than a few exploits and harmful habits, but there is no going back there again.  That said, they are making a comeback, of sorts.  Their monthly visits coincide with the new music tour the band is on now.  Once a month, they play music for the old folks in the nursing home nearby.  It is, by their own account, more satisfying than playing for the crowds of thousands in the old days.  They report that the crowds are much less rowdy and more appreciative than were those other fans.  As we talk and joke, there is no arrogance, no sense of invincibility left, just an appreciation for the renewed opportunity to touch lives with music.  I like these guys!

As I thought of the path these fellows have walked, I couldn’t help but think of another young friend who is still headed the other direction on the road to stardom in music.  This young man is the guitarist for one of the top artists in Christian Music and rubs shoulders every day with some of the biggest names in the music business.  He took time from his busy schedule to stop by and see me the other day.  The difference between this young musician and many others I see is astounding.  We talked for awhile and, brushing aside compliments of his own amazing talents and without ever making a self-comparison, he had nothing but good things to say about a mutual friend who also aspired to make a mark in the music business at one time.  His demeanor is that of a servant, never bragging, mostly deflecting any praise away from himself and to those around him, or to the God for whom he plays.  This one, I have liked from the day I met him.

As we talked, he brought up the subject of his road schedule, thankful that he doesn’t have to spend too much time away from his wife, but cognizant of the need to keep a balance.  Although it’s clear that he has no intention of doing so very soon, he even mentioned an “exit strategy”, suggesting that he won’t pursue his career at the expense of his marriage.  I am amazed at the wisdom, having seen the “too little, too late” scenario played out too many times.

Being so involved in the music culture has led me to consider, perhaps more than most people, the paths and attitudes of different musicians.  I analyze and take apart the various approaches these folks have to life and performing and fame, and I’m not always happy with what I see.  It is easy to lose sight of the goal in the mad dash to the rewards.  The goal and the rewards are not the same thing.  You see, if you are a believer, becoming famous is not the goal.  Making a lot of money is not the goal.  The goal is turning the spotlight on the real Superstar, and focusing attention on Him through the medium of music.  There can be rewards in the meantime, but the objective must always be in sight or values will be compromised.  Winning the prizes and gaining the adulation of the crowd along the way aren’t necessarily bad, but if they cause us to waver in our resolve to finish strong, they have become burdens and distractions. Many, in achieving the rewards, abandon their original purpose and end up losing the race completely.  The cost, along the way, is often in lost relationships and people damaged, almost beyond repair.

As for me, I have no expectations (and no possibility) of being a superstar, so there is no worry about the adulation of the crowd along the road, but I do wish I had learned the wisdom of the young musician earlier in life.  Mine, while not as extreme as my old friends’, has been the long hard road of learning by my mistakes.  Like the old musicians, I will have to live with the consequences.  It is to be hoped though, that I have retained some of the lessons learned along the way.

I remember a few of them.  Perhaps it will be enough.

“Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position, or prestige.  It is discovered in goodness, humility, service, and character.”
(William Arthur Ward~Pastor and inspirational writer~1921-1994)

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
(I Corinthians 10:31~NET)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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