Cloud Cult & Storyline: The Show Starts Now
Every since the Storyline conference a couple of weekends ago, I have been thinking about life and meaning and great stories. A lot. You see, I teach high school English of all things, and I have always been a bit critical (Okay, I will admit, more than a bit) of the narrow emphasis on GPAs, college acceptance rate, standardized tests, and the prioritization of academic knowledge and skills over all other types, as can be seen in my previous post here. After Storyline, I keep asking myself, “Does this help my students begin lives of meaning? Does it help them find avenues to pursue their passion(s)?”
I own several of Cloud Cult’s albums, and I have always enjoyed both the melody and the meaning of their music. Their newest album was just recently released, and was rather fortuitously (in light of Storyline) entitled, Love. It is an amazing album that intuitively resonates with me, my goals for life and for my students, and in general, even more so than their previous album, Light Chasers. Here is the trailer for the album:
It is very beautiful music, which I won’t try to define right now. Beauty, as it has been said, is in the eye of beholder, and what I behold in this album is love and light and life, but also frustration and doubt. That is what makes it beautiful (Okay, I lied. I will say why I think it’s beautiful, I just won’t turn it into an argument). It doesn’t hide from telling people that they “live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them” in Thoreau’s words, from Walden. However, it joyously tells people to wake up and to change their lives and to find what they are missing. In the song, “Sleepwalker,” they sing:
“We are your conscience.
We thought we’d tell you,
you’ve been sleepwalking
through most of your days.
Your eyes are open,
Your body’s moving,
Your lips are speaking,
But you’re far from awake.
Where is your passion?
Where is your wonder?
Where is your thankfulness?
You put them away.
Times come to get up,
before you break down.
I know you’re on it.
Where is your kid side?
Where is your joyfulness?
Where is your empathy?
Where went your moments?
Where went your presence?
Where went your purpose?
As you can see, they have no problem telling people that they are living as sleepwalkers, as zombies in a sense, that are going through the motions without any real light or life in them. However, instead of being negative or cynical, the album ends with a joyous call to living a better life, a more meaningful one. A common contemporary view is that life is chaotic; we have no purpose, no meaning, no drive, and anything we do is randomly decided by the firing of electrical signals in our brain. The last song, “The Show Starts Now,” firmly rejects this idea, saying that instead of being made of chaos, we are made of love. I really like the rolling drums that begin partway through the song, as well as the multiple voices singing the chorus and the chorus layered over the last lines of the verses. Here is the video:
The last lyrics have especially grabbed my attention in this post-Storyline era of thought that I now inhabit. They say:
“They say we’re made of chaos. I say we’re made of love.
And that’s why our show starts now. Our show starts now.
Hold your breath for a better day, and you’ll never learn how to breathe.
You’re afraid of the dark, but that’s where you learn to see.
Your no good to the living if you’re too afraid to bleed.
And that’s why your show starts now Your show starts now.”
Suffering, in their mind, is inevitable, as we will have bad days, be in the physical and metaphysical dark sometimes, and be banged up and bleed. Yet, the perspective is redemptive, as these things are what teach us how to breathe, how to see (what life really is and what is meaningful), how to overcome our fears, and that we must help others.
Which brings me back to Storyline and my students. These ideas, of extravagant love that changes us as we help others are in line with Storyline. Additionally, I will always prefer to spend a school year, teaching reading, writing, and speaking while we try and answer these questions: what is meaningful? What am I passionate about? How can I find a redemptive view to take toward my suffering? How can I help others? What are my talents?
Kids going to college? That may be materially helpful, but so what.
Kids learning how to make their lives meaningful, to sabotage selfishness and help others, and to live lives of passion? That is infinitely better.
Why wait for them to have a mid-life crisis, a death of a loved one, or some other traumatic event before they realize that their lives matter and that their show has begun?