Sunday, September 23, 2007

Reason to believe: Springsteen's big day

September 23rd is Bruce Springsteen's 58th birthday (yes, he's really that old). I've been a fan of his since college, and have always held a special fondness for his solo acoustic album Nebraska. It's certainly not a collection of songs that most would list among their favorites, but the raw power of the music and the intimacy and emotion of Springsteen's vocals immediately struck a chord with me.

Among the album's tracks, Reason to Believe with its image of a man poking a dead dog with a stick always fascinated me. The song's refrain is, "at the end of every hard earned day, people find some reason to believe," and I think it's an accurate description of the American psyche. Ultimately, most of us want to believe the best of our situation and hope that things gone wrong will eventually right themselves.

Unquestioning loyalty and blind faith are characteristics often admired in our society, especially among the more fundamentally religious, but they're also habits that generally prove self-defeating. Idly wishing that things are what they were but now obviously aren't, doesn't serve anyone well. The challenge is always to recognize the reality of our situation, and move forward not back. No matter how much we poke that dog, it's going to stay dead. It's wasted energy that could better be used to accomplish those things well within our reach.

With the technological advances blossoming before our eyes everyday, the field of the possible is expanding quickly. There is a reason to believe in a future much brighter than any imagined golden past, but that requires asking questions of those in power and having more faith in ourselves.

Reason to Believe
by Bruce Springsteen

Seen a man standin' over a dead dog lyin' by the highway in a ditch
He's lookin' down kinda puzzled pokin' that dog with a stick
Got his car door flung open he's standin' out on highway 31
Like if he stood there long enough that dog'd get up and run
Struck me kinda funny, seem kinda funny sir to me
Still at the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe

Now Mary Lou loved Johnny with a love mean and true
She said baby I'll work for you everyday and bring my money home to you
One day he up and left her and ever since that
She waits down at the end of that dirt road for young johnny to come back
Struck me kinda funny, funny yes indeed
How at the end of every hard earned day you can find some reason to believe

Take a baby to the river Kyle William they called him
Wash the baby in the water take away little Kyle's sin
In a whitewash shotgun shack an old man passes away
Take the body to the graveyard and over him they pray
Lord won't you tell us, tell us what does it mean
Still at the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe

Congregation gathers down by the riverside
Preacher stands with his Bible, groom stands waitin' for his bride
Congregation gone and the sun sets behind a weepin' willow tree
Groom stands alone and watches the river rush on so effortlessly
Wonderin where can his baby be
Still at the end of every hard earned day people find some reason to believe
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