Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Road to Chapin

I went slow yesterday.

Not that I had much choice. The road to Hana is 45 miles of nothing but curves (over 600, according to the tour books) and peril. There is at least one bridge for every mile that can not take two cars, and twice as many sections of the road that require yielding to oncoming traffic.

The speed limit is at some points 10 mph; sometimes 15 mph; and when the authorities feel crazy, it goes all the way up to 20 mph.

Not that I needed an official limit. A couple of times around a tight curve, facing down on oncoming vehicle that is trying its darnedest to outrun the law, and squeaking by with inches or fractions thereof between our car and death, well, one strongly considers taking the trip at a relaxed pace.

Surprisingly, this ex-New Yorker became comfortable going slow. To the point that I did not mind pulling over to let my less turtle-minded fellow travelers pass by. Suckers, I thought.

You see, they were missing so much stuff. The road to Hana is beautiful – the folk here tell you to take the road if you want to see how G-d intended the earth to be.

Too many folk (as the guidebook Maui Revealed reveals) take the trip foolishly thinking that the purpose of the road is to get to Hana.

The purpose of the road is to be on the road.

To enjoy the ride. To be on the way to, not just focused on arriving at.

We listened to Harry Chapin on the return trip. “Mr. Tanner” struck a chord.

“Mr. Tanner” is about a dry cleaner in the mid-west. He is a pretty content fellow, with an extraordinary gift – he was blessed with a marvelous voice.

But even more than his talent, he was blessed with the joy of singing.

His friends convince him that he is wasting his gift by singing to himself, or just at local shows. Such a gift was meant for fame and recognition! Mr. Tanner puts them off, until finally they convince him.

So he spends his life’s savings to arrange a concert in New York City, figuring that a huge opening will draw attention to his gift, and start him down the road to glory. His debut doesn’t go over well, and he is savaged by the critics.

So he returns home, shakes off his friends with a smile…

And he never sings again.

There is a lot that can be pulled from this song/story. For me, Mr. Tanner’s mistake wasn’t in trying to turn his talent into a career. His mistake was in forgetting that G-d’s gifts aren’t about the destination – they are about the journey.

Mr. Tanner was given the joy of music; and he traded that joy for the hope of earthly success and glory.

And in the end, he got exactly what all of us who tunnel-vision our way toward success get: Emptiness. Loneliness.

And sorrow.

I so often fall into the same trap as I write. I scribble to get a project done, looking for the paycheck at the end of the labor.

Sure, I need to sell. But the gift isn’t in the joy of arriving at a sale, or a premiere, or recognition.

G-d’s gift is the joy of creating.

“Music was his life,
It was not his livelihood.
And it made him feel so happy,
It made him feel so good.

And he sang from his heart,
And he sang from his soul;
He did not know how well he sang
It just made him whole.”

Just my thoughts,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow Sean... good words and a great reminder.

Here's to The Journey...