Already at the end of the first quarter of 2023, president of Dorrier Underwood for seven years (!) and after all this time (66 years and 4 months, my exact age for Social Security eligibility) I find myself arguing with Rita Mae Brown.
One of her characters famously said, Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
I have come to the conclusion that many times the reason we don’t get different results is that we don’t keep going long enough or hard enough or with the proper way of being.
The examples are legion of the value of “stick-to-it-iveness” to produce an amazing, unprecedented result. But I usually get more attracted to a shiny new idea.=
“Something new will provide the answer” appeals to the brain, sounds exciting.
“Bear down and stay with it, year after year” sounds like punishment.
This week I went to two concerts featuring icons of my youth, Bruce Springsteen and the Eagles, and both had the special aura of “probably the last time ever” in the air.
Bruce has some great new songs, but it was the intensity of the 45-year old lyrics to “The Promised Land” that stuck out to me as newly relevant:
Well there’s a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
I packed my bags and I’m heading straight into the storm
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain’t got the faith the stand its ground
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the dreams that break your heart
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted
… and I believe in a Promised Land.*
He played the harmonica on that song like he really needed me to get it. Thousands of times he’s played it, but this one reached me and the faithful Saturday night at the Greensboro Coliseum, and now we are in a new world of commitment and faith in doing our own work, with intensity, the way it was meant to be done, without cutting corners, without having someone else take the harp solo, full Monty.
And then the Eagles… taking it to the limit, one more time.
Surprising in their precision, Eagles brought a full stage production with a live orchestra and gospel choir, video clips timed to the music with live cameras filling huge high-definition screens at all the angles needed to see everything from everywhere in the Colonial Life Arena. It was a stunning show of technology, but it was more impressive as an example of doing the exact same thing over and over again to achieve perfection. “We’ve been touring for 51 years, and I think we’ve finally got it right,” Don Henley said Thursday night in Columbia.
He had a message, and then some, for the rowdy drinking South Carolina crowd. First he told people to settle down and let everyone see. “If you’re the only one in your section standing up, SIT DOWN! It’s a group thing. There will be a time to stand up. For everything a season.” Then he let his lyrics send the messages.
You can leave it all behind…just like the missionaries did so many years ago
They even brought a neon sign “Jesus is coming”
They brought the white man’s burden down
Brought the white man’s reign…
I don’t know how many people really heard the words to “The Last Resort” from Hotel California, but Rosanne Cash says you only need to reach the 6% of the audience who are poets to change the culture, and I am in the 6%.
…’cause there is no more new frontier, we have got to make it here
We satisfy our endless needs, and justify our bloody deeds
In the name of destiny, and in the name of God.
So sang Don and his Eagles last night just two blocks from the South Carolina statehouse. The last concert I saw here was Paul in 2015, when Rick and I went by to see the protests on both sides of the Confederate flag issue as it still flew there.
When they kicked into the final verse of The Last Resort, a Black gospel choir rose up behind the orchestra for the lines:
And you can see them there “Last Resort” by Eagles (2:49 excerpt)
On Sunday morning
Stand up and sing about
What it’s like up there
They call it paradise, I don’t know why
You call someplace paradise
Kiss it goodbye
My favorite Eagles song heard newly, as a call to action, to stand for something, to realize that “there is no more new frontier, we have got to make it here.” So Rita Mae, with all due respect, I don’t think Bruce and Don, or we, are insane for insisting on doing this same thing, over and over again, in order to produce a breakthrough result.
We won’t be throwing any babies out, only bathwater.