It’s been said that it is better to burn out than to fade away.
That it’s better not to turn to rust.
These words are taken from the Neil Young song, ‘Hey, Hey, My, My (Into the Black)’.
They are moving lyrics. Full of emotionally evocative ideas.
This song is streaming freely in my consciousness right now because a wonderful man shared it online last night, and I haven’t been able to escape its seductive melody, or the intensity of its message.
Some people latch onto the first idea. They sing along and come to understand the countless examples of burning out.
But what I think most people miss, is the subtlety of quietly, underlying message.
It is easy to miss the truth, that life is not a two-choice proposition.
Burning out vs fading away.
To be or not to be.
There choices in between.
Life is far more complex. Far more marvelous and beautiful, when you ponder the impossibility of our existence.
Life contains unimaginable, and infinite realms of possibility.
At some point, we must face our fear and stop living lives of quiet desperation. We cannot be happy in a world that is either right or wrong, rich and poor, beautiful and ugly, and full of either living or dying.
The two-prong proposition of living or dying, of burning or fading, gets us stuck between the mud of the past we cannot change, and the fog of a future we cannot yet embrace.
Chester Bennington, the voice of Linkin Park, hanged himself on his friends birthday, and Chris Cornell, hanged himself, after a long, suffering battle with drugs and alcohol, in Detroit, on May 18th, earlier this year.
On the surface, we can sit here for ours recounting the numerous examples that seem to validate that it is not nobler in the mind, to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
That it is nobler to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them.
On the surface, it is hard not to argue with the Romanesque conclusions of Hamlet.
It does indeed seem better to burn our than to fade away.
It is much more profitable not to let your own life turn to rust.
Just look at the legacy of James Dean, Marylyn Monroe, Elvis, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, John Bonham, Scott Weiland, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Bon Scott.
It seems that it doesn’t really matter how you burn out, just as long as you do.
It doesn’t matter if you take your own life with a belt, a knife, a gun, a needle, some pills, or gorge yourself with food until your heart gives out.
It’s a lie.
People miss the morning sun that rises at the end of Hey, Hey, My, My (Into the Black).
They miss the warning and the hope.
Once you’re gone, you can’t come back.
The end of life, is not only the end of possibilities for you, but for everyone else that is left alive, and all those that are yet to be born.
We are either all connected, or we are nothing at all.
I will die defending that it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
I will fight that burning out robs the world of songs that will never be written, art that will never grace the canvas, smiles, hugs, memories, and above all else, courage.
Another opportunity to be human.
We view our lives in terms of life and death. It is almost impossible not to, since we are all born with some kind of expiration date.
What is tragic is that we miss what lies in between.
Life is beautiful, but only in between.
It’s not how long you live, but the intensity and the kind of life you live.
I want to remind you of C.S. Lewis.
He was a beautiful man, and an unbelievable author.
So much so, that an American woman, dying of cancer, flew across the ocean, along with her son, so that her boy could meet his hero. She flew such great distance because she knew she didn’t have much time, but that this was going to be a great gift.
An opportunity, and a memory her son would never forget, even after she was gone.
But something unexpected happened.
There was something in between.
C.S. Lewis, the beloved author of millions, unexpectedly fell in love with her. He fell in love with a foreigner. A terminally ill woman, with only months to live.
What a force to be reckoned with.
He married her, and spent the time that remained, together with her.
He held her hand, watched her suffer, and comforted her, as much as he could, until the end.
He bore the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
He accepted the pain that was to come. He accepted a broken heart.
Years later when he reflected on his brief love affair, he remarked that this was the best and most meaningful time of his life.
His pain and loss was immeasurable and enormous. Her suffering was unbearable, but he chose to focus on the possibilities.
He loved her. She was dying.
All he had, is what he had.
He could either love in between, or let his love burn away.
He chose to love her, because running away would have been a greater loss.
The meaning we attach to either one, that is what makes the difference.
As Viktor Frankl beautifully illustrated in memoir Man’s Search for Meaning, our last human freedom, is our attitude towards the things we cannot change.
It makes all the difference in the world.
Neil Young ends his beautiful song with the following four lines.
Hey, Hey, My, My
Rock N Roll will never die
There is more to the picture,
Than meets the eye
Hey, Hey, My, My
There is more to the picture than meets the eye.
Don’t forget the life in between.
Don’t look with your eyes.
Look with your heart.
Find the joy in the in between.