Radio Quarantine – Chris Smither: I Am The Ride

I knew that when the acoustic guitars came out on the deck last night that it would be three songs at most before they broke out into The Holy Canon of Old White Men, the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel. Fair enough. People love it. Everyone knows it. Some of us prefer more and it was a while before my boy Charlie got a go with his pick. He’s the only one that has played and toured professionally and does a fair job of finger-picking like Chris Smither does. I may have been the only other person familiar with the song so it gave me the opportunity to look around and watch people processing it. For me, and maybe Charlie, this song always meant more than any Beatles tune. That’s heresy in many circles but it is what it is. A person is moved by what they’re moved by and this one chilled me. Nobody knew quite what to say when it was over but it was easy to see it had transported a few folks far from their comfort zone and it took a bit for them to get back. The song is stuck in my head again now, where it’s occupied a lot of space over the last twenty years or so. It comes up from the deep a lot when I’m out on the long hauls. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still trying to figure out after all this time what exactly it means but there’s a message in there for me somewhere. I just haven’t sorted out what it is yet. Something to do with the pitfalls of ego while making the long trek from morning ’til night. Something about mystery. But the lyrics:

Forms are loosely fitting
Jury still are sitting
Sense of duty keeps us all in motion
Prison sirens wailing
That security is failing
Do not inspire a lifetime of devotion
No one will sympathize
No one really tries
They need a faith that leads them like a drum
And I can hear it pounding down among the ruins
Sad to say, I don’t think I’m the only one.

I awoke and someone spoke
They asked me in a whisper
If all my dreams and visions had been answered
And I don’t know what to say
I never even pray
I just feel the pulse of universal dancers
They’ll waltz me till I die
They’ll never tell me why
I never stop to ask them where we’re going
Yes, but the holy, the profane
Are all helplessly insane
Wishful, hopeful, never even knowing.

And they asked if I believe
And do the angels really grieve
Or is it all a comforting invention?
It’s just like gravity, I said
It’s not a product of my head
It doesn’t speak, but nonetheless commands attention
And I don’t care what it means
Or who decorates the scenes
The problem is more with my sense of pride
Because it keeps me thinking “me”
Instead of what it is to be
I’m not a passenger, I am the ride
I’m not a passenger
I am the ride

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