In case you were wondering how ridiculous I look while singing along to Broadway musicals, here is exhibit A. Now you can see for yourself why I get such curious glances from passing cars.
Giving motorists a good laugh at my expense is not the only reason I listen to these shows. The ones I've chosen to have on my iPod are all stories that speak to something I feel is essential about the human spirit. Take Rent for instance. My friend and ex-roommate from Los Angeles Noah Lippe-Klein introduced me to Rent. "You have to see it," he said upon learning that I hadn't. He explained that seeing Rent was one of the main reasons he decided to follow his heart and go into teaching rather than try for a more financially lucrative career that his parents were trying to subtly push him toward.
I ended up seeing Rent the next time I was in NYC and Noah is still happily teaching in inner-city Los Angeles some 11 years later. Rent affected me just as deeply as it did Noah, though maybe with a bit of a time-lapse. At its core, it is a story about trying to create community amidst the uncertain tides of modern day life. It is about the need we have for other people to support us and share our lives with. It is about striving to do what you love even when it feels finacially untenable. It is about refusing to bow to fears about the future or regrets about to the past and to live in the Present. It's style and content was offensive to some, but I don't offend easily. I loved it. The music. The brashness. The lyrics.
There is one lyric in particular that always stays with me. It says, "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's Creation." That has always haunted me, because while I feel as though I have been good at modeling a peaceful existence, I often struggle to be truly creative - to use the peacefulness of my life as fertile soil to create stories that reflect what I experience to be beautiful. This walk is one of my most ambitious acts of creation in some time. Because of that, there have been a lot of fears that have risen to the surface surrounding it. I've been tempted to look back and see all the projects I left abandoned or half finished. Other times I've caught myself looking too far forward and worrying about what I will do after this is over. Both of those lines of thought are ultimately unhelpful to me. Listening to Rent reminds me to not let the regrets of yesterday or the fears of tomorrow tarnish the experience of doing what I love right now. To trot out another of its useful cliches: No Day But Today.
I want to thank Noah for that recommendation long ago, and also for his great friendship when we lived together in Los Angeles. Taking a journey like this and rediscovering the joy of spending time with people each night has made me think a lot about those in my life whose company I've likewise enjoyed and benefited from. Noah is high on that list. Ever since I met him in 1998, he has been an example to me of someone who values his friends, always tries to speak the truth and who is doing what he is passionate about. Even though my feet won't take me to LA and allow me to spend a night with him, he is part of this journey in how he helped shaped my experience of friendship. Thanks Noah.