Saturday, February 28, 2015

Musical chairs was an important learning game when I was a kid. It taught me that just because I was walking around, I hadn’t necessarily earned a seat at the table. But it was also a lesson in paying attention and being prepared.  If I didn’t want to be stuck on the outside looking in, I had better focus on the music and the movements of everyone in the game.

It was also a lesson in the role that chance plays in our lives. Particularly in the early stages, you needed to be lucky enough to be near a seat when the music stopped.

I wrote Musical Chairs (Riding in Boxcars, 2006) about the game of life. I felt this simple game contained a message that really followed us throughout life. There is certainly an element of chance and luck that oversees all of our experiences. Good health and being born to parents who love and care for us is a huge advantage in life (the chance for a good seat improves). But we also need to have a will to succeed, and the wisdom to make good choices in work, family, etc. (listening to the internal music that fills us).

I don’t know if kids play this game anymore. It seems like the current lessons are that everyone deserves that seat at the table no matter how little they work or how bad their choices. But that isn’t the real world of life, and it’s a lousy lesson to teach people who will suddenly face a much more demanding environment when they reach adulthood. If you want life to be an adventure instead of a slog, you need to be prepared to face up to the challenges of working for the best seats at the table.

In the end, we all will see that the musical chairs of life gradually disappear. The drummer may play a long or short song, but ultimately, he fades away. All we can do  is try to make the best of it while we are here.

Glenn K. Currie

                            Musical Chairs

The music starts
Before birth.
The gentle rhythm
Of the beating heart.

Growing stronger,
The drummer within,
Plays in the band
Of the marching world.

Rockin’ and Rollin’,
Cruising to the classics,
Singin’ the blues,
Easy listening.

Sooner or later,
Out of step.
We work harder,
To keep up.

The familiar beat,
Becomes more erratic.
Speeding up,
Slowing down.

The parade,
Gets smaller.
Circle closer.

One ear to the drummer,
We wonder
If there’s a seat,
When the music stops.

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