Words from the Muses

July 5th, 2009

Popular music isn’t known for being a bastion of deep philosophical ponderings.  Despite the image of superficiality and tabloid celebrity behavior, there are still examples of wise words from our musical muses.  Here are a few that I like.

“Life’s a journey, not a destination.” – Aerosmith, Amazing

We are only capable of living in the present.  We can plan for the future all we want, but in the end, we can only experience life on a moment to moment basis.  Complete control of life’s twists and turns is impossible, and maybe not even desirable.  The best we can do is get a rough idea of where we’re headed and enjoy our travels wherever life’s meandering path may take us.

“It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.” – Sheryl Crow, Soak Up The Sun

This is a popular lyric for anti-consumerism and de-cluttering; it’s almost a cliched phrase.  But I still like the words and the meaning behind them.  It’s not about ownership or accumulating.  Happiness doesn’t come from “getting” and “having.”  The act of acquiring and owning brings fleeting joy.  True contentment will elude us until we learn to appreciate the gifts that already surround us.

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” – Bob Marley, Redemption Song

“There are miracles in life I must achieve, but first I know it starts inside of me.” – R. Kelly, I Believe I Can Fly

One key teaching of Buddhism is that suffering exists primarily in one’s own mind.  Regardless of our circumstances–whether we are rich or poor, on top of the world or in the gutters–our suffering exists solely within the prisons we have built in our own minds.  We exert control over our perception of suffering and over our own perceived limitations; when we come to realize this, we can free ourselves the the mental chains which bind us.

“There’s gon’ be some stuff you gon’ see that’s gon’ make it hard to smile in the future.  But through whatever you see, through all the rain and the pain, you gotta keep your sense of humor.  You gotta be able to smile.” – Tupac Shakur, Smile

The full lyric is a bit more colorful, so I cut off the last few words to keep this post PG rated.  I admit that I’m not normally a big Tupac fan, but these words struck a chord with me.  Despite leading a rough and tumble life that would ultimately result in his premature end, Tupac still managed to pen some sage words.  This lyric falls in line nicely with the previous two lyrics.  Even if the world turns its arrows against you, you still exert ultimate control over your suffering and happiness.  You can either choose to be the victim or choose to shrug off whatever hardships are flung your way.

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