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What an inspirational week it was

By Ronnie Cameron

“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light / In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right / And it comes in black, and it comes in white / And I’m frightened by those who don’t see it.” – The Avett Brothers

In 1990, Garth Brooks released his debut album. The tenth and final track of the record was a song entitled "The Dance.” That song, the fourth and final single from the album, was released later in April. That tune turned out to be arguably his signature song. In the mid 1990’s, a student whose name I cannot recall analyzed the hit during one of our “Music as Poetry” sessions in my Humanities Class at Swainsboro High School.

Santa Claus brought me a Christmas gift that I’m still reading – a book on the philosophy of Charlie Brown and his Peanuts gang. It’s a slow read, and I’m still working diligently on it.

Between insights gleaned from that book and a visit with an old friend Thursday last, I’m ready now to take on the new year with renewed enthusiasm, all the while humming the tune to “The Dance.”

I spent most of the day with my old buddy out at his farm here in Emanuel County, and I’m so thankful for the visit because his optimism and hope for the future scaled back many dark clouds that strangle my present world view.

I won’t mention his name because publicity ranks at the bottom of his priority list. We didn’t attend the same high school, but we connected shortly after our respective tours in the service. I don’t remember how we met or who introduced us, but we quickly became friends and remain so today.

We had agreed to meet at 1 p.m. So about 11 a.m. or so, he texted and asked if I could come earlier instead of waiting around. I read the text and immediately jumped into action. When I told Susan about the change of plans, she laughed and said, “You two sound like little boys excited about going on a play date.” Of course, I objected emphatically to the phrase “play date,” just as an eight-year-old would, but truth be told, she was right.

Once I arrived at the farm and he started showing me around his latest projects, I was taken aback at the scale of his vision. I won’t go into detail here, but the breadth of his undertaking boggles the imagination. As we rode around the place, and he casually explained how he envisioned the future; how this would go here, and that would go there, I marveled at his energy, both of the physical and mental persuasion.

I enthusiastically embraced his many projects, at the risk of wondering exactly what I was accomplishing in the autumn of my life. But fortunately, the autumn of one’s life brings a perspective that I also enthusiastically embrace. I realized that as close as we are, we value different things at this juncture of our lives.

Towards the end of our visit, I started making my regrets and explained that I needed to get on home. He asked why I had to leave; what I had going on that was so important. When I told him I needed to start thinking about a column, he stated “If I thought I had to write a column for next week’s paper, anxiety would eat me alive.” I reminded him of the enormity of his undertaking laid out right in front of us, and respectively scoffed at his suggestion.

On the drive home, I thought about my shy student who muffled her fears, stood in front of a room full of peers, and tore apart that beautiful Garth Brooks song like a surgeon. She did a masterful job, explaining how “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance” refers to many aspects of life.

I thought about my friend and how his contagious optimism spread around me. He absolutely, positively will not miss the dance.

I thought about Charlie Brown and how he never missed the chance to play a baseball game, despite never winning. I thought about how he never hesitated to fly that kite although he knew the kite eating tree would steal it. I thought about why he was determined to kick the football even though he knew in his heart Lucy would pull it away at the last moment.

Why bother?

Then it came to me – we take risks and plow ahead, not sure if our attempts will be successful or not. We tack our ships headlong into the wind, because if we connect, then we make it to the dance Garth Brooks sang about so many years ago.

If we don’t connect, Lucy assures us she will not repeat that stunt again, so we try again. And again, and again. We try until we’re waltzing to that elusive tune that seductively whispers in our ears. We try because we must dance.

We can’t afford not to. One of the true mysteries of life is who we really are. We discover that by doing and becoming. We do that by trying and failing, then picking ourselves up and trying again. We do that by dancing, not wallowing in our misery. We do that by dancing, not becoming victims. We do that by dancing, not by remaining enslaved.

And I’m frightened by those who don’t see it.

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