I like country music. There, I said it. I am officially “coming out” as a guy who likes country music. While this may not seem remarkable, as a fella having grown up in the age of the Scorpions and Def Leppard, this is a major leap from the closet. My awakening occurred today as I sat in my truck with the windows rolled up waiting for my daughter to get out of school. I had the windows rolled up because I did not want anyone to know I was listening to country music. The volume was low, yet I still checked the mirrors frequently to make sure none of my after-school parent pals could sneak up on me and discover my secret. While listening to the gentle twangs and homey lyrics, it struck me that, despite all of the crap country music gets, it pretty much has it right.
Each song is an homage or a celebration about something important or something significantly insignificant. Rich with symbolism, stories are told and people “get it.” This has appeal to me. Many things in this world I do not get. I do, however, understand stories about resilience and struggle and hope. I understand the allure of a beach and a beer. I understand love, both lost and found, as much as anyone understands such a mystery.
Country music speaks to these topics in ways that I get. I am always searching for some understanding and meaning about life. Country music reminds me that these questions are not mine alone. Others, if not all of us, have the same questions. Knowing that others struggle with finding answers is comforting. A collective uncertainty lives in country songs. Rarely, in a country song, is the answer clear, but this doesn’t matter. This is more settling than unsettling. In fact, understanding that sometimes answers don’t exist lifts the burden of not being able to find them. This, too, is comforting. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I know that it’s important to look anyway.
Siddhartha said, “It is better to travel well, than arrive.” Country music, and likely, most other music, too, is about a search. And the searching is the traveling. Every day, we encounter our lives. We wake up and live a country song. We sing in the shower and eat breakfast and raise families and bust our butts and have our hearts broken. And every day, we wake and do it again. We respond.
We search. And when we search, we are alive. When we don’t, we die, slowly, but with the deliberate knowledge that we could have and should have done more. The answers are the destination and these are less important than trying to find them. Here we are found. We discover ourselves during the traveling and are sometimes surprised by what we find. We are more powerful than we understand and when we awaken hopeful and inspired by our trip, our lives are truly lived.
Country songs tell these stories in simple, yet complex and universally understood ways. They strip down posture and pretense. They lie bare as a truth. The beauty and significance of the soft moments come alive and sing to the parts of us that need to hear. These messages about finding solace and comfort in our soft moments are something that we all need to hear and feel and believe in. For this reason, I complete my confession, without much shame, and hope that others, too, can find a song to sing, with the windows rolled up or down, and know that everything is going to be ok.
[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his new exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]