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Tom T. Hall passed away yesterday. His passing has a me a bit melancholy, and mindful of something I wrote down about 10 years ago (the content of which comprises most of this post). The album in the picture here is one of the first records I ever owned. It was given to me by my great-uncle Lew on a trip I took as a young child to the northwest. My memories of that trip are very sketchy: I have only fleeting images within my recall. Yet somehow I remember that “Faster Horses” a time was my favorite song.
Over the years, I listened to this record over and over again, before it got put away somewhere. I still have it. In fact, I was listening to a Tom T. Hall compilation album on my drive home from work just the other day. He was a noted singer, songwriter and storyteller, and it is the stories he tells through his songs that seemed to matter the most to him. It ties me to an aspect of my own history that I find difficult to articulate.
Stories. On the back of the “Faster Horses” album, there is a letter of sorts from the singer about a sabbatical he took in the winter of 1975. It isn’t a letter so much as a collection of entries, observations, and here and there a nugget of wisdom. I couldn’t help but think of my favorite future fantasy of owning a simple house on a lake, with a dock, boat, and canoe. That really has nothing to do with the point I’m slowly working towards here, but it does serve as a backdrop for the gentle melancholy I feel at times in our present reality. The stories of previous generations seem different as each one passes through this age of “progress.” This present era seems ever more confining, in the sense that more and more we relate to one another only through electronic mediums. We live in a cocoon defined by our digital interactions and preferences. Living in such a bubble, what stories can we tell? What narratives and legacy can we pass on that can go beyond the confines of our technology? The age of progress has resulted in a tangible retreat into a false reality of being. The internet is not the real world, and too often it serves not as a bridge, but as a barrier between us and other very real people. What stories can we tell, that will enliven the imagination of our children? Technology may “connect” us to the world, but it also isolates us to the point that intimate, substantive relationships become hard to develop. It is the relationships that enrich us most, that provide us the fertile material for the story of our lives.
My advice? Don’t let this digital representation of the world suck all the life out of you. It can do that. Seek out experiences, passive and active, that add flavor to your existence. Your kids want to know who you are, what you did, what you remember. Or if they don’t now, they will someday. I think it matters. Then take the next step and share the stories. Stories are our legacy.
RIP, sir.Published in