“I want a thousand guitars
I want pounding drums
I want a million different voices speaking in tongues.
This is radio nowhere
is there anybody alive out there?”
-Bruce Springsteen, Radio Nowhere
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about The Unanswerable Question: What are we doing here, anyway?
Nothing like starting a weeks-long blogging hiatus on a light-hearted note.
But I can’t help myself. What, exactly, is it that I am doing here – on this earth, in this apartment, at my job, in my family, for my friends, for the “greater good” – on any given day? I’ve become brooding and moody lately because I don’t have the answer to this question. There are days when I feel like all I am doing is going through the motions, wasting the earth’s resources and depleting other people’s time and energy with my very existence. I wonder what it is I produce every day, and then weigh that perceived “production” against its actual value and importance. I see my daily “production” on a bell curve, with human factors on one end and socio-economic factors on the other, meeting in the middle at the apex of the curve to provide the ultimate measure of my worth. For example: bringing in revenue for the hotel falls somewhere in the middle range of the socio-economic side of the curve, as it’s both part of my job and provides, indirectly, additional revenue to our hospitality partners in Seattle, bringing positive growth to the city and (in theory) happiness to its inhabitants as it sustains jobs, etc…. Doing the Race for the Cure today is high on the human side of the curve, as it was an activity that provides emotional and financial support for those struggling with breast cancer, and keeps me connected to close friends and family that I love so much.
However, knowing what my bell curve looks like isn’t the same thing as knowing what gets me to the apex and brings value to my existence. What’s the magic level of commitment to career, hobbies, activities, causes, family and friends that makes us feel needed, important, powerful, successful, positive, truimphant? Nobody knows. Springsteen’s lyrics, though, make me think that we’re all in the same place, to some extent – searching for more in our lives (“I just want to hear some rhythm”) and trying to achieve the life balance that brings us to the apex. I take a small measure of comfort in thinking that maybe some others are wondering the same thing: “Is there anybody alive out there?” Hm.