I remember a year or so ago seeing this guy that was driving in the car in front of me while I was slowly moving through traffic. The guy was in an older car that was pretty small…you know, the sort of beat up car that most of us drive while we’re in college? Anyway, the windows were down, and the volume on his stereo was up. I can’t remember for certain if I heard or recognized the specific song that was playing…my memory seems to tell me that it was a hard rock song from my youth, but my memory may be deceiving me, there. In any case, what I remember was that this guy was rocking out, head moving, hands drumming on the wheel, singing. He was driving perfectly well, so its not that he was oblivious to his surroundings. He was just into the music, loving that moment in life, and couldn’t have cared less about what other drivers thought of him.
I remember thinking, “Rock on, man! Rock on!”
That phrase itself sort of sticks in my head because I remember when Karen and I moved to our new apartment, and several members of our faith community helped us with the move. At some point during the repetitive trips down three flights of stairs to the moving truck, I noticed a total stranger carrying our stuff down to the moving truck, helping the process without calling any attention to himself. I asked if he was also a member of that faith community, curious to know who this guy was and how he had randomly showed up to help us move. He replied that he was, and had been told by others that they were helping us move that day, and showed up to help. He just enjoyed doing that sort of thing.
“Cool.” I replied. “Rock on.”
“Thanks.” he said, matter-of-factly. “I will rock on.”
Yesterday afternoon, I was outside at work for my day job. We were in a public area, and music was playing from nearby speakers. The mix of songs was random, and at some point landed on Guns N’ Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle. Talk about bringing back memories. And right there, in the middle of the public square, I was performing some serious air guitar (I have seriously competitive air guitar skills, you know). My co-workers commented on it to much amusement, but for a few seconds, I didn’t care. I was into the music, and loving that moment in life. So I rocked on.
Yesterday I thought about that, and about these previous instances. I think that “rock on” has become this sort of declaration for me that I’m carefree for a few fleeting seconds, and that I love the music (take that as metaphorically as you will), and that I’m going to enjoy those few seconds or minute or whatever, and I really am not concerned about what those around me think.
One evening when I was in college, I parked at a service station. I needed to run inside and buy something quickly, but the song on the radio, Counting Crows’ Round Here, was (and is) such a moving song for me lyrically, one that spoke about where I was at that point in life so articulately, that I was frozen, singing aloud in my car until the final bars of the song. When I became aware of my surroundings again, there were a bunch of guys in the car next to me, laughing out loud and staring. I drove away without going inside, because I was humiliated.
I think I would have a different reaction, now. I think I would tell myself to “rock on,” because what they thought doesn’t matter. The self-exploration caused by that particular song was much more important than their opinion of someone they didn’t, and would never, know. If nothing else is happening than one being transported away from their stress for a few moments, and they are “dancing like no one is watching,” then that is important enough, that they shouldn’t care what those around them think. They should rock on.
Perhaps I just push back a bit on this culture of appearance management that binds us so restrictively. Or, perhaps I’m just tired of caring what others think. Whatever the case, I’ve learned to look forward to those occasional moments when the right song is playing, and I need to let go, if even for a few seconds, and I let that moment take me out of time and space, regardless of what those around me think.
We need more of those moments, after all. I hope many of them find you in the future. Whenever they do, ignore what those around you think. And when you see them happening to someone else, just smile and think, “rock on, man, rock on!”
Photo Attribution: Marcus Jeffrey