“… looking for something, what can it be?” – Joni Mitchell
Two weeks ago we were in California, enjoying the sun, the breeze, and the calm. Driven only to drive and play music, we were free. well more free, at least in some respects, than we are in this particular little haven in Ohio. Even though we are no longer confined to a car seat for hours upon hours, have food available and a sure bed to sleep in and just about everything Oberlin cares to offer, we are inevitably on a schedule.
Not to say we weren’t two weeks ago, as our drive was actually defined by our schedule. What differentiates the two is the authority outlining the schedule. On our trip we were simply traveling, playing music, living and loving with close friends pulled even closer by shared pursuits. The duties needed to be completed were shared and our success was communal as we together approached, pursued and surmounted each (even petty) task. Back at school however, success is not communal, each student completing their work primarily for their own gain, driven by the carrot and stick. Of course we are interested and motivated to go to class, do the readings and write the papers for the immediate pleasure that is learning itself, but overarching this genuine love to learn is the ubiquitous dis/incentive grade system. Though a necessity for in the current state of world and the popular economic understanding of human nature, it still (to some extent at least) seems to bitter the fruits of the learning process and create a hollow sort of motivation.
However, as there is still the genuine desire to learn, the outside pressures (may) coalesce with the internal drive, motivating one to accomplish what one internally believes is best. Approached in this light, the pressures can be seen as freeing, preventing you from succumbing to simpler, immediate pleasures and enabling a fuller potential.
Either way you look at it, we are more immediately restricted. We see fewer alternate paths and have fewer distractions along the main road set off on when we enrolled in this institution. I don’t think this is a bad thing, as to live in this world you need to be able to commit and persevere, and though to flourish in one respect is to not in another, you cannot delegate time to everything so you must limit your pursuits. The uninhibited following of a path, or pursuit of a goal, allows us as individuals or collectives to create and accomplish things worthwhile.
Our path for the month of January was the road and our goal was to promote awareness and hopefully inspire social change. Driving down the lonely roads in Arizona or traveling through Texas, we were searching for a sympathetic ear for our cause and our music. We found several. Whether it was after a show, in a hotel parking lot, across the dinner table, or in the middle of a National Park, whenever we had a chance to talk we found receptive and inspired souls.
This emergent hope we saw and helped evoke made us optimistic, both for the cause and for our fellow person. If we met someone kind enough to lend an ear, they (most of the time) were soon enthusiastic about both our music and our cause.
If we can bring a flicker of hope to a stranger’s eyes with a 10 minute talk (and maybe brief jam session), we believe that with increased promotion (especially as a charity event), more (and more enthusiastic) venues, and (potentially[!]) more bands, we can help reduce apathy and inspire others to do a small part and help support their fellow human.
In the meantime, we’ll be here in Oberlin. Longing to be back on the road? For sure. But we aren’t, and we know it isn’t time for that. today, tomorrow and for the immediate future we are set to learn, grow and give and take from this unique community. Inspired by our own tour, we intently approach this new semester, sure to impart greater change in our own lives, as well as our friends, our community and eventually (hopefully) our world.