Editor's Note: This is probably the best practical philosophy for living in the world that I've encountered in quite a number of years of moderately wide (and, sometimes it seems, increasingly anxious) reading on the subject.
We're only immortal for a limited time.
Musicians are sometimes said to be immature. Not us guys, you understand, but some of the other musicians we know. Like them, we spent our adolescent years welded to our instruments, obsessed by music to the exclusion of nearly everything else in "normal life". And maybe that youthful seriousness, which in a way is growing up too fast, means that the adolescent sense of immortality and irresponsibility stays with us a little longer, into the time when we're supposed to be adults. This is called the "artistic temperament." This is also called a good excuse. The point is, each of us experiences a time when we feel immortal, when time is not passing and we're never going to die. But it's a limited-time offer - time does pass, and soon enough the realities of life come crowding in on us, whether we're ready for them or not, and we have to get serious. This is called "facing the real world."
We will pay the price, but we will not count the cost.
A line from John Barth's The Tidewater Tales (he said I could use it) which echoed around inside me for a long time after I read that book. To me, it just means go for it. "There are no failures of talent, only failures of character." I think that's often true too. Sure there a lot of talented people who don't achieve artistic or worldly success, but I think there's usually a reason - a failure inside them. The important thing is: if you fail once, or if your luck is bad this time, the dream is still there. A dream is only over if you give it up - or if it comes true. That is called irony. We have to remember the oracle's words, from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory and lumpy athletic shoes: Just do it. No excuses.
Turn it up - or turn that wild card down.
So many wild cards we are dealt in life - where we're born, the genes we wear, the people we meet along the way, and the circumstances of the world around us. Sometimes we even choose a wild card: Faith is like that, and so is Trust - one of the biggest chances you can take in life is trusting somebody, and yet most of us take that chance, at least once or twice. Some of us pursue ambitions where the odds against success are great (and where we might have to stay adolescents all our lives). That is called bravado. There is truth in homilies like "the harder I work, the luckier I get" and "luck is when preparation meets opportunity" but they are only tendencies not laws. The best-laid plans, et cetera. No matter how intelligent, talented and beautiful we might be, we still don't know what the hell's going to happen next. But we can improve the odds by the choices we make. I am not an existentialist; I am a free man!
Playing the game, but not the way the big boys played.
Yo DJ - spin that wheel! Sorry. You lose. Life is so unfair. I mean, shuffling around this mortal coil, this vale of tears, playing the cosmic game show and waiting for the party-at-the-end-of-the-world, taking commercial breaks and flicking through the channels - then suddenly the show is over? If you played well and gave it all you had, you're certainly a winner, but sometimes the winner takes nothing. That is called tragedy.
Somehow we find each other through all that masquerade.
The timeless quest - find somebody to love, and make it last. We know the odds are not good, but most of us keep trying. Some of us get lucky. Some of us don't. C'est la vie.
Life is a diamond you turn into dust.
Some people can't deal with the world as it is, or themselves as they are, and feel powerless to change things - so they get all crazy. They waste away their lives in delusions, paranoia, aimless rage, and neuroses, and in the process they often make those around them miserable too. Strained friendships, broken couples, warped children. I think they should all stop it. That is called wishful thinking.
Bebop or a one-drop or a hip-hop lite pop metallist.
Yep - no matter what kind of song you choose to play, you're betting your life on it, for good or ill, and what you believe is what you are. So there. However you slice it, you're taking a chance, and you might not be right. (Just this once.) No one can ever be sure, in this best of all possible random universes. That's why the essence of these songs is: if there's a chance, you might as well take it. So what if some parts of life are a crap shoot? Get out there and shoot the crap. A random universe doesn't have to be futile; we can change the odds, load the dice, and roll again. Anything can happen. That is called fate.
Why are we here? Because we're here. Row the boats.