It has motivated me, bolstered, me, inspired me, and helped pick me up again more times than I can count. With the My Music Motivation posts, I hope to give some perspective to how music makes such an impact upon me and spotlight a few special songs that have held a lot of meaning for me.
In this first installment, I want to present the song "Marathon" by Rush, from their fantastic Power Windows album.
This song, in my view, presents a powerful and positive approach to life as a whole. The idea of life as a marathon is such a powerful metaphor and one well-worth pondering.
I used to run a lot when I played baseball, often for longer distances for conditioning purposes. While I never ran a marathon's distance, in a technical sense, I did acquire an appreciation for things like pacing, endurance, conditioning, and training.
All of these ideas are reflected in the song. Let's take a look at most of the lyrical content and I will share what I've gleaned and what I've taken from them.
"It's not how fast you can go
The force goes into the flow"
Life requires pacing. It doesn't all happen at once and you can't force things to go faster or slower. It simply happens, at whatever scale.
The flow is where the force really is, as life involves all kinds of events and experiences that occur at different rates and levels of impact. Again, the idea of a flow, rushing at one time and slow and even in another, resonates powerfully with the idea of life and the energy of life.
"More than just survival
More than just a flash
More than just a dotted line
More than just a dash"
This, to me, gets at the sheer magnitude and nature of life. It IS more than just survival and existing, and going from point to point. Life is something so much greater. We only experience a finite number of years in this physical life, but it is important to retain the idea of a bigger picture, that life is not just the act of living in a biological sense from day to day. In saying that life is more than survival, I believe the song hints at the idea that life can be about thriving too.
"It's a test of ultimate will
The heartbreak climb uphill
Got to pick up the pace
If you want to stay in the race"
Life is filled with all manner of setbacks, heartbreaks, losses and pitfalls. These are the moments that really test your ultimate will, in so many ways. In my own life, significant passings in my family and significant heartbreaks I have suffered have required very steep uphill climbs.
I've had to pick up my pace many times over to get back into the race, as the song says, and it often requires all the willpower you can muster to do so. I have to admit I'd love for at least the heartbreak part of it to come to an end, but I'm still girded to pick up the pace. Passing that test of ultimate will is far, far from easy, but it is required.
"One moment's high
And glory rolls on by
Like a streak of lightning
That flashes and fades
In the summer sky"
To me, this is a warning not to become arrogant. There is a distinct difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is a very good thing, and it is based upon honesty about your ability and capabilities and what you know you can do. You simply can't get too caught up in the glory and hoopla, because the nature of life is transient, and even the biggest period of success doesn't last. Things do flash and fade and you have to keep a sobered view when running the marathon of life.
"Your meters may overload
You can rest at the side of the road
You can miss a stride
But nobody gets a free ride"
Nobody does get a free ride. Life truly isn't fair, and in my experience rarely goes all that smoothly. Nevertheless, there are times when you do have to take a time out. That might be resetting yourself, refocusing, and recalibrating. It is perfectly fine to take a "time out", to get some rest, and to accept that fact that sometimes you are fatigued or overwhelmed, and a rest at the side of the road is in order. I've had those moments myself and they've been very helpful for progressing on life's marathon.
The words about missing a stride I find interesting, as in my opinion it hints at making mistakes in life, and it suggests that's okay too. I've learned from my mistakes, when I've missed that stride here or there, and it's helped me to run the race much better as I go forward.
"You can do a lot in a lifetime
If you don't burn out too fast
You can make the most of the distance
First you need endurance
First you've got to last"
There is a lot of positive encouragement in this section. Each and every person CAN do a lot in a lifetime. The key is making use of the time you have been given, but that means you have to last, you have to endure. That means that you have to weather the storms, you have to grow stronger and progress, you have to develop,and you have to adapt and adjust to what life throws at you.
In the end, you can complete the marathon in a way you can be very proud of. To me, that's what this song is all about.