I recently found myself deep in thought while mowing the lawn on my riding mower. Headphones on and radio blasting, being on that loud, noisy machine allows me to escape into the comforts of my personal space. I’m not sure I can write about all the things I’ve thought about during those hours… but I can tell you it sure seems I can solve all the worlds problems in one cut of the yard!
One particular day, I was streaming Pandora’s Acoustic Blues Radio. This particular station is a refreshing alternative to the everyday mix of music I listen to. I find it amazing that these songs have stood the test of time, the lyrics seem as real today as when they were written (many of these were written in the 1930’s and 40’s). I have always loved the sound of a blues guitar no matter if it’s an old acoustic supplemented with piano or harmonica or to the more modern Fender Strat or Tele. Some on my favorite blues sounds however, come from a more heavier influence. A Gibson Les Paul through a Marshall stack… Man, there is nothing like the sound of a crunching riff from that combination… Before I get too far off topic, I’ll stop there with the music, you get the point… acoustic blues jamming in my headphones, me in my personal space.
As it happens from time to time, a song came on the station that took me back many years: Feelin’ Bad Blues by Ry Cooder. At the opening of the song, a peaceful feeling came over me. It’s a distinctive sound, one that you definitely know is a soulful, heartfelt blues tune played with sorrow in the fingertips. There is a magic that happens when an artist can play a song like this and it resonate with the listener as something much greater than notes on an instrument. I love finding these musical treasures!
The song is on the soundtrack to the movie Crossroads. No… not the Britney Spears one… farther back. 1986 to be exact. It’s the story of a older blues man (Willie Brown – Joe Seneca) that has taken a younger study under his wing to teach the art of blues music and in their travels, they journey together back to the “crossroads” in attempt to get Willie’s soul back from the devil. I loved the movie back in the day and of course still love the music. The end scene features one of my guitar heroes, Steve Vai in a guitar duel with “Lightning Boy” played by Ralph Macchio.
The story of the crossroads is legendary. Story has it that in the 1930’s, blues guitarist Robert Johnson went to a crossroads somewhere in the Mississippi delta and made a deal with the devil. Johnson, who was rumored to have been an average guitar player to this point, came back from his deal with an exceptional amount of talent. Johnson went on to record only 29 songs, yet continues to influence modern guitar players with his music.
Crossroads – Willie Brown and Lightning Boy come to the crossroads to make a deal…
The time on the mower, the music and the movie started me thinking that at some point in our lives, we all stand at the crossroads. Arguably, we come to this junction at several points in life. True, we don’t converge on the crossroads in order to make a deal with the devil (at least I hope not), but we do find ourselves at a place that depending on our actions, our outcomes will vary. How are we supposed to know the results of any decision we make? Isn’t that the moral of the “crossroads”? Depending on which path you take, your journey through life will be altered. Really puts a magnitude to the decisions doesn’t it?
As I finished my mowing I stayed in reflection about my decisions and my journey of when I have stood at the crossroads. Did I choose the right path? Have I done what I am supposed to do? What if I had chosen another route? Maybe most importantly, what I have learned through my travels that I can apply to the next time I find myself standing in an intersection of life and need to make a decision?
I thought back to a time early in my law enforcement career where a great life lesson was shown to me. Literally and ironically, I found myself driving through the crossroads of Old Iron Works Pike and Georgetown Road in northern Fayette Co, KY when the lesson hit me… and hit me hard. It was about 4 a.m. when I drove through that intersection, I can still see the crossroads vividly, as if I am standing there right now. That intersection has since been widened and re-paved, but never in my mind. I hope that vision never goes away.
I realized that up to that moment in my life, I had been trying to win the approval of others. I know now that that is a failed strategy, it can never be sustained for everyone. We all remember the saying… “You can’t please all the people all the time”. I was trying. Fortunately, life showed me another way. Personally, it was a life changing moment.
My personal criteria for what to do when at the crossroads is simple in some respects. I realized that if I can apply the following three principles, then I can earn what is just in life.
- Do the Right Thing for the Right Reason
- Have Genuine Intentions in Your Heart
- Never Give Up – Always Work Hard
In short, I don’t need you to feel a certain way about me (trust, respect, like, etc.), but if I can apply these three principals in my life then I feel that I can earn your trust, respect, etc. Earning these is much more meaningful to me and I hope they are to you as well.
How do we know the results of the decisions we make? For me, it’s the inner satisfaction of seeing a life balance that appears proper. Things always seem to work out as they’re supposed to be when these lessons are followed. It doesn’t mean we always get what we want, making good decisions isn’t about always getting what we want. It’s about doing what is right. When we stray from these lessons, we see results that are undesirable. I don’t get all my decisions right, but I try to apply the criteria to get as many correct as I can.
I just moved through another crossroad in my life. Metaphorically, I can tell you that I stood in the intersection just like the man is in the picture at the top of this post. I stood there for a long time. Yes, I applied the principles discussed in this blog. How will the path I’ve chosen ultimately work out? I don’t know that yet, but I can tell you I feel comfortable in my decision and I believe this comfort will allow a path to success. Because of these three principles, I have the trust and faith of my family and friends.
I hope you are able to use these three principles to help you decide which way you should go when you stand in the crossroads. Life isn’t easy, it’s not supposed to be. I look forward to hearing from you about your decision making process and the journeys you’ve experienced.
Oh… there is no way Ralph Macchio can beat Steve Vai in a guitar duel! No way!