“Your mother used to say that I was afraid, but apathy is not the same as escape, and I was never running. It’s just that I was never fighting. Indifference sneaks in subtly, and subtleties can kill a man.” Ch 8 White Wales Like Black Plagues – Levi The Poet: Correspondence
This album was released in November but I first heard it at the beginning of January and I haven’t been able to shake it. I don’t think I want to shake it. It is, as a friend of mine said, “not a passive listening experience,” but one where if given the opportunity, it sinks in slowly. Thankfully, I have had a few hours of data entry at work that I have been able to just sit an absorb the album again and again. I have literally listened to it straight through six times in the past week. It is a story of “A whaler’s daughter, out at sea. An orphaned son, building a treehouse for her return. The letters they write back and forth to one another, carried by the waves via the ship-captain’s liquor bottles.” But it is more than a story.
I think the reason I love story is because of the deeper truth that can come across. It is those moments in a movie where you get choked up because you identify. It is the times when you jump out of your seat at a movie because the good guy wins and something in your heart says, “Yes, that is the way the world is supposed to be, before our brokenness ripped it to the pieces that it is now.” We LONG for a story where the wrong will fail, the right prevail, the showdown at high noon where John Wayne walks away the victor. And yet in those moments where failure happens, often, we identify with that as well.
So when Levi drops the line, spoken from the perspective of the girls alcoholic ship-captain father when he says, “I was never running. It’s just that I was never fighting. Indifference sneaks in subtly, and subtleties can kill a man.” Well, in those moments, I identify. Indifference sneaks in subtly, never running just never fighting? That is a sad reality that is often true of my life. It is the moments that you wake up and wonder how you got lost off the path that you were intended to be on.
I remember hearing someone say, of someone who committed adultery, “No one wakes up one day and decides, ‘Today I am going to ruin my life and the life of my children.'” No, those decisions are the slippery slope of compromise, the decision to not fight, the decision to be apathetic, the move towards ease. It isn’t just the game changers like adultery. It is the moments that we lose sight of True North. It can be the moment that compromise is made at work. I remember a time when I lied at my previous job. It was a lie in the interest of my client, a white lie, something that wasn’t cheating the bank out of money, just trying to help my customer. That decision was a decision, a moment, a time when I chose to put my integrity aside in such a way that I could justify it. It scared me, ate at me, and I confessed to my boss the next day, terrified I would be fired, as he very well could have. Thankfully he talked to me about how nothing is worth trading for integrity, made me change the incorrect information and let me off the hook. It was a moment that could have been a turning point in my life, where I began to choose compromise over honesty, justifications over integrity. I thank God it wasn’t.
I hope you haven’t been in that place. But have you been in the place where you took the job for money? I am not talking about taking a job because you have to feed yourself or your family. There is honor in doing a crappy job to provide for those we love. I am talking about taking the job where you traded your family for status. Heck, it is probably even justifiable under the umbrella that “I am making all these sacrifices so that my kids can have what I never had, the best of everything, a college education without having to pay for it.” But I am going to argue that presence is worth more than money, than the things you can provide. In the same song, “I know that drifting is a deeper threat than betrayal. No one has to convince you to abandon anything, you just inevitably end up downstream, maintain your pride and wonder why the world keeps on shifting, convinced you’re still standing in the same place. You never mean to drift away.”
You see, there are some things in this world that are worth fighting for but you have to at least know who you are in order to choose those fights. Otherwise you will end up throwing punches in the dark, eventually giving up because you lose sight of the prize, of the reason you started swinging in the first place. It is the professional athlete that becomes focused on the money, not the game he grew up loving. It is the lawyer who focuses on the paycheck, not the justice that drew them to the profession. It is the artist that focuses on the critics review, not the joy of creation, of making something out of nothing. It is the husband who slips into apathy instead of romancing the woman he fell in love with. Don’t be that. Don’t slowly drift away.