To live is to fly

To live is to fly,
low and high,
So shake the dust off of your wings,
and the tears out of your eyes.

To Live is to Fly, Townes Van Zandt
To Live is To Fly is as much poetry and wisdom as it is a song.

Stop, if you haven’t already, listen to the words of this song. Really listen.

If you know anything about Townes Van Zandt, you know that he struggled with alcoholism and mental illness and died at age 52. You can read about it here. He lived a life too short and tragic, but left us with songs like this one.

One theme that comes through clearly in the song is to live each moment fully and don’t hold on to the past. For instance, in one verse he sings:

Days, up and down they come
Like rain on a conga drum
Forget most, remember some
But don’t turn none away
Everything is not enough
And nothin’ is too much to bear
Where you been is good and gone
All you keep is the getting there

Later, in a verse that hints at his struggle, he sings:

We all got holes to fill
Them holes are all that’s real
Some fall on you like a storm
Sometimes you dig your own
The choice is yours to make
Time is yours to take
Some dive into the sea
Some toil upon the stone

At heart, the song is about struggle, leaving mistakes behind, and the necessity of both suffering and joy. Townes teaches us that we all struggle and we can’t appreciate good without evil, beauty without ugliness, or pleasure without pain. The opposites are necessary.

Also, he teaches that we have to move on from mistakes. Learn from them, but don’t dwell on them. Sometimes, mistakes can be the best teachers. On a side note, I recommend Mathew Syed’s Black Box Thinking.

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