Did you catch Springsteen’s Superbowl halftime show? Remember how comfortable he seemed? How present? Now there was a guy living in the moment, and loving every minute of it.
So what a surprise to find this – a peek into Bruce’s brain just before the band walked onto the country’s biggest stage:
I was worried that I would find myself 'out' of myself and not in the moment. My old friend Peter Wolf once said 'the strangest thing you can do on stage is think about what you're doing." This is true. To observe oneself from afar while struggling to bring the moment to life is an unpleasant experience. I've had it more than once. It's an existential problem. Unfortunately, right in my wheel house. It doesn't mean it's going to be a bad show. It may be a great one. It just means it might take time, something we don't have much of tonight. When that happens, I do anything to break it. Tear up the set list, call an audible, make a mistake, anything to get "IN." That's what you get paid for, TO BE HERE NOW! The power, potential and volume of your present-ness is a basic rock and roll promise. It's the essential element that holds the attention of your audience, that gives force, shape and authority to the evening's events. And however you get there on any given night, that's the road you take.
I am embarrassingly familiar with that whole out-of-body meltdown. In my consulting work, I do the occasional group facilitation or public speaking gig. Fair-skinned folks – you feel my pain? There’s no brighter purple than the blushing top-half of a blue-eyed blonde slowly grinding to a halt in front of 100 people.
Um, heh heh. Ack.
For a lot of us, being present is anything but natural. We hang around the fringes of a good time, doubting, judging, waiting for our engraved invitation. Sure, Clint Eastwood directed AND starred in Gran Torino, but most of us only get to choose one: Do we want to star in our life, or stand behind the camera and yell “cut” a lot?
I think of living a shore dive kinda life as a chance to grab that starring role, to step away from whatever script we've been living. And that could be uncomfortable--who wants to be present for the upset stomach that creeps in as we head to the airport, leaving the safety zone of home? But who'd want to miss getting a little wild and crazy, dancing in our seat with a $6 rum and coke at 10 in the morning while the plane heads out over open seas?
On the other side, when we reclaim our baggage and the cabbies chatter for our attention - taxi? taxi?? - I suspect we get a choice: put on the protective tourist mask and stay safely muted, or step into the moment, tear up the set list, and call an audible.
I know what Bruce would do.