So I was listening to this song today, and I had one of my little epiphanies. Of course, as a Buddhist, I suppose I should be using a term like “moment of enlightenment.” Whatever it’s called, it was just one of those things that as soon as it dawned on me, it was the most logical thing in the world.
Wanna know what it is?
In a minute. Listen to the song first.
I’ve always loved this song. On one level, it’s pretty dark. There’s a lot of talk about judgement and redemption and salvation, and not all of it is positive. In this worldview, there are people who might not be saved. They’re the ones who’ve cut themselves off from the world, the people who don’t want to help anyone but themselves: “You’re lost inside your houses, there’s no time to find you now.” But there’s hope here, too. “Well the fires are raging, hotter and hotter, but the sisters of the sun are gonna rock me on the water.” All you’ve got to do is “get down to the sea somehow.”
My epiphany came near the end, in the final verse. This is a song about salvation, about finding hope for the world in your community; it’s one of Jackson Browne’s favorite themes. He knows that people need to work together to save not only themselves, but the world. But he also knows that the only one who can save you is yourself. That in the end, you’re judged alone: “When my life is over, I’m gonna stand before the father, but the sisters of the sun are gonna rock me on the water.” Of course, that line is a contradiction in and of itself. He’s going to be judged alone, but he’s not going to be alone when it happens. Which led me to my moment of enlightenment:
I’m not going to be judged.
Or, to be more accurate, the only one who can judge me is me. I’m responsible for my life, my actions, my thoughts. I can choose to follow a path that helps others, that gives something back to the world. Or I can choose to walk the path that helps only me. I can be in the world, or I can be in my own world. It’s no one’s choice but mine, and no one will judge me for it but me.
My tendency to judge other people by my own standards is something I’ve always struggled with. And I probably always will. I will continue to look at other people’s behavior through my own standards, and I will continue to find them wanting. But my opinions are mine. And ultimately, my opinions will have no effect on those people. It shouldn’t. That’s part of this epiphany, you know. Everyone else is responsible for their own lives and actions. I have to learn to live with that. Maybe that will help me temper some of my less attractive attitudes. Maybe not. That’s my problem, not yours.
“Rock me on the water, sister will you soothe my fevered brow. Rock me on the water. Maybe I’ll remember, maybe I’ll remember how.”