“You don’t have to change. You are not a little fish, you don’t have to swim upstream to find their praise…” – Exactly How You Are, Ballpark Music
Everyone has ideas. They’re all dumb. Gloriously and wonderfully dumb. They’re all dumb until someone believes in them, then they’re given a purpose. But no-one is going to believe in your idea if you don’t, furthermore; if you don’t believe in you no-one else will. The world is too big, too fast and too full for an empty idea. But, if you can believe in that idea, that idea will fill up with worth, other people will start seeing the prospect of this idea; the meaning behind fulfilling that idea, the potential of enjoyment in the pursuit of that idea and the passion to share that idea to somebody else.
But the buck starts and ends with you.
If you don’t give a shit, no-one else will. No-one. But that’s easier said than done. In my life, I’ve found it to be the hardest thing, to own and champion my belief in my own ideas. I’m my own harshest critic, my own worst enemy and I’m sure I am not the only one. I’m certain so many of you reading this can acknowledge that at most times your worst enemy is the thing between your own two ears.
The mind and self is a wonderfully powerful, powerful entity. But if you allow it to grow into it’s own recreation of the Jekyll and Hyde mythology; outwardly positive one day and extremely critical the next, it’s a beast to control and it will cripple you.
Let me ask you something before I go any further; have you ever noticed you always work harder for someone else?
I remember growing up in a town where people worked in brutal desert heat on mine sites, under extreme physical duress for a pay packet that was well worth the effort, well worth the effort, but from a company that they would never fully know or comprehend. They knew their fellow workers, but they’d never meet their big boss, the owner or even the person who received their hard work and toil. They were all working for the same three letter abbreviation that was stitched into the cloth of their shirt. They worked hard for those letters; blood, sweat and broken hands. Yet for some, definitely not all, their own pursuits and dreams were desolate and emptied. Some of them had that thousand yard stare into the abyss that was their conviction to serve that uniform. But what of themselves? I’m trying to build to an idea, so bear with me.
In our relationships we’re so willing to sit and listen to our partner’s problems and we find great pride in taking occasion with their offences, arming ourselves to the teeth to fight in their skirmishes, but rarely give voice to our own. That’s a great part about love, the gift of giving ourselves. We battle for others, for our friends, it’s admirable and in our heart we can give so selflessly to their cause in support of them because it isn’t selfish. It’s selfless, it’s gracious and kind, wonderful and loving; the greatest gift a person can give to another. Their efforts, their talents and what very scarce time we actually have in this life.
In the essay, On the Shortness of Life, the stoic philosopher Seneca, comments on the words of a busy statesman who lamented his own state and wished for a break to his many duties and obligations that all too often commandeered his life, “this was the sweet, even if vain, consolation with which he would gladden his labours—that he would one day live for himself.”
‘That he would one day live for himself.’ One day. What about today? This day. Live for you. From now until that moment when all else fades to black. It doesn’t mean being selfish, it means honouring the belief and the love that so many have placed in you, in their hope for your life to be everything you wish it to be. So many others would take up your mantle and believe in your dumb idea, if you took that first all important step and backed yourself. In the words of Shia LeBouf, “just do it.”
Do you consider your our own dreams empty and shallow? Surely not. But I think one of, if not, the hardest thing to do is to stay your course and pursue the sketchy hand drawn X on the treasure map of your soul. Facing every enemy, booby trap, wrong turn and stretch of desert in between you and that rewarding ‘clunk’ of your shovel biting into the wooden lid of the treasure chest holding your hope. It’s yours, but it is hard to find. It’s difficult, but discipline becomes it’s own motivation.
I thought that I had been following my own treasure map. Each time I performed a role as an actor I was learning a whole new part of myself, creating a life in my head from the script in my hand, the actors around me and the direction that I received. Each and every time we created a production from nothing but ink on a page, because that is what we do; creating life to tell a story as truthfully as we can under the imaginary circumstances so that an audience might disappear and fall into our creation, I thought I got closer to my X. Wrong. I was discovering someone else’s treasure. Someone else’s life. It was amazing and I love it, I do, that will never change. Acting is something I will do until the day I can no longer stand on yellow piece of tape, look someone else in the eye and tell them an imagined truth. But my truth, my life, my dumb ideas were in my songs.
In the lyrics I wrote in musty trailers while waiting on a set miles from friends when I desperately wanted to share a beer with them and explain the overwhelming sensation of rage I got from an argument outside a Melbourne dive bar with a group of young men working in business who offered life advice to an actor, which then became the song Sunday. My dumb ideas were in a song about a beautiful girl riding a tandem bicycle by herself around the tiny island of Rottnest and the boy who might take that up the mantle of the empty seat, if only she’d let him. It was my ode to the work that you put in as a team to make real love, the kind that lasts. It’s not easy, you work together to make the bike stay upright, you have to share the responsibility, you have to trust one another, you’re going to get dirty but you have to have fun on that ride; otherwise why do it in the first place? This became the The Bicycle Song. My dumb ideas were made during a conversation in my car as it bumped and slid across a gravel back road under a Christmas Eve full moon with a woman I’d known since we were seven years old. We’d run off into the dark together to spend the evening beneath the stars, sharing our hopes and dreams and making promises. Only to stand before that person, removed from that time and sense that they’d chosen to bury that magic deep into a part of themselves you’d never be able to excavate, a part no longer available to you, which became the song, Apple of My Eye.
I’d share these ideas once in a blue moon at a backyard party to fellow musicians and someone would say it was too old school or that a lyric was crap or too corny and quietly, I’d lose faith in the idea, in my truth. But it wouldn’t go away. There’s a tree that I pass by every day on my way to the beach for a swim and it’s a beautiful, big pine tree. Huge, green thing that it is, wonderful. The smell of it’s family adjacent to it in the park fills my bedroom each morning and damp evening, I love the things. Pine trees used to surround the tiny shack on the farm my sisters and I were raised on in the South West of Australia. It was a house but it was a tiny thing, really quite bare but to us it only ever felt like home. Warm, welcoming, loud and ours, so loved and full of our
family, that it was only when I went back earlier this year did I stop and think, “wow, there really isn’t much to this place.” But my parents had turned into a paradise. They believed that they could turn this concrete and corrugated iron hut into our home.
Two sticks are just two sticks if you don’t do anything with them, but if you rub them together hard and fast enough you can start a fire. And like the tips of that beautiful pine tree I pass everyday, it might not look like anything special, that small fragment of branch, but you think about the strength behind it. That tiny branch connects to a limb of a tree whose base I can’t fit my arms around, standing taller than the six story building next to it with roots spread deeper and wider than you or I can imagine. Think about then the strength and beauty behind that small piece that you are offered.
Something remarkable can come from nothing if you give it the chance to grow, but if you shut out the sun with your own eyelids how will it be so? Believe in the ideas between your ears, you don’t have to change, you are not a little fish, you don’t have to swim upstream to find their praise. Stay your course and the reward will be meeting yourself somewhere along the way, on your quest to discover the X.
Somewhere along the line I began to believe in the importance of sharing my ideas, my songs and my lyrics. My songs are about moments that I wanted to capture and re-birth, giving life to again and again, playing them for people so they might share in those moments, the triumphs and the sadness. There is a beautiful poem by the writer Sean Thomas Dougherty from his book ‘The Second Sorrow’ titled, Why Bother? It reads, ‘because right now, there is someone out there with a wound in the exact shape of your wounds.’ My truth is a worthy truth, as is yours, as is that of all others. I figured if I could believe in it enough to start a fire maybe someone else would see smoke and continue the message by starting their own flame. The dumb idea was to try and connect to others, who I might otherwise never know, with stories and songs they might otherwise never hear, that idea became the EP that is Boy On A Wire.
We deserve to take the time to fulfil our thoughts and follow the overgrown back garden path in our minds eye. It’s not selfish; it’s brave. It’s not easy, it’s incredibly difficult and humbling to tread your own path only to trip, fall and pick yourself up again only to repeat the cycle, continuously falling forward. But that’s the point, if you try and you must, you must fall forward. It’s better than standing still.
Words by Joel Jackson, Boy On A Wire cover design by Samuel Hockey, photos by Arielle Thomas.
Instagram; @joeljacksonofficial Facebook; @joeljacksonactor www.joeljacksonofficial.com
Part Three coming Sunday the 1st of December.