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The Week After September 11th, 2001: A Musician’s Perspective

Twin Towers Sunrise

The following essay was originally published September 18, 2001 in my snail mail newsletter, The Soulflower. Since then, the President and Mayor have changed, as well as my tattooed sweetie. In addition, The Soulflower went from snail mail to email. Regardless of the personnel and technological changes, the message has remained, and I’m happy to share it again, in its original form. – CLH

The Week After September 11th, 2001: A Musician’s Perspective

by Carla Lynne Hall

This morning I woke up spooning my sweetie. In the dawn’s shadow, I noticed his rumpled hair, and the symbol for chaos tattooed on the back of his neck. I took a deep whiff of him, and felt grateful and humbled. It hit me suddenly that there’s a woman on the other side of New York City who started her morning last Tuesday in a similar fashion. And in a single moment, her life was changed forever.

There’s nothing like a slap in the head to provide clarity. I feel like we weren’t paying attention before, but we sure are now. More than ever, I feel it’s important to keep true to your life, and the dreams that have brought you this far. Our consciousness as a nation has been raised. Many of us are thinking, what is important to me right now? Things that seemed so crucial last week don’t even rate a thought today. Other things that had been taken for granted have gained much importance. I read somewhere that there’s an old Russian custom in which people sit down to say goodbye before they take leave of one another. I mean really say goodbye. The practice came about from dangerous times when people knew that there was a chance that they might not see each other again. I thought it was quaint when I read it, but I’m digging that custom myself right now. I want everyone I love to know it, and dammit, I want to play music.

I’m a late bloomer in many senses of the word. I think of the many years that I spent thinking about being a working musician instead of just going for it. The time wasted dreaming about accompanying myself on guitar, but not actually doing it. The times that I was too nervous and scared to sign up for an open mic. Last month I participated in a “Month of Fear” experiment in which I overdosed on the things I was afraid of. For me, that was playing guitar in public. One month and eleven open mics later, I have conquered that fear. Until last Tuesday, I was proud of that accomplishment. Now all I can think of is, what took me so long? Why didn’t I do this before?

And I realized something: Life is too short to be afraid.

President George W. Bush and New York Mayor Guiliani urge for people to go back to work, to begin again. For some, that will take a while. There is no longer an understanding of “business as usual”. But to regain our strength as a nation, we must continue. How am I supposed to tell you to keep playing? How can I suggest that you get up and practice your instrument this morning? I feel guilty to speak of making music now, but I must. Because we are musicians, this is what we do. Others will look dumbfounded at you while you make plans for your next show. How dare you be able to think of getting a record deal at a time like this? I’ll tell you why: we all cope in our own way. We are feeling vulnerable now, but we cannot give up our lives.

If there is a backpocket dream you’re holding on to, by all means follow it. In the wake of last week’s tragedy, our excuses don’t amount to a hill of beans. If you don’t do it now, when will you? We can build a historical record of this time musically, and help those who cannot express themselves. It’s important for the bankers to return to Wall Street, but it’s just as important for musicians to write songs, play shows, and keep going. This is how we fight the good fight.

Ars longa, vida brevis
: Life is short; art is long.

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3 Responses to “The Week After September 11th, 2001: A Musician’s Perspective”

  1. gurukarm (@karma_musings) Says:

    Thank you for republishing, Carla. Your words hold true in all walks of life, and are important to remember.

  2. Carla Says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Guru Karm! I appreciate your words.

  3. The Week After September 11, 2001: A NYC Musician’s Perspective | NYC Singer Songwriter Blog ~ Rock Star Life Lessons by Carla Lynne Hall Says:

    [...] changes, the message has remained, and I’m happy to share it again, unchanged. – CLH The Week After September 11th, 2001: A Musician’s Perspective by Carla Lynne [...]

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