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Muhammed Ali once stressed the importance of positivity in achieving your goals in life by stating: “I am the greatest; I said that even before I knew I was.”

I admit the ability to stay positive is perhaps one of the most important skills a person can have. However, being continuously happy and satisfied is very difficult, if not impossible. In fact even staying content requires conscious effort, doesn’t it? To hold on to a satisfied state of mind, you definitely have to remind yourself to count your blessings at regular intervals. Why? Well, the curveballs life throws at us make sure happiness is more a state of mind that comes and goes than something we achieve for good. Just when you think you’ve found balance in your life, something unexpected or undesirable usually happens and you are lost again.

Obviously, it doesn’t help that we live in the times when it seems the whole world is preoccupied with finding joy. There are countless self-help books and courses about achieving bliss and peace of mind. They give you shallow advice like “don’t be afraid to fail” or “let go of what doesn’t work.” If only it was that simple. Seriously, how many of us can really just decide that failing won’t move us in any way from now on. Most of us will never feel perfectly in tune with not getting the job or the life our dreams. Having said that, perhaps our goal in life shouldn’t really be to feel happy all the time; maybe the goal should be to feel alive. An argument which brings us to our track of the week, Jon Worthy’s fabulous “So Alive.”

“So Alive” is a song that first and foremost reminds us that no one is exempt from pain any more than they are from happiness but points out in its lyrics that it’s the ability to turn lemons into lemonade that is the true key to happiness.

You know we’re all just the same
We take the good with the pain
I made my own damn way
Until I found my escape

I like the use of the word “escape” here. In all essence, it’s what we’re all doing, looking for an escape from the pain. While this might seem like a very one-dimensional characterization of life, it’s still a rather accurate one in my opinion. We just turn to different things for relief; each of us believing that the “drug” we choose is the right one and the best choice. Once the great John Lennon, after pondering on religion and escapism, concluded that, “God is a concept by which we measure our pain.” I always felt his analysis was rather spot on. No wonder then, that my favorite line in Worthy’s lyric is the preacher-like “I’ve rediscovered what it means to sink so low and still believe.” The brilliance of this line obviously lies in the use of the word “rediscovered” as opposed to “discovered” (the difference two letters can make sometimes!). The use of the later would mean, you are only learning about life, the use of the former signifies you weren’t born yesterday, that your resolve and beliefs have been tested and you’ve come out as the winner.

Here’s how Jon elaborates on the lyrics of the song:

“So Alive” is a reflection of a time when I was an outcast in a group that I had chosen to participate in. Unfortunately, I had to live out the situation I was in but I was miserable interacting with these people and I decided to dive deeply in to music and songwriting to counteract my loneliness. The lyrics are me saying thanks for nothing, but I'm alright now and while I hated our time together, it taught me to find my own way and seek my own happiness rather than doing what was expected of me.

Musically, “So Alive” takes you back to the early seventies, which is only a good thing. And even a better thing is the fact that it sort of reminds you of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band. Just like John’s, Worthy’s band also gels together very well and uncharacteristic to our times, this is a performance that hasn’t had the life drained out of it. You can feel the band going at it with gusto and you can hear them shifting gears multiple times as they travel off to the sunset together with Worthy at the helm, delivering some great guitar work and a particularly strong vocal performance. It’s rather impressive stuff to tell you the truth: warm, exciting, intelligent. I love the punchy acoustic guitars, the hammond bits, the dancing bass, and the subtle electric guitar licks (answering the melody on the verses). However, the most impressive thing to me here, apart from the infectious sing-along chorus, is the middle eight with its unexpected breaks in the instrumentation. Indeed “So Alive” sounds like it was recorded live in the studio. There is no overthinking involved here and this is probably why the track and the performance sound so fresh.

This week, I want to leave you with a personal story on the topic of living your life to the fullest. As I was visiting my grandmother’s grave over Easter, I spotted an old man standing rather close by, speaking to one of the neighboring headstones. I noticed him placing a small object on the grave, which upon closer inspection turned out to be a Matchbox toy car. The thing was that there were no flowers, candles or lanterns at the grave. It was all barren, save the little toy. My curiosity got the better of me, so I walked over, introduced myself and asked jokingly if the flower stand was out of flowers. The man laughed and responded, “Good heavens no. I never bring flowers here and neither do our children. You see my wife always told me to bring her flowers while she was alive, not when she’s dead. She was big on making every second count.” I must have looked a little puzzled because the old man realized to continue, “She hated to miss out on anything in life, so she always instructed me that if she goes first, I should bring her things she wouldn’t like as opposed to flowers and candles, which she loved. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past seven years. I bring her these silly little things that would have driven her mad. She would have hated these little toy cars, our boys always left them lying around the house. Last week, I brought her a broken screwdriver. She had a great sense of humor. She’s somewhere up there laughing her head off. Yes, that’s what she was like, my Anna.”

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About the curator - Tommi Tikka

 Tommi Tikka - Music to Curator

Tom Tikka is a linguist, poet, professional songwriter, recording artist and a music aficionado. He started playing guitar when he was four and writing songs when he was six. Consequently, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't playing or writing. It's fair to say, music and lyrics are not just something he loves to engage himself in; to him, they are a way of life.

 

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