Life’s compasses: What I learned from Bruce Springsteen

Earlier this year, I set out to write about the things that are my life’s compasses, and the directions they have sent me in, with the hope that some of the things I have learned will be of help to other people.

Previously: Star Wars, Terry Pratchett

Today, the guide we follow is (and this will surprise no one who follows my writing) is Bruce Springsteen.

I first came across his music in 1984, with the release of his big breakthrough record Born in the USA. I think many people outside of the US had a similar introduction, loved the album (or hated it) and moved on with their lives.

Not me.

Something about that album resonated so deeply with me that I found all his earlier albums, committed them to heart, and waited eagerly for his next release. I’ve bought virtually every record he ever made, I know the words to many, many songs off by heart, I know the names of all the members of the E Street Band.

I’m aware that not everyone shares my obsession. And when I came to articulate what I have learned from that obsession I found it surprisingly hard.

In my previous two posts, I was able to make clear lists (and I do love lists) of things that stood out for me about my interaction over time with those two universes (the Star Wars franchise and the books of Terry Pratchett). But try as I might I can’t distil the Springsteen thing into a list.

Rather, I keep coming back to one phrase. A friend once said to me: “So what is it about Bruce Springsteen that means so much to you?”

My answer, given without much deep thought: “Bruce Springsteen keeps the faith.”

Asked to explain, I said what I meant was that Springsteen has been in a relationship with the people who listen to his music ever since he started performing live. And he has honoured that relationship by being there, by showing up, by keeping on writing new material. By living the thing that he does, and by sharing that with others.

I am aware that there is always a gap between the way people perceive their heroes, and the way those heroes are in real life. So I am not saying that Bruce Springsteen the person is one and the same as the Boss who does four-and-a-half hour concerts no matter how old he is.

The lesson we learn from the man who shows up on the stage and lives an evening of rock n’ roll with 50 000 people who know the words to every song is that honour and relationships and family and friendships are best served by being there, by keeping your promises, by doing the work. By keeping the faith.

Related: Blind faith will get you killed
Make do and mend – the real revolution

Main picture: Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez, Unsplash

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