“So on, and on I go, the seconds tick the time out.” — Cat Stevens
My freshman year at college was a year of new experiences for sure. One of these experiences was an album by Cat Stevens called Tea for the Tillerman. Jon Brite, an artist in Scott Quad where I roomed at Ohio U freshman year, made the introduction. And while listening to a portion of it recently, as I do from time to time, the music and lyrics still hold up as the classic it has become.
The thought I had, however, was how targeted this album was at the time it was produced. It was an album from the point of view of youth, directed toward youthful seekers whose lives were just unfolding, serving very definitely as a generational wedge. No wonder Stevens went on to sell 25 million albums. We hear the generational dissonance in a song like Father and Son. And in this song, On the Road to Find Out, we recognize the inner flame of the hero’s quest.
Well, I left my happy home to see what I could find out.
I left my folk and friends with the aim to clear my mind out.
Well, I hit the rowdy road and many kinds I met there.
Many stories told me of the way to get there.
And what young person has not experienced this chorus?
So on and on I go, the seconds tick the time out,
there’s so much left to know, and I’m on the road to find out.
To some extent, this attitude is what still keeps us going, isn’t it? At what point do we stop questing? In the moment we cease striving to learn more and experience more, is that not the first signal that a coffin is waiting for us in the next room?
Then I found myself alone, hopin’ someone would miss me.
Thinking about my home and the last woman to kiss me, kiss me.
But sometimes you have to moan when nothing seems to suit yer,
but nevertheless you know you’re locked towards the future.
Locked toward the future. At what point does this shift? When we stop living forward, what then?
For some, like Goldmund in Herman Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund, the rockets flare out. After a lifetime of embracing the fullness of experience, he returns to the beginning. Life has changed him, and a lifetime of experience has been absorbed into him, thus preparing him for the task he was not really capable of at the beginning. Goldmund, the artist, has travelled the world and learned its deepest lessons. Ultimately he returns to the monastery and completes the work for which he was born, to create a statue of Narcissus.
Then I found my head one day when I wasn’t even trying.
And here I have to say, ’cause there is no use in lying, lying.
Yes, the answer lies within, so why not take a look now?
Kick out the devil’s sin, pick up, pick up a good book now.
Here’s a fascinating twist. You can go look up the lyrics for this song and on the last line it is written, “Pick up a good book now” which is “nice” but doesn’t correspond to the rest of the verse, nor especially the first part of that last line. And, interestingly enough, on the album cover itself, the very same is written, “pick up a good book now.”
If, however, you listen to the song itself as it was recorded, you will find that what Cat Stevens sang was The Good Book, which is street slang for the Bible. How interesting, this ambiguity in the written lyrics when contrasted with the recording.
Having lived a full measure of years I’m still living forward. Although I still treasure the memories of the experiences that enriched me, I don’t dwell there, though I do carry them around in my metaphorical pockets. As in the days of my youth, I don’t know what lies around the next bend, but I’ve not stopped my quest. You might say that I’m still on the road to find out.
Originally published at pioneerproductions.blogspot.com