Monday, June 23, 2014

I Sing the Body Electric!

Music is inherent to human existence, and a basic form of communicating emotion. The title of Walt Whitman's "I Sing the Body Electric" indicates the strong link between words, poetry, and song. Songs are simply words--poetry--set to music. Each of us finds and responds to our own inner music in our own way. We all have favorite books with which we identify, which strike emotional chords somewhere deep inside ourselves, unconscious of exactly which specific chords in them resonate most strongly. Song lyrics are poems, and they have a unique and directly powerful ability to encapsulate our deeply held down outlooks, attitudes and core beliefs. Given that most of us are far more often exposed to songs than to poetry, I'm quite sure that each of us can point to at the lyrics of at least one song--probably several--and say "this is me."

With all the emotional rigidity of a blade of grass, I am frequently moved by songs, and this morning, for absolutely no discernible reason, the song "Maybe This Time" from Cabaret entered my head, where, as is my wont, it has stubbornly remained ever since. I long ago realized that I've always been able to find myself summed up in a the words of a few songs. "Maybe This Time" has always grabbed me by the heart and spoken to my sense of longing as well as, if not better than, I could ever do myself. (Turn on your mental stereo and listen to it carefully. You're hearing me--and perhaps, if you do not have someone to share your life, yourself.)

I can think of three songs, the lyrics of which, even if you knew absolutely nothing about me as a person, paint a trompe l'oeil portrait of who I am: "Maybe This Time," "The Impossible Dream," and "I Am What I Am."
While my being gay is not the only thing that defines me as a human being, it has deeply colored every aspect of my life. My attitudes toward--and defiance of--bigotry and stupidity and those who would dictate how others should live their lives were formed and have evolved from it. Hence, the second of my three defining songs: "I Am What I Am," from Jerry Herman's La Cage aux Folles. To me, it is a song of defiance of the world in which I grew up, and for me defines the word "pride."

And the third song...the one which encapsulates my view of everything I aspire to—yet know I shall never fully realize--is "The Impossible Dream," from Man of La Mancha. Can you possibly imagine what the world could be like if everyone "strove, with his last ounce of courage, to reach the unreachable stars"? I can.

The underlying theme of all these songs, and the underlying theme of my existence, is: hope. With hope, anything is possible, any star eventually reachable. Without it, there is nothing.

So there, in those three songs, you have my life. I am what I am, and I cling to the impossible dream in hopes that maybe this time... Take a moment to think of which songs are you.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (


Kage Alan said...

That's a lovely collection of songs, D. And I very much enjoy your explanations of them. Though my songs are from a different decade than yours, there are three that come to mind as well.

Should you ever choose to look them up on YouTube, they are Ordinary World (by Duran Duran), We Are What We Are (by The Other Ones), and The Impossible Dream (by Alphaville).

Dorien Grey said...

Interesting choice, Kage, and revealing. "We are What We Are" is similar sin message to "I Am What I Am," and I'd not be surprised if Alphaville's "The Impossible Dream" reflects your relationship with Ralph.