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You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd

Columns From Behind the Pine Curtain

You can’t roller-skate in a buffalo herd

You can’t roller-skate in a buffalo herd

You can’t roller-skate in a buffalo herd

But you can be happy if you have a mind to”

Written and performed by Roger Miller

This month’s song lyric goes way back to when I was in Junior High School in Houston, Tx. Now Roger Miller was a bit of an odd duck as far as songwriting goes and maybe that is why I identify with his music so much. He wasn’t really a country writer but they embraced him because he sold records. He wasn’t really a pop writer either but they welcomed him, for the same reason. And even though, many considered him a novelty song writer because of songs like: “Buffalo Herd,” “Dang Me,” “Do Whack-a-do” and “Reincarnation.” He was in reality a great songwriter and artist. He voice and vocal ability were exceptional and unique, his melodic sense was awesome and his lyrical depth and variety was jaw dropping (you’d think I was a fan). This song, “Buffalo Herd,” at first seems like a throwaway. With it’s references to ridiculous situations regarding things that you can’t do and ending with “but you can be happy if you’ve a mind to”. It all seems so light hearted until the bridge; “all you gotta do is put your mind to it. Knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, do it” . Even though it feels and seems like a light hearted song it gets to the heart of the matter and the subject of this column: choosing happiness when in a business that requires the approval of others.

Happiness is an elusive thing for me and I suspect it is also for many of you. That doesn’t mean I am not happy sometimes but the truth of the matter is I am often so involved with my current internal dramas: writing songs, booking shows, promoting CDs for example that I often forget to be happy. Now I know that seems like a funny statement to some of you but for a guy like me who is a about 80 percent intellectual and maybe 20% emotional but that tends to be pretty much true. Now that doesn’t mean I am not happy but that I spend so much thinking and analyzing my life as well as everything else around me that I often don’t realize I am happy. So what does this have to do with you the reader? Well, I suspect many of you out are like me to some extent. What I mean by that is you like me get wrapped up in the minutiae of career, creation and everyday life, forgetting to savor and enjoy moments. This is especially important to me when I see those around me struggling to find their place in the world. Making, breaking and re-making their relationships with their art, friends, career, health and sometimes themselves.

It is so easy to become lost in the details, for me a least, and to forget to look up from the to do list and appreciate the big picture of how lucky we are to alive. Oh, I know it is a difficult path many times but how many people get to pursue their passion without editorial input other than yourself? I believe that Thoreau was correct when he said that “most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Does that statement resonate with you? We all have our moments of “quiet desperation” but it is easily put aside by turning things over to our passion. Even the darkest thoughts can be spun into art and thereby diminished or even dissolved. Art at least for me is a redirection of emotional and sometimes intellectual energy into creation. Mahatma Gandhi defined happiness as, “when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” It sounds like the definition of a real artist to me. Someone who is (integrated) truly and deeply in touch their inner and outer self. It is also the definition of integrity, isn’t it? By that I mean someone that is consistent in their thoughts, words and deeds. One that “walks the walk and talks the talk” in the common vernacular. Isn’t that what we all desire in the end, to be what we really are without apology or compromise? If that is truly the definition of happiness then that is what I want to be.

Amazingly to me, until I started writing this particular column, I never really thought much about what happiness really is. When I found Gandhi’s quote in my research I realized I had hit pay dirt. I now know how to determine and even measure happiness for myself. I had always viewed “happy” as a weird little word with no real meaning or at least very little to do with “real” life. I know it sounds strange for someone who uses words as part of his job but, happy is a word that I have never been able to feel comfortable with. I have always been pretty driven and focused. You might say I am goal oriented. But, I find that reaching a sought after goal almost never brings me happiness or even mild satisfaction. Instead I spend my time mentally debriefing myself, examining the progress and determining how I could have done it better. I have finally realized, for me at least, happiness and satisfaction does not lie in achieving goals but rather in pursuit of the goal. The goal itself is only, for me, a landmark to reach and the temporary target as I head onward to yet another more lofty goal up ahead. I know that we each have different ways to come to happiness but I encourage you to honestly look at yourself and your work and find your personal path. Then latch on to it and never let go. Let it become your mantra for life and creation.

To be perfectly honest, I am not sure exactly what I have said here about happiness and how to achieve it. This happens to me a lot these days. I talk or think about something almost to exhaustion and then realize I am no closer to uncovering the secret than I was when I started. So, I will end like I started, with the bridge lyric from this month’s song. Remember what Roger said; “all you gotta do is put your mind to it. Knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, it.” Tenuous and vague as that advice is, it is the best I can give. I know though that finding your happiness sweet spot is important to your physical, emotional and artistic life and it is certainly worth the effort. Besides, when you can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd, so what else do you have to do? Good luck with that journey and until next time.

Randy Lewis Brown can be reached from his website http://RandyLewisBrown.Com or via e-mail at randy@brownrandy.Com.

Randy Lewis Brown may be a over-the-hill, baby boomer, curmudgeon who is also an award-winning Northeast Texas-based singer-songwriter and self-proclaimed “performing philosopher.” Despite his years, and an early bedtime, he remains stedfast in attempting to decipher the intersection of spirit, faith, science and the human condition. Always trying to maintain a sense of wonder and whimsy in his occasionally clever folk-Americana songs and stories. He will probably be seeking a better definition of happiness until his dying day.

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