Also known as: “What I have learned from listening to the Grateful Dead for 23 or so years…”
If you are at all familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, I am and INFJ. The J portion of my personality type is what’s of interest right now. Being a J (or Judger) doesn’t mean that I am judgmental or anything like that; it means I thrive when there is predictability and order in my day to day life. I am not a fan of surprises or sudden changes to schedules or routines.
Now on to the Grateful Dead: a band known for, loved for, it’s experimental and often improvisational way of testing the boundaries of music. There is a give and take, a push and pull between the members of the band and between the band and the crowd.
No show is ever the same, and not just due to the enormous catalogue of songs. The shows were (are) different because each song would unfold in a unique way and you couldn’t predict when the bridge would emerge; you just danced along and helped the song unfold.
That’s not an easy thing for me to do. And all of this occurred to me on the train for my morning commute as I was listening to a show that was played and recorded in August 1971 and Truckin’ came on. Even people who don’t know a lot about the Grateful Dead have probably heard the song Trucking’ and it’s not a song well known for surprises. I was anticipating a particular guitar riff and drop to come at a particular moment but the improv jam just kept unfolding for a few more moments.
And it was then that I remembered a hot summer day 22 years ago sweating and dancing and shaking my bones in Las Vegas. (History has shown me that the show wasn’t that well played, Jerry was only with us three months after that show and he was in really rough shape.) But I was in the moment and I was dancing, and I had no idea what song was coming next or how that song would manifest. And it was beautiful.
This weekend I’ll hop on a plane and go back to Vegas and dance and shake my bones with Dead and Company, and as hard as it may be for the J portion of my personality type, I won’t know what song is coming next or how it will be born into the moment.
But I will be fully present in the present, in the now. And I am entirely certain that it will be beautiful.