13 January 2010

Somebody Else's Troubles

Steve Goodman has a song I’ve listened to for years entitled “Somebody Else’s Troubles.” I own the vinyl, and since I know that Goodman died of leukemia in 1984 at the absurdly young age of 34 years, I guess the presence of the song in my life goes back beyond thirty years. The album was originally issued in 1973.

What I keep hearing is this chorus:
That's cause it ain't too hard to get along with somebody else's troubles

And they don't make you lose any sleep at night

As long as fate is out there burstin' somebody else's bubbles.

Everything is gonna be alright.
Ah, we all suffer, and it our practice to put our troubles out there for others to hear. The process is called complaint. And I suppose this is a natural occurrence, though I believe that some partake in it more than others.

We all have troubles, and it really ain’t hard to get along with somebody else’s; I listen, and I display sympathy, and I head out to the coffee houses and the chocolate bars. It is economical to forget.

It does, however, cause me no end of concern to try to get along with my own troubles, and they do often keep me from the coffee houses and the chocolate bars. In fact, except in death, there is no relief from our plentiful plights, and I suppose they correctly serve to help define the pleasurable moments. For example, the Rabbis seem to define the Next World by their harsh experience in this one. Whatever the next world might be, the Rabbis consider compassionately, it cannot be like this one; it has got to get better, and if these are troubles in this world, then those troubles should be not present in the next. And since we all have our troubles in this world, then none of them should exist in the next. Paradise. I’m not sure it is much of a comfort here.

What I am considering here is that if it really isn’t hard to get along with somebody else’s troubles, then others can get along quite well with mine. Unless we find some way to somehow participate in somebody else’s troubles—not an inviting prospect—then we are really all alone in this world. As I get along quite well with somebody else’s troubles, they certain get along with mine. I think in this case we move about together enclosed in some impermeable, translucent bubble in which we can see but cannot hear or touch each other. I can speak, but am not heard. I complain and they listen and do not hear; they complain and I listen but do not hear.

This is a complaint. You can get along with it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was given this album when in college in 1976, long ago forgotten, just recently discovered Steve Goodman and John Prine on Youtube and listening to them while stewing in my on-going economic, career and health problems. I found your words very poignant and helpful, along with the grace and humor displayed in Goodman and Prine songs I am encouraged to feel a little more hopeful. Thanks.

17 July, 2012 04:12  

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