Why is it that millions of people identify so strongly with Bruce Springsteen’s song ‘Born to Run’? Vicarious tramps, driving fast cars accompanied by their Wendy. I think there’s something worth exploring here, something that touches the core of the American psyche; it’s worth looking under this hood and meddling to see if we can tune up, find balance and adventure.
It seems like most of the fans that love the song are content in the very world that is to be run from; the cloying sterility of the job/dog/computer/Blackberry/TV lifestyle; the routine drudgery of making ends meet; the world of the GPS telling us where to go, and all the other (aptly-named) trappings of the new-millennium lifestyle. But are we really content, or are there suppressed rumblings deep in our engines, the spirit’s plea to recognize its purpose, the unfulfilled quest? I believe that we all have a deep-rooted wanderlust, a need to discover ourselves and our environment, a need to define our contribution to life. The popularity of Born to Run (and the many other songs and films that express the yearning for freedom) supports this belief; music provides an inspection-bay into our deeper workings, among which is a huge desire for freedom. That so many of us can identify with the song’s message is evidence that the human soul knows that its purpose is to ‘run’ and make an impact on the world in the short time available. Modern life stalls our motors though; we may lack curiosity and have no desire to explore externally or internally, no interest in finding out where those two lanes will lead us. We may lack courage; to leave safety and routine sounds good on a record—especially after a couple of drinks in the evening—but in real life it is scary and requires a top-up of bravery (and foolhardiness), levels of which are low in the cold light of the morning. Most often however we run out of gas because of lack of energy, and we fall into the very lifestyle that the songs and films we love rail against. As we progress beyond our twenties, our energy levels naturally decrease, whereas demand rises to cope with the complexities of work and family life. The lure of lifestyle weighs down our trunks with possessions; the hemi-powered drone becomes the coveted luxury car, and the notion that where you drive is more important than the car you’re driving takes a backseat to the quest for comfort and status. We continually reduce our degrees of freedom through acquisition and debt until we become enslaved by the very liberty that we think we have. Oftentimes our chassis is corroded by poor choices and the inability to restrain our compulsions, leaving us off-balance and vulnerable, unable to drive forward, to run and explore while we have the chance.
While Mr. Springsteen’s songs are powerfully evocative of the problems and angst we all encounter en route, they are not an abundant source of solutions, with the possible exception of one of his other paeans to the automobile, Racin’ in the Street. Here, he offers a glimpse of the road outta here:
Some guys they give up livin’, they start dyin’ little-by-little, piece-by-piece; Some guys come home and wash up, and go racin’ in the street
We should take his advice on how to keep a full tank, remain well-balanced, in-tune and able to make an impact. We have to stop searching for comfort, stop trapping ourselves with the vision of a lifestyle that is sold to us, stop planning our retirement and start planning to live. It’s time to wash up, take some risks and head out on the highway, ready for adventure and whatever comes our way.
"What the hell's wrong with freedom man? That's what it's all about"