A Few Things I Learned from the Grateful Dead
If you follow the world of rock music at all, by now you know that the remaining “Core Four” of the original Grateful Dead will be playing three shows in Chicago this summer, a one-stop “tour” they’re calling “Fare Thee Well.” They say this will be last time they play together.
Suddenly, conversation between Grateful Dead aficionados, both online and at local nightclubs, begins with a single sentence. “Are you going to Chicago?”
For me, the answer is no.
It wasn’t a decision I had to struggle to make. As much as I would love to see the boys one more time, and as much as l love the full line up, which includes Trey Anastasio and Bruce Hornsby, three days in Chicago just don’t fit into my summer plans.
Years ago, I thought nothing of traveling across the country in a beat-up van to camp in a parking lot with hopes of procuring a miracle ticket to a sold-out show. Now, my time has quite a few more demands on it.
Living as a Deadhead in the 1980s taught me a lot. It was there I learned to read tarot; the craft that became my life’s work.
The hardest thing about building my tarot career, in the beginning, was getting people to understand that tarot reading could be a legitimate job. If I hadn’t spent the prior decade making a life of following the Grateful Dead, I never would have had the courage and stamina to believe I could make a career of tarot.
For many, Grateful Dead shows were simply an excuse to party. For others, the lyrics of Hunter, Garcia and the rest, and the impromptu traveling circus that tour became, taught some important spiritual lessons.
I live the life I do today because of the lessons I learned from my time with the Grateful Dead. Frankly, I’m too busy living that life to spend every night in a club listening to Dead cover bands (as much as I enjoy them), or to devote time and resources to a trip to Chicago.
What did I learn from the Dead? Here are five of the countless spiritual lessons that guide my life. I know Rumi guides some of my peers. I like Rumi, too, but these modern poets speak to my heart like no other.
“Sometimes we live no particular way but our own.”
This lyric from “Eyes of the World’, reminds me that, in a world that demands conformity, I can still live the way I choose.
“There is a fountain that was not made by the hands of man.”
This lyric, from “Ripple”, reminds me of the constant presence of the spiritual force that shapes our world.
“I’m still walking, so I’m sure that I can dance.”
From “Saint of Circumstance”, I remember that I am able, physically and emotionally, even after strife and struggle, to dance.
“If you get confused, listen to the music play.”
Music often celebrates itself. In this line from “Franklin’s Tower”, I find the solution to many problems can be found while listening to, or playing, music. Music is truly a spiritual thing – even on a cellular level, we respond to tone. When we play, dance or sing together, we feel a spiritual bond in community.
“The Music Never Stopped.”
From the song of the same name, I take this on many different levels. This may be the last time the boys play together, but the music never will stop. In towns all across the country, and even the world, there are hardworking musicians playing in tribute to the Dead. What was set in motion back in the 1960s has changed with each decade, but it will never stop. Kids who were too young to see Jerry on stage now sing the songs.
It’s a metaphor for life, too. Everything changes, but the cycles continue. The music never stops.
Have a fabulous time in Chicago, my brothers and sisters. I think that the months leading up to this will be fun for everyone. The music that comes out of it will last forever.
The boys may never play together again, but the music will never stop.