everyone gets crazy

I caught the end of an American Masters documentary, “The Highwaymen: Friends Till The End,” the other night.  I had seen it before, but one song grabbed hold of me this time and won’t let go.

The Highwaymen were called “the Mount Rushmore of country music.”  The song that won’t let go, written by Kevin Welch, is “Everyone Gets Crazy.”

Each verse is sung by a different member of the group.  First up is Waylon Jennings:

Look here is that you I see
You sure seem down to me
Would you like to tell it to a friend
I can help if anyone can, you know I understand
Everyone gets crazy now and then

A friend can tell.  “Is that you I see?  You sure seem down to me.”  And a friend is willing to listen, understanding that everyone gets their turn at trouble; each of us goes through it, whether we shout it out for all to hear or keep it to ourselves.

Johnny Cash continues on:

I know those empty nights get lonely
Sometimes you feel like you’re the only one
To lose more than he wins
Guess these trouble times get scary
But that’s just ordinary

Everyone gets crazy now and then

Those lonely, empty nights.  The counting of the losses and the wins — and not being able to see past the scoreboard to enjoy the rest of what life has to offer.

Then Willie Nelson:

And who can say they’ve never stumbled
Never fallen to their knees
Your dreams like castles when they crumble
Well, I know what you mean
And I know how hard it can seem

“I know what you mean.”  (I’ve been on my knees too.)

Kris Kristofferson brings it home:

I get crazy just like you, lost and lonely too
Like some old flag left flying in the wind
Time has taught me this for sure
Time is the only cure
All your blues will turn to gold again

Oh, everyone gets crazy now and then

We cycle in and out of times of calm and chaos.  The craziness may be thrust upon us or self-imposed, but it seems inescapable when we are in the middle of it.  Sometimes a friend helps to get us out.  And sometimes a song.

The documentary illustrates the strength that can come from understanding the trials of others as you cope with your own.  The famous singers had each been through a lot.  Addictions, health problems, broken marriages, and strife were with them throughout their storied careers.

The liner notes for one of their CDs contained a description that captured the spirit they embodied:  “The man is a poet, he’s broken, he passes out on sidewalks, yet his waywardness is essential to the truths he’s searching for — truths that, ultimately, might serve somebody else’s life better than his own, if he can only get his words sober and voice right.”

They were not four of a kind.  As Kristofferson said, “Willie’s the outlaw coyote.  Waylon’s the riverboat gambler.  I’m the revolutionary communist radical and John is the father of our country.”  They had different beliefs about some things, but they could get past their disagreements to come together and make great music.

It’s important to say that there are genuine problems of mental illness for many people.  Unfortunately there is still a stigma about being open in regard to mental health challenges (and public policy is less than enlightened).

So the “crazy” referred to here is of the common sort, the extremes that we endure of one kind or another.

Alain de Botton wrote that early in our relationships we should pose a simple question, “And how are you crazy?”  We are each crazy in our own way.  If, as spouses or friends, we could give honest answers to that question, we would save ourselves lots of later surprises and conflicts.  We could be there to help when someone else’s particular brand of craziness manifests itself.  And they could be there when ours does.

Everyone gets crazy now and then.  Let’s talk about it.  And sing about it.

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