The internet age has created a generation that is in love with themselves. Social media is built for the purpose and I am as guilty as the next guy. I have seen more pictures of myself in the past year than my parents took in my first 18. I have taken four times as many of you two. That means you are growing up into a world defined by this internet infused indiviudualism. Baked right in is a driving message that says you should spend your adolescence and early adult life fueled by the desire to “find yourself.” I can only assume this is what drove a nineteen-year old version of your mother to jump into a car with a hotel bellhop on the big island of Hawaii, knowing nothing of him but the name on his badge, and… well, that’s a different story. She’s fine. Don’t get into cars with strangers.
What some people mean by “find yourself” is collecting various meaningful life experiences and processing them through self-reflection to form your own identity. Those are great, do those. Many more abuse this “find yourself” notion to make horrible decisions, take ridiculously unneccessary risks, and ignore the implications of those choices on anyone else but themselves. It is a code word for being straight up selfish and self indulgent. So let me describe how I think it all worked for me. Do not worry about finding yourself, find the pocket.
You know I love the bass guitar. The most important thing a bass player could ever do in a band is find the “pocket” in order to create a feel or a groove. I’ve become the bass player I am by learning to find the pocket in my musical surroundings, not by individaully exploring the limitless bounds of my creative spirit. First, music is built on principles that are true. Sure they can be bent, turned upside down, or remixed but at the base every decent song builds off of the same things. Among the most important questions you could pursue are these: What is true about the world? Which truths are most fundamental? What truth holds up? Those questions were the most valuable to me in my formative years. You don’t have to get crazy and academic, just look for the simple things that stay true. Another way to ask it is: Does the story line up with reality?
All of this musical foundation was quite dull until I found a group to try this stuff out with. I could play complex scales with tons of notes a hundred times on my own and I bored myself to tears. Then I play an E. Just one note, over and over again, paired with a kick drum and a nice snare beat and the effect is transformed into energy and emotion far beyond my own ability. It was not about me. It was about understanding the people around me and discovering my part in it. You will come to understand more about yourself by opening your eyes to the people and places around you than any amount of navel gazing could ever produce. Go it alone, and I’m convinced you might never find yourself.
Musically, that’s when things got fun. As I learned to find the pocket, I had the opportunity to discover what I could bring to the table. I spent a long time trying way too hard. Eventually, I landed on the personal flavors that defined my sound within the music. It was individual growth within the context of community. Sure the drummers lost the beat, or the guitar players played all over my sweet fill, but even within the frustrations there were opportunities to experiment, learn, and grow. Sticking by the players I was with and putting our collective sound on top let me find all sorts of ways that I could be myself.
Finding the pocket is about opening your eyes to the world around you and finding your place in it. It’s about searching out what is true. It’s about authentic generousity towards those around you. It is embodying the fullness of the part you were created to play. I get excited just thinking about it and for me it is not over. Our little crew has quite a groove going, and to my mind it’s only getting better.