A little over a year ago, my parents and I were spending the weekend on our sailboat.
It was right after the pandemic had started; the world had gone into lockdown, the grocery stores were selling out of bread and toilet paper, and we were all still coming to the realization that it could be a while before things went back to normal, before we’d be able to gather with friends and family.
But being on our boat means we see and cross paths with very few people, so we were hanging out there for the weekend. It was pouring rain, so we didn’t go out, just sat and relaxed, read books and watched reruns of M*A*S*H* and whatever else was on TV.
The TV isn’t quite as high-tech and fancy as most TVs these days; it’s closer to how I imagine my parents watched TV back in the day, with a slightly blurry screen, muted colors, and if the audio goes too loud the speakers blow out a little. It’s perhaps my favorite way to watch TV. Of course, I am more accustomed to TV these days — clear display, bright colors, crisp audio — but it’s perfect on a boat on a rainy day while watching old shows.
As we flipped through the channels, we came across a live streaming performance out of the Grand Ole Opry in Tennessee. There were three musicians on the stage, sitting on bar stools spread six feet apart. One of them, an older man, was singing a cover of Van Morrison’s “Till I Gain Control Again.”
It was a quiet, thoughtful cover; the camera panned away to show the musician singing to a theatre of empty seats. It was a striking, and lonely, sight.
Life sometimes feels like just a shout into the void. Things we do often go unseen or unrecognized — and if there are consequences, whether good or bad, we’ll never know.
As a writer, I feel this way quite often; does anyone actually read this column? Does what I have to say actually make an impact on anyone? It’s what every writer wants to know; but at the same time, it’s not limited to a writer, or a musician, or any specific job. It’s just part of being a human.
However, in case you were wondering, you do have an impact. People have come up to me to tell me they enjoyed a particular column or to ask when the next one will come out. Musicians are lucky in terms of instant gratification, at least usually. The things you say and do, they cause a ripple in every life you touch.
When that musician decided to play to a dark and empty theatre, a place typically associated with life and joy, I would imagine he wondered if anyone would be watching, if anyone would be affected despite the rows of folded seats. There was no dancing in the crowd, no lyrics joyfully sung back.
Perhaps there were thousands of other people watching the livestream; perhaps not. But 700 miles from Nashville, Tennessee, I was watching on an old TV on a boat in the rain. And it meant something to me.