Jeez, this is tough already. Presently, sitting alone at my parents’ kitchen table, my buoyant desire to portray Nathan (that’s me) as an eloquent and elegantly dressed Fitzgerald wannabe is wrestling with my desire to embrace the fact, beautiful at its core, that Nathan’s ignorance of a great deal many things is truly steering his ambition and ability to make decisions. Portraying the latter proves most difficult.
How the hell am I to maintain humility while claiming to know anything? I am scared as shit you will file me away in the manila-tinted folder labeled, “white guys who know things” but golly, that’s not gonna stop me from opening my inherently human mouth via the lovely process of typing. I mean, it shouldn’t, right? We’re losing daylight here…
Barreling along now. I reminisce on the last two months I’ve spent touring the eastern side of the United States to promote our band’s latest record, and how vastly different my life has become since picking up a guitar in the first place. I perceive my memory as the foundation upon which all of my decisions are made; everything learned, to be repeated, with twists added. The twists are the options/choices presented to me in the moment of decision. What sort of music am I trying to compose? What sort of music am I trying to be associated with? What sort of music will make me successful? What the fuck is success? Am I a good human being?
When I come home from tour, I’m hyper-aware of the newness in old things and it damn near drives me crazy. It’s a maddening line to walk, constantly marinating on if the place I know so well has changed as much as I have or not. Don’t get me started on the people…but this insanity is due to my addiction to memory! A terrible contradiction between desires is conjured. I leave home with an appetite for change, only to flex on my outstanding affair with myself. I become frustrated and impatient when I return home to find my favorite bar closed down, another apartment complex built up, and the (oh my god) overabundance of boat shoes that accompany weekenders into craft breweries in the summers. I don’t care how comfy those boat shoes are, bro. No excuses.
Fraternal attire aside, these tests of change are purposed to extract a reaction based on days gone by. Memory pushes us with one hand, but holds on with the other. Everything ever has only existed in my memory. It is possibly the worst source to consult when asking myself the question, “What do you want, Nathan?” To boot, my memory is not only the worst source, but also the only source to consult when asking myself that question. Soooo, I’ve mostly given up on asking. Asking that question is a threat to memory, and I am intent on keeping my memory as long as possible. Instead, I’ve decided to just decide. A simple response to a not-so-simple predicament.
But how do I traverse this land I loved when it changes so drastically? I must change with it. To have fingertip access to such an incredible amount of information (false and otherwise) and a subsequent lack of interest in all of it; oof. The only thing left is to choose something in which to be interested. Choose the change. Choose the growth. This process of interest is a practice. My footsteps are only worth the effort if they bring me somewhere. Moving the muscles at all is the tough shit, but the clear reward is being somewhere you weren’t before. I have heard it called things like, “progress” or “achievement,” but to me it is simply the only thing to do.
Here’s something. Let’s claim stagnancy as the inherent enemy, based on our quest for human development and the betterment (bleh) of the race. To be still does not mean to be stagnant. The absence of movement does not constitute the absence of progress. Bathing in water drawn warm…The point is that you drew the water in the first place. There is great benefit to sitting still. Quiet and unmoving. It is also action. To practice stillness is preparation for preserving peace of mind and clear-headedness when faced with a decision to make. It’s a brilliant opportunity to look at who you are in all your suburban nudity. Stoke the fires of self-awareness. It’s important for your ego.
I think ego is too often held in a negative light. We need to understand that ego must not be ignored entirely or swept under the rug. Our heightened sense of self is necessary to progressing confidently into the rooms begging to be discovered. But yes, everything in moderation. The discovery should lead not to the boasting of our success, but the simple goal to discover again. In the recording studio, one of my primary ambitions is to readily accept and consciously provide the space with ideas worth sharing, and surrendering those ideas to whoever is best suited to execute them. I take pride in being able to work efficiently and with respect. I take pride in moving confidently through the day, even when difficult choices have to be made. It ain’t always smooth sailing and, honestly, I’d be worried if it was. Pompous personalities are incredibly fertile. Be on guard for the inflation of the ego. It can be a tricky bastard. It requires effort and practice to keep it well-groomed and balanced.
Have you ever thought the music already existed and you were just the lucky bag of flesh to midwife it into the human consciousness? Why not? Maybe that’s a mindset that doesn’t exist as much as it used to, but I think it can be a helpful one. Helpful in maintaining interest in practice. For me, it seems to resolve multiple issues of stress and rampant ego in the musical workplace. It creates destiny without sacrificing an individual’s will. I can observe the beauty of my bandmates’ ideas coming to fruition without feeling jealous that I wasn’t the one to have them. Instead, I feel gratitude that I was in the room when such wonderful ideas and music could be birthed.
Remaining humble while confident can seem like a juxtaposition. The image/persona of a prideful musician is anything but appealing, but I don’t believe pride to be the antagonist to humility. The pride in accepting one’s abilities can lead to the lifting of others’ own abilities. Recognizing the value in oneself in order to promote the value in others. This is how community forms, and from community we can generate true humility. The decision to pursue the selfless part of being humble is the most rewarding.
Maybe I should wrap up now. Am I rambling yet? I truly appreciate this opportunity to self-lobotomize in search of memory, confidence, and truth. Take what you will from this poorly outlined but typo-free attempt at expectorating vague ideas distantly related to music. Cheers.
Nathan Stocker, Hippo Campus
About Nathan Stocker
Nathan Stocker plays guitar, sings, and writes songs for Hippo Campus. Hippo Campus is an indie rock band from St. Paul, Minnesota who have toured internationally and released two full length albums and three EPs.