There’s a song by Lemon Jelly called “Ramblin’ Man.” Lemon Jelly is a group that Joel Marshall, my youth pastor in High School, introduced me to. For those of you who know Joel you probably already know what type of group this is. If you’re reading this and you were in a van that I was driving this summer while at Brookwoods you’ve experienced this group as well (all the ducks are swimming). For those of you who don’t know, Lemon Jelly is a chill trance group. This isn’t tecno music that you would find bumpin’ in a club, it’s something that would be better suited as the backdrop to a coffee shop that I would like to work in. I know that Sam likes them, and I know that at least Paul and Haddie enjoyed them as well this summer. Other than those three, though, there aren’t many folks in my life who got as much of a kick out of them as I do.
I bring Lemon Jelly up because of the song I mentioned at the start of this post: “Ramblin’ Man.” The song starts with one man asking a question:
“John you’ve been on the go ever since you were born, but I imagine few people in the world today have traveled as much as you have. Now why?”
With the reply:
“Well, I don’t know. I suppose some of us are cave-dwellers, some of us live in houses, some of us like to be loose-footed. I’m a rambin’ man.” (Here you can tell he says this with a smile)
This is where the song “kicks” in, if it can be called that. It slowly builds up around the strings, the bass following the same pattern, adding flute and chimes, when all this drops out and John repeats:
“I’m a ramblin’ man.”
The song then switches gears and John starts listing places. These are places, I like to think, that he has rambled through. They come faster and faster until one is layered on top of another and you can’t quite tell what is being said, only to climax with:
“I’m a ramblin’ man.”
Another instrumental section follows, the song finally ending on:
“I’m a ramblin’ man, and I’m gonna’ keep on ramblin’. Oh yes, I have to.”
What does it mean to ramble? And, more importantly, should on seek to be a ramblin’ man? According to dictionary.com:
-verb (used without object)
1. To wander around in a leisurely, aimless manner.
2. To take a course with many turns or winding, as a stream or path.
3. To grow in a random, unsystematic fashion.
4. To talk or write in a discursive, aimless way (usually followed by on)
-verb (used with object)
5. To walk aimlessly or idly over or through.
6. A walk without a definite route, taken merely for pleasure.
According to the dictionary definition all you need to be a ramblin’ man is to lack direction or purpose. Our culture typically looks down on those of us who lack direction or purpose. In fact we often use the term “rambling on” in a derisive way: “the pastor rambled on about (enter soapbox issue here) for fourty-five minutes!” You could take the dictionary and practical definitions and say that one should not seek to be a ramblin’ man. One should seek purpose, direction, passion, and security.
The issue I have with that train of thought is that not only did I miss it at the station, I wasn’t even trying to hop on: I was down the street having coffee while it whizzed by. My life, while I couldn’t define as purposeless and directionless, is more so that than it has ever been. For the first twenty-four years I’ve been on this earth I’ve had a plan. Graduate high school, graduate college, get a job, try to get into grad school, etc. But all of that left me asking one gigantic question:
Why did I do all of those things? And the short answer is I did all those things because I was supposed to. And so know I am “rebelling” against the things I’m supposed to do and taking every opportunity I can to hop in a car with whoever will take, or go with, me. I’m driving from Alton, New Hampshire to Kansas City, Missouri with Hank and Chris. I’m riding around New Hampshire with Sarah. I’m driving from New York City to Charleston, South Carolina with Zack to go surfing and catch up with Carly. I’m telling my mom, somewhat irresponsibly I’ll admit, that I need to drive to Nashville the morning I need to do it. Most of these travels seem somewhat aimless and may classify me as a ramblin’ man. But all of the destinations had one thing in common: people I love were where I was going. And while I may, at times, mourn the fact that I’m “a jobless, woefully single, twenty-four year old dude living at his parents house” I’m not wondering aimlessly around the country or my life. The reason why I am ramblin’ about the country is because:
“Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
While I may be “woefully-single,” I can still love. And I may be jobless, but I can still share what God is teaching me. I can still connect to people. And I feel the most joy when I am connecting with people, loving and being loved by them. So that’s probably why I’ll get a job. So that I can keep connecting with and loving people.
Am I a ramblin’ man? I don’t know about that. Probably just a ramblin’ boy. I am only twenty-four, after all.