Some songs subtly beckon us to consider not only the mundane, but also the mystical. The Grateful Dead song, “Ripple,” does that to me. Create a photo montage of your life and set it to this song, like my spouse did for my 40th birthday, and you can’t help but reflect and ponder things that are bigger than and transcend yourself.
“Ripple” was included on The Dead’s fifth studio album, American Beauty, the second of two noteworthy albums produced in 1970 under the Warner Brothers label, the other being Workingman’s Dead. Many believe these two recordings reflect the bands’ move away from psychedelic tunes interspersed with improvisational jam sessions, which took listeners on a “trip” to more “cosmic” places beyond arena walls, to a folksier, country-rock style of music.
The Dead had recognized that the ideals of the hippie movement were fading and, to remain relevant musically, they must evolve. Likewise, for your career to remain relevant—and to have staying power—you must be willing to pivot and adapt when necessary. Your skills must evolve to meet the demands of changing times. Your career will suffer if you fail to recognize shifts in market conditions, culture, employment trends, and the like. Ignoring the employment writing on the wall will be to your own detriment. My advice: see the change, make a change, whatever that may mean for you.
The hippies of the 1960s suffered a sad defeat. The broken promises of the countercultural movement left them dissatisfied and disenchanted. As he sings the opening lines of the song, Jerry Garcia wonders if the lyrical balm it offers will even reach his listeners: “If my words did glow, with the gold of sunshine…Would you hear my voice come through the music?” Maybe his song is “better left unsung,” the singer ponders.
Being in the staffing business, I have listened to many hard-luck stories about a job (or employer) that turned out to be other than as expected: a start-up company that started with grand ambitions but ended dismally; a supervisor who yelled and screamed at employees; corrupt management that embezzled funds and drove the company to bankruptcy; and, businesses sold to larger organizations that either eliminated, relocated, or outsourced jobs. For these reasons and others, it is not uncommon for the employed to feel as disenchanted as the hippies of the 60s. Make no mistake about it: building a noteworthy career is not all fun and games. There are ample challenges to face as you try to make your career all you want it to be.
Music has a way of smoothing the hard edges of life, including life at work. When I find myself saying work sucks, I have found music makes it a bit easier to handle. My favorite Spotify playlist can transport me to other countries of mind, far from a workplace that has temporarily gone mad. Recognizing that the hippies were disappointed by the failed countercultural experiment, Garcia points them to a powerful remedy that never fails: music. “Let there be songs to fill the air,” he proclaims. He reminds them that the universal language that binds us all together has the power to alter the atmosphere. Joyous songs can change your environment and, more importantly, revitalize a weary, hurt heart. Music is medicine for the soul.
So, when things get tough at work, when your career goals are slow to be realized, when your employer makes decisions that do not have your best interest in mind, find some music that suits your mood and turn up the volume. And if employment life gets too hard to understand—you hit a wall enroute to fulfilling your career dreams or are just “over it” —you can always follow the advice of another Dead song, Franklin’s Tower, that says, “If you get confused, [just] listen to the music play.”
Compliments of The Dead’s Robert Hunter’s writing prowess, “Ripple” subtly offers listeners another source of help, what some might consider an unlikely one coming from The Dead. Spirituality infuses the lyrics like a vein of promise. Notice how the song points to an invisible life source: “Let it be known,” the song instructs, “there is a fountain/That was not made by the hands of men.” And the lyrics that include the song’s title, “Ripple in still water/When there is no pebble tossed/Nor wind to blow,” seem to be a nod to a Buddhist koan, a riddle that reminds us of the inadequacy and limitations of human reasoning. How can there be a ripple, we may ask, if no pebble was tossed into the pond and no wind is blowing? “Ripple” suggests that something greater than us has created a mythical fountain and that sometimes you must consider alternatives beyond yourself.
Set to song, Hunter’s poetry, coupled with Jerry Garcia’s symphonic strums on acoustic guitar, prod us to reflect on words reminiscent of Psalm 23 (i.e., still waters), and the writings of Walt Whitman (i.e., The fountain flowing in its sweetness forever). They invite us to consider that we may need, on various occasions and for various reasons, a source of strength that lies beyond ourselves, a force that’s unseen and yet as real as the office we work in every day.short url: