Nothing is Sound

loud-silence

We were standing in the kitchen, drinking, but not yet buzzed.

There was a small party at our house, but most guests hadn’t yet arrived.

One of my favorite Switchfoot songs was playing.

“Happy is a Yuppie Word.”

Most of the time, I gravitate to music because of how it sounds. But more and more as I’ve aged, I’ve been drawn to music with lyrical meaning.

This song isn’t phenomenal musically. In fact, I don’t particularly like the chorus. But it’s lyrical perfection.

“Happy is a yuppie word? What does that even mean?” asked my buddy’s girlfriend and my wife, when they heard it playing.

They both made fun of the song. Then they made fun of me for liking it.

I didn’t bother defending it. It wasn’t the time or place.

And some people will never understand.

Back when my wife and I were still newlyweds, we were at a NASCAR speedway outside of Chicago. She had attended the Daytona 500 with me a couple times in Florida, but this was her first time at the only other track I’ve ever visited. The place where my motorsports-enthusiast father and many of his friends visit annually for three days of drinking, tailgating, laughing and watching cars drive nearly 200 miles per hour.

I’m not a huge NASCAR fan. But it’s fun to see in person. Mostly, it’s just fun gathering with loved ones and sharing laughs.

My dad looked over at my wife and I, and my stepsister and her husband who are just a couple years older than me.

“Hey there’s a band playing over by the track in a little bit. Switchfoot. You ever heard of them?” he said.

And I had. “Dare you to Move,” was huge. And a great song. I listened to it yesterday actually because that song has never been more relevant to my life than it is right now. There was also a new song “Stars.” It wasn’t amazing, but it got plenty of air time on American rock stations.

My wife and I, along with my stepsister and brother-in-law ventured over to the stage with a cooler full of beer.

I love live music.

Switchfoot, a band I knew very little about, took the stage.

I don’t often digest lyrics the first time I hear music.

But even in my half-drunken state, I knew what I was watching and listening to was something different.

Something meaningful.

Especially when I heard Jon Foreman sing “Happy is a Yuppie Word” for the first time. I’d never heard the song before.

And I’ve never been so moved by something I was hearing for the first time—especially considering I was hearing it during an extraordinarily happy time in my life with a bunch of fun-producing beer in me.

… I’m running down a life that won’t cash out

Happy is a yuppie word
Blessed is the man who’s lost it all
Happy is a yuppie word
word.

Looking for an orphanage
I’m looking for a bridge I can’t burn down
I don’t believe the emptiness
I’m looking for the kingdom coming down
Everything is meaningless
I want more than simple cash can buy
Happy is a yuppie word
Happy is a yuppie word
Happy is a yuppie word
Happy is a yuppie…

And then, surrounded by thousands of people in nearly 90-degree summer temperatures, I got a severe case of goose bumps and chills as Foreman started belting out:

Nothing is sound!
Nothing is sound!
Nothing is sound!
Nothing is sound!
Nothing is sound!
Nothing is sound!
Nothing is sound!

And I’ve been in love with the band ever since. Because they care about what I care about. Whether people get it or not.

Writing Makes Me Happy

I wrote a post titled “Clean Copy” once.

It was a typical Matt spaz-fest because I was feeling REALLY sensitive about all the typos you guys read when you’re reading this stuff via email. Because that initial email records whatever is live when I first hit Publish, with all the mistakes. I almost always find something to correct after hitting that blue button.

Traffic to the blog soared—relatively speaking—once that post was picked up and promoted by WordPress editors in Freshly Pressed.

In fact, about half of you started following this blog after reading that post.

Despite securing the URL mustbethistalltoride.com back when I first launched the blog on June 22, I hadn’t figured out how to point the servers to it because I’m a Grade-A moron when it comes to backend web stuff. But after digging around last week on WordPress and Google, I figured it out.

Despite being an internet marketing professional, I didn’t give much thought to what might happen to blog traffic after making the change.

I assumed—wrongly—that most people reading were those who had been following my story or fellow writers part of this wonderful WordPress blogging community.

But now, traffic is down 70-75 percent since dropping the .wordpress in the URL.

And at the risk of seeming vain and hypersensitive (I am certainly the latter), it has really made me sad. Because the one thing that’s not my five-year-old son that has made me happy in my life as a single adult is this.

This silly little chunk of the Internet. Because it’s mine. Because it’s me.

And people cared. Which surprised me. But I grew to love it. To need it. Because it’s the thing that has made me feel connected during the most-disconnected period of my life. It’s the thing that has made me feel the least alone during the most lonely period of my life. And because it has given me purpose after everything I was living for walked out the door on April Fool’s Day.

I didn’t set out to try and grow an audience. To try to make this into anything more than a misguided attempt at journaling.

But then it sort of became a thing all by itself. Not for everyone, certainly. Not even for a lot of people.

But for some.

People like me. People who hurt. People searching for light. For meaning. For purpose.

And the web helps us find each other.

And then I had purpose again.

To write. For me. But also for those other people. Those people on the same hunt for answers.

People who want to feel.

People who want to live for something more.

And it made me smile. And it made me feel like I mattered a little. And that motivates me to write more.

For the people who care.

But then, BAM. Traffic gets wrecked. Just, poof. Gone.

And it’s literally painful. Because a rare source of happiness is no longer providing it. In fact, it’s making me sad.

But, really? What is happiness?

It’s a Yuppie Word

It was 1991. Bob Dylan turned 50. And Rolling Stone magazine interviewed him about his life.

“Are you happy, Bob?” the interviewer asked.

“You know,” he said, “these are yuppie words—happiness and unhappiness. It’s not happiness or unhappiness. It’s either blessed or unblessed.”

Bob Dylan.

Dropping knowledge.

The lead singer and songwriter for Switchfoot wrote “Happy is a Yuppie Word,” based on that quote by Dylan.

Whenever I have heard Foreman screaming “Nothing is sound!” during my favorite part of this song, I always thought he was saying:

Nothing is okay.

Nothing is safe and sound.

Nothing is alright.

But then I heard the song on my morning commute today.

And it got to the bridge—the part I adore—and Foreman belted: “Nothing is sound! Nothing is sound! Nothing is sound!”

And for the first time in eight years of listening to this song, I questioned whether I was hearing him right.

Maybe he wasn’t saying what I thought he was.

Maybe he’s saying:

Nothing IS sound.

Silence is sound.

Emptiness is something.

Because silence can be loud.

When you’re used to the noise. The buzz. The movement. The life.

And then one day it’s just… gone.

It’s loud. The silence. It’s one of the reasons I listen to so much music now. Even more than I used to.

To replace the deafening silence. To push out negative thoughts. To feel.

Nothing is sound.

Happy doesn’t mean anything. It’s a word we associate with feeling good. A yuppie word, Bob Dylan said. And sadly, feelings are fleeting. They don’t last. It’s why so many people turn to sex and alcohol and drugs. To feel something. Something like happy. It doesn’t satisfy. So we just keep doing those things to prolong the fake happiness. Because it’s better than nothing. Right?

Maybe.

But I want more than fake happy.

I want more than simple cash can buy.

And I want that for you, too.

Which is I why I try to think, feel and pray each day. Chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

But there’s no pot of gold. We’re really just chasing an idea.

And when the weather changes again, there won’t even be a rainbow.

Because the weather always changes. Like feelings.

So maybe we shouldn’t try so hard to chase the pot of gold we know isn’t there anyway.

Maybe we should just slow down and breathe.

And maybe just try to enjoy the rainbow while it’s still here.

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24 thoughts on “Nothing is Sound

  1. mel says:

    “I want more than fake happy”

    … *speechless*

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Let’s not have a theological discussion.

      But this, right here, is why I believe in God.

      Because it takes a miracle to truly feel total peace and happiness as an adult. And I’m not convinced that can be achieved via earthly methods.

      Like

  2. I think the moments you have with yourself in absolute silence can be the most powerful and life-changing moments. Nothing is definitely sound and sometimes it’s deafening

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I’m still a little taken aback by this song I’ve liked for so long saying something different, albeit mostly the same meaning, than I thought it did.

      Nothing is, indeed, sound.

      Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you for this note.

      Like

  3. knace says:

    Yes, exactly. And especially relevant at this time of year, when the cacophony of “Buy, buy, buy, so you will be happy.” is nearly deafening.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I’m a marketing copywriter by day. I have “The Five Great Motivators” pinned to my desk wall.

      Fear
      Exclusivity
      Guilt
      Greed
      Need for approval

      Exactly as you said.

      Want to be happy? We have limited-time savings on the only shit in the world that can make you happy. But it now while it’s on sale so you can feel good!

      And 4 percent of the time, people pull the trigger.

      Thank God, too. I need the money.

      Like

  4. RR says:

    Funny. I posted something sort of similar yesterday and today – the need for us all to pause a moment, enjoy the journey…
    As always, a good read. Cheers for sharing ;)

    Like

  5. Why would traffic go down just from changing the URL? That doesn’t make sense. Hmmm…

    Anyway, isn’t Switchfoot a Christian band? I love a lot of christian rock.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Because all the URLs from 150 posts had .wordpress in them and I wasn’t smart enough to put 301 redirects on them, so I lost all that link equity?

      I think. I only know enough about search engine optimization to be dangerous.

      Hey, it’s either that, or 70 percent of people who used to read this stuff decided four or five days ago to totally stop. There’s always the chance that’s true.

      Most of this is total shit.

      Seriously, I don’t really know what happened. I just know traffic and engagement completely tanked since switching the name. And I’m sad about it because I make bad decisions, like evaluating my worth based on how many people read my silliness online.

      :)

      Hope you have an amazing Thanksgiving!

      Like

      • Maybe a dumb question, but could you switch back just to see what happens?

        Like

        • Matt says:

          I don’t see why not, but I also don’t know that I’d be able to conclude anything from doing so.

          I’m trying not to worry about it.

          Anyone who really wants to read this stuff will be able to find it. It’s the internet.

          I was just whining about it because, A. I whine about stuff, and B. I try hard to write about what’s on my mind to keep it “journaly.”

          That will pay huge dividends later in life when I never come back and read old posts. *eyeroll*

          Like

  6. Thanks for sharing Switchfoot. I did enjoy the song.

    I have to disagree with you on a few points this time. People do not use alcohol, drugs and sex to feel something. They use these things to feel nothing, to dull whatever hurts, “tequila the pain.” Now, “cutters” who horribly disfigure themselves with sharp instruments do their work to feel something. There is quite a difference.

    I also don’t agree that “nothing is sound.” It is the absence thereof. Reference: Shakespeare, King Lear (“nothing comes of nothing”).

    I feel for you about your stats. I am as stats-obsessed as the next blogger, to the extent that I understand what those numbers mean, which isn’t a very great extent. If a blog falls in a forest, does it make a sound?

    Yes, it does.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      1. Thank you for listening.
      2. I think you’re probably right about the reasons people turn sex, drugs and alcohol. I don’t put a lot of thought into this stuff. Always off-the-cuff first-draft quality writing. Which means you get a bunch of crap.
      3. Not trying to be science-y about the sound thing. Just saying: it’s REALLY loud when you’ve never lived in prolonged silence before. When there’s no one there to talk to. No one there moving around. It was really shocking to me. Still is some days.

      Thank you for reading. Appreciate you checking the song out. That’s a solid band with a nice library of music; almost all of it good.

      Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, sir.

      Like

  7. I want more than fake happy too. I think you are right when you mention capital G in that first reply. In my experience spiritual experiences help to instill a larger sense of meaning in our lives, we resonate differently with the world and feel more connected. I seek a balance of healthy emotions and clear thinking. It’s ok to feel sad, angry, hurt etc but not 24/7, if this is the case then something is wrong or we are going through a massive amount of intense emotional experiences in a short space of time. Equilibrium needs to be found again. ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ Radiohead.

    Like

  8. TINMW says:

    I wouldn’t sweat the stats, Matt. I don’t know a whole lot about it myself. But I do know that when you hit publish an email including your post is sent to your subscribers (unless they have that default feature disabled). So those are readers who AREN’T counted by your stats. Also, I believe WP changed their “Reader” page fairly recently. Now if you click on a headline it brings up the post in the reader – whereas it used to link to the actual blog (I think). But again, those would be visits that AREN’T counted. Commenting and replying can also all be done by email – no visits.

    Could be the timing of your URL swap was just a coincidence. And picking up on your reply to another comment above, all your old posts should be automatically redirected to your new URL. Your old wordpress.mustbethistalltoride.com URLs are still all there pushing to the new configuration.

    I think your audience is still there. The web’s just more complicated now than it was 45 seconds ago.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      45 seconds ago.

      What an awesome comment.

      No sweating! It made me sad for five seconds to feel like I was losing people.

      I’m not going to change my writing habits.

      Appreciate this note. Thank you!

      Like

  9. […] the wise words of a friend, The ones that opened my eyes earlier in the day, Forced me to evaluate my […]

    Like

  10. debra colby says:

    I love when people come visit my blog…it does make me a happy…but if they don’t…ah well, ..ss-ok too.

    Oftentimes I write b/c of something I’m feeling at the time or someone else is feeling. Inspiration comes from anywhere or nowhere and the silence is never deafening when someone listens long enough to hear it then write about it. Something you do exceedingly well Matt. :D

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you. I’m always trying to write the snapshot of the moment I’m in.

      I have a feeling I’m going to thank myself for this later.

      Sorry I whined about the stupid web traffic. I’m lame.

      And the world gave me a bigger fish to fry. So now I set out to fry it.

      Like

  11. Hmmm… so that’s why I stopped getting email alerts of new blog posts? Good to see that you haven’t stopped writing.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Is that what happened? A bunch of people stopped getting the emails?

      That’s disappointing. Wish I knew how to let people know.

      Thank you for finding me again. And thank you for caring. Made me smile first thing this morning. And that’s always nice.

      Please have a wonderful Monday. :)

      Like

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