Let your sour be your bookie

My schedule has been turned upside down recently and I feel as if I am constantly running after something… or something is trying to catch me. Since I have no more functioning brain cells left in my head and cannot possibly write about what’s been happening in my life (I could try, but it wouldn’t make much sense!), I’m doing a blogger’s favorite shortcut, my copout when I have no words of my own to spit out–I’m sharing with you someone else’s work. I could have written this, you know… but he has beaten me to it. YEAH RIGHT.

Anyhoo, here it is: Sting’s “Let Your Sour Be Your Bookie.” Thanks to PinkFish for emailing this to me. :)

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Let Your Sour Be Your Bookie
Sting

“You can make a fresh start with your final breath.”
Bertolt Brecht

One man’s risk is another’s sure bet. I may have the reputation for being a risk taker, but when I look back, I wasn’t always conscious of taking them. At least, not at that time. I might have appeared that way to outsiders. But to me, at the crossroads, there weren’t really two divergent paths for me to consider, two stark but equall compelling choices. There was a dead end and the edge of a cliff. So if it’s die or jump, is it risk or destiny. It doesn’t matter. Maybe risk is destiny.

I suppose the first big risk I ever took was to leave my “profession,” which was teaching. I was twenty-four, had a wife, a baby, a dog, a little car. My foot was on the first rung of the ladder, but I wasn’t going up; I had one boot in the grave. I knew that for sure the minute the head teacher warned me in horror that if I left, I’d lose my pension.

Pension? Didn’t know I had one. All I did know was that I didn’t want a life with a pension plan waiting at the end of it. I know that attitude was arrogant. I was born into a working-class family and for us, pensions were the reward for hard, honest toil. But it wasn’t going to be my reward. Arrogance is a highly underappreciated character trait. In fact, arrogance fuels risk.

My former wife was an actress pursuing a career in London and I knew if I was going to make it as a musician, I had to be in London, too. So we packed up all our belongings, which besides the baby and the dog was a rocking chair, and set off in our battered Citroën toward the
living-room floor of a friend. I really had no prospects. What was I thinking? Well, I wasn’t. There seems to be very little cognitive process associated with risks. But I was also strangely joyous – like you’re about to dive into some very cold water and the minute before you hit the water you think, “There’s no turning back now. I’ve done this.” And there’s a great freedom in knowing that there aren’t any safety nets.

Whenever you change the direction in your life, it’s going to scare the people around you. That’s a given. But if it doesn’t scare the daylights out of you, it’s not real risk. Very often, fear comes only
when you’re well into it. Those early days were both debilitating and frightening for me because the only way I could support my family was to go on dole. Turn up on Wednesday afternoon, sign your name, and say you’re available for work. I never felt that I should be there, doing that, but I was grateful for it each week because during the day I could practice my music. That’s when I met Stuart Copeland, who would later be the drummer of the Police, and he had this idea of forming a band. He said that he liked my playing and singing and wondered if I wanted to take a risk tagging along to see how it might go. Was there a choice? It didn’t seem like it at the time, it just seemed like the answer to my prayers. So again the paradox: If you had no choice, how
can you call it a risk?

I’ve never believed there’s anything to be gained from an educated risk, where you weigh all the consequences and then take your chance and hope you choose the best possible outcome. Usually we take on well-thought-out wagers for practical reasons, like for money. But more often than not they backfire. Even the most brilliant strategy, the most reasonable plan can morph overnight into a leech, sucking the integrity out of you, until you’re barely able to say “Never again.” That is, until the next reasonably profitable, well-thought-out devil’s IOU presents itself.

Sometimes people mix up thrill seeking and risk taking, but I think they’re totally different experiences, with different motivations and outcomes. Thrill seeking is flirting with danger, taunting the fates. Thrill seeking seems to be a particularly male endeavor; it’s probably
encoded in our DNA. It’s speeding motorcycles, parachute jumping, mountain climbing, drug taking, and adultery when you’ve got a great wife and a beautiful family. My perverse enjoyment of rough plan rides brings out the thrill seeker in me. I was once in a near-crash in a small plane flying over Venezuela. When I walked away from it, surviving was one of the best feelings I’d have for a long time. Surviving. What a rush. Women understand this wild streak in their
sons, but barely tolerate it in their men. Perhaps external thrills are the most seductive when our daily lives disappoint us. I sometimes think that we men seek thrills because we don’t always have the courage to take real risks, whether they’re emotional risks necessary in successful personal relationships, or practical ones, as in changing jobs.

True risks, that sudden leap into the cold water, can carry you into a state of grace. Coincidences, synchronicity, chance, karmic charm, it doesn’t matter what you call it, there’s a positive force that intervenes that covers your back. Things click. It makes sense because true risk is the only thing that forces spiritual and emotional growth so immediately, so dramatically.

In my life there’s always been a connection between risk and luck. A lot of people approach risk as if it’s the enemy, when it’s really fortune’s accomplice. A risk may seem ridiculous to other people, but risk isn’t random or rash when it’s a necessity. The night I decided to walk away from the Police, I’d felt I’d reach the summit. We were being hailed as the hottest band of the decade. In barely five years we’d gone from playing for a handful of people in bars to 67,000 fans in Shea Stadium. We’d sold forty million records. I had more money than I knew what to do with. But I was miserable. I was out of control—and so was my life. Everything was falling apart – my first marriage was breaking up, my relationships with the other guys in the band were horrendous, yet I had the world envying me. As I walked off the stage, I knew I had to make the change. Everybody thought I was certifiable. But I was joyous, relieved. Risk has given me back my soul.

As one grows older, one has more to lose and the risks loom larger. I’m halfway through my life. How do I become the old man that I could admire now, a wiser elder? How do I grow old gracefully, especially in my profession, which glorifies youth so aggressively? How do I become
useful to the people around me and my society as an older person? I think it’s crucial to take a fresh start, take a blank canvas, do things that defy logic, whether it’s introducing an audience who’s used to listening to music in a four-four time to a more complex meter, or making a movie that’s unconventional, or popularizin somewhat unfamiliar topics such as rainforest issues or meditation or whatever. What’s disconcerting or unexpected often pleases me, especially if it takes my audience and me in a new direction. In the end, I know I won’t find it personally rewarding just to toe the line, stick to the formula. I’ve got to progress more as a person than as a
personality.

What’s my biggest risk now? How about being happy? I used to subscribe to the theory that in order to write anything worthwhile, you needed to be in some sort of turmoil. And I wasn’t alone in that belief. I would manufacture all sorts of problems in order to be able to create. But in the last few years, I’ve made a conscious decision to create from a profound depth of happiness, and no one is more amazed than I am that some of the best work of the deposed “King of Pain” was
inspired by joy.

It has always impressed me that the Chinese pictogram for crisis is the identical one for opportunity. I’m convinced that taking risks redeems, restores, and reinvents. So the next time you’re overwhelmed by curiosity, or the prospects of change makes your stomach heave and
the ground beneath your feet rumble, my advice is, don’t look back. Risk is sitting on your shoulder, my friend. Nothing in your life is beyond redemption. Dive into the cold water. All bets are off.

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One Response to “Let your sour be your bookie”

  1. guile Says:

    seize the day..

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