Why I Wrote the Song “Boxing Shadows” or What Happens When You Get What You Want?

boxing shadows_web

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer”

-Jim Carrey

What happens when you get what you want?

Let me tell a personal story.

I had a strong, single-minded dream for several years of my life. I desperately wanted to achieve this dream. It was a goal that I hoped for and prayed for and worked towards. Honestly, it was really a strange and simple dream.

I wanted to release an album with Worship Circle Records. (I’m sure many of you are wondering who Worship Circle Records are…)

I had been writing and leading worship music for many years and Worship Circle Records had put out my favorite album of all time in this genre. Their album “Enter the Worship Circle: Circle One” was a stripped down, raw collection of great songwriting and expression. This little, independent record company was being led by great people and I wanted badly to be a part of it.

Well, I got the chance to do it. After a songwriting intensive and through good relationships (and this is many years later) I released an album with them. I had done it. I had achieved this goal.

Rewind just a bit. Before anything with the album went forward I remember my wife turning to me and saying, “You know, if you get to do this and release an album with them you’ll just find something else to obsess about afterwards. This isn’t really an end-all goal that will make you happy”

As the record was coming out I smiled and enjoyed it all, but my wife’s words stuck with me. It wasn’t but a few months later that I started thinking: Now what? I know this is an arrival point but… what’s next?

What happens when you get what you want? What happens when you reach that goal or achieve that victory? After the initial joy and sense of success, what are we left with?

Nothing. Not really. That sounds so defeatist but it rings true to me. After you climb that peak you deeply enjoy the moment and then you climb back down. And you start dreaming about other peaks.

That’s okay.

I think what that teaches us is that it’s not about the peak. Life needs to be about something more expansive and all encompassing, something bigger than our goals.

There’s an incredible remake of the cartoon Wile E. Coyote (NOT done by Looney Toons) in which he CATCHES the road runner. He’s floored that he’s actually done it. He has his friend over and they have a feast. He’s says something like, “You know, it just tastes so good when you work for your food…” But then his friend asks him, “Now what are you going to do?” Even WE know this is a big deal for Wile E. We’ve seen him make countless tries (and loved seeing the failures) to achieve this goal.

The rest of the cartoon we see Wile E. spiral into deep depression and a directionless listlessness. (The gag ends with him strapped into a catapult of his own creation then it quickly cuts to him with his buddy again and Wile E. has become a born again Christian. A cutting joke, but perhaps appropriate?)

I wrote the song “Boxing Shadows” to work through the tension of these questions. What happens if I actually get what I want? What happens when I fail? What happens after each peak is conquered? Will my desires become less? Will I feel like it was all worth it?

On a musical note I did something very on purpose in the song. It begins with janky toy-castle. This is actually a toy my daughters own and they LOVE that I use it. The sound represents to me that thin, immature idea of ourselves as kids. The self-importance of our singular heroics trying to sound strong.

Then the song actually ends with a real trumpet blast (my friend Craig Basarich is incredible). I wanted the song to close with this feeling of maturity and joy that we have in the trials and tensions. That we DO achieve but that’s not what it’s about. It’s that we keep on growing and becoming. That’s where the true adventure lies.

Oh, you won the war, you won the war
and now you’re wandering how you’re so alone
You got the part, you got the part
but why are all lines so damn short?

You’re boxing shadows, you’re not the hero
of great renown, there’s room to grow

Oh, when do you know, when do you know?
That all the work was worth the pay in tolls?
My dreams still howl, my dog still growls
the pack is running faster every hour

You’re boxing shadows, you’re not the hero
of great renown, there’s room to grow
You’re boxing shadows, you’re not the hero
of great renown, there’s room to grow

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