Nothing expresses exultation for the joy of living the way dancing does. As I dance before my God, the band playing is "Jehovah’s favorite choir", the Grateful Dead.

Listening To The Grateful Dead Will Teach You Everything You Need To Know — But You Must Also Dance

# 99 on my 99 Life Tips–A List is: You can learn everything you need to know in life from listening to the Grateful Dead — but you must also dance.

The Godfather is the i-Ching, I beg to differ

My tip is a derivative of this Godfather scene in You’ve Got Mail, the 1998 rom-com starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. In the classic scene, Hanks answers Ryans questions with references to the Godfather, assuring her it is the “answer to every question,” the “i-Ching,” and “the sum of all wisdom.” It is a brilliant scene Hanks pulls off with aplomb, throwing in some impromptu Brando imitations for emphasis.

I love the scene, but beg to differ. My go-to source is the Grateful Dead. Within their musical catalogue is everything you need to know. Non DeadHeads don’t understand (and don’t want to know) how their music infiltrates, penetrates, and saturates a Dead fan’s mindset to the last brain cell. 

“For the truly Deadicated, theMusic Never Stops” 

My someday book

I plan to write a book in which every chapter will be a life-topic with related song titles — like this sampler:

  • Love — They Love Each Other, Sugar Magnolia, Not Fade Away, Comes A Time
  • God — Hell in A Bucket, Lay Down My Brother, Wharf Rat
  • Family — Me & My Uncle, Brother Esau, Mama Tried
  • Relationships Row Jimmy, He’s Gone, Cold Rain & Snow
  • Politics — Throwing Stones, Standing On The Moon
  • Philosophy — Terrapin Station, St. Stephen, Eyes of the World, Box of Rain
  • Justice — Dupree’s Diamond Blues, Stagger Lee, Viola Lee Blues
  • Economics — Deal, Loser, Easy Wind, Big Boss Man
  • Psychology— China Cat Sunflower, Brown-Eyed Women, The Other One
  • Death— Death Don’t Have No Mercy, To Lay Me Down, Brokedown Palace, Black Peter

This partial, non-exhaustive listing is exemplary of how songs in their extensive repertoire have application to every aspect of life. Like I said above, you can learn everything you need to know from listening to the Grateful Dead.

Discovering all these connections made the music the soundtrack of my life; and one of my favorite lyrics serves up advice for all life’s uncertainties:

“If you get confused, listen to the music play”

~Grateful Dead: Franklin’s Tower

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

As a young adult, I got lost for several years in the hippy lifestyle (including the drug use part). I travelled cross-country following the band from show to show. The community was like none I’ve experienced since. The traveling kaleidoscope of clowns was family — a home on the road. 

On my journey in 1985, I met Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, himself instrumental in the hey-day of what is known as the 60’s movement, and equally pivotal in the Dead’s beginnings as the house band for the infamous San Francisco Acid Tests so marvelously chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s seminal volume, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

I went to dozens and dozens of shows became more and more lost in the mysticism and mythology and mis-application of truths and nearly lost my physical and mental health in the melee. 

A year later, I met someone even more famous than Kesey. At a show in March of 1986, I met Jesus. My life forever changed, though the music has remained the soundtrack of it. The accoutrements of drugs and touring, I left behind. They aren’t necessary. They really never were. The music itself is a healing gift. One I’m Grateful to God to still enjoy. 

Dance as if your life depends on it

So many Grateful Dead songs are about impending mortality. The idea is in their very name. A fellow writer on Medium wrote this beautiful essay Accepting Your Mortality is the Beginning of Living Well. I heartily concur. The Grateful Dead’s music helps remind me. And it reminds me that the only effective antidote against an encroaching death is to live, to sing, and by God, to dance.

Is there anything more celebratory, more filled with life and joy, the kind of life-celebration powerful enough to mock death — than dancing in the face of it?

I think often of the story in the Old Testamanet, when the Ark of The Covenant was restored to Israel and Jerusalem after spending months and years outside the city, a young King David danced in such ecstatic jubilation, he danced right out of his clothes. 

I still dance that way — celebrating life — warding off death. Now, I spin and whirl and shake my bones in the privacy of my home. Almighty God is the recipient of my Gratitude as He watches the overflow of my pent-up life. Nothing expresses exultation for the joy of living the way dancing does. As I dance before my God, the band playing is Jehovah’s favorite choir, the Grateful Dead.

Everything you need to know—Just remember to dance

So yes, I’m quite convinced, you can learn everything you need to know in life from listening to the Grateful Dead… but you must also dance.

“Sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our own.”

~ Grateful Dead: Eyes Of The World

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