Leaving a Mark- The meaning of life

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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), a German composer and pianist, said of his Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, “Music is a greater revelation than all knowledge and philosophy.” In certain ways, his thoughts encourage one to look to music for answers to the essence of life and revelation about other human circumstances.
Randy Travis’s “Three Wooden Crosses” (from Rise and Shine, 2002) album tries to throw more light on the essence of life.
A farmer and a teacher, a fisherman and a pastor
Ridin’ on a midnight bus to Mexico
One was going on break, one was going to college, and two were looking for missing souls. That driver never ever saw the stop sign

An’ eighteen wheelers can’t stop on a dime

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway

Why there’s not four of them, Heaven only knows

I guess it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you

It’s what you leave behind you when you go

That farmer left a harvest, a home and eighty acres

The faith and love for growing things in his young son’s heart

An’ teacher left her wisdom in the minds of lots of children

Did her best to give ‘em all a better start

An’ that preacher whispered: “Can’t you see the Promised Land?”

As he laid that blood-stained Bible in that hooker’s hand

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway

Why there’s not four of them Heaven only knows

I guess it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you

It’s what you leave behind you when you go

That’s the story that our preacher told last Sunday

As he held that blood-stained Bible up for all of us to see

He said: “Bless the farmer and the teacher an’ the preacher

‘’Who gave this Bible to my mamma

“Who read it to me”

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway

Why there’s not four of them now I guess we know

It’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you

It’s what you leave behind you when you go

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway

The writers of the song: “Three Wooden Crosses”, illustrate the meaning of life as a story about four travelers each of them with different backgrounds and life stories, but brought together on the road to the same destination where upon arrival each of them will go on to undertake different missions.

The song begins by introducing us to the travelers. It tells us what each travelers’ purpose in Mexico is. It becomes clear though that each of their missions differ.

A fatal accident is implied in which three people lose their lives resulting in three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway, begging the question of what happened to the fourth traveler. At the end of the chorus, the writers talk about what they believe to be the meaning of life. “It’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you it’s what you leave behind you when you go”. The writers explain of what each of the travelers “left behind”.

The song finally reveals what happened to the fourth traveler, why she was spared from being the fourth cross and what she finally left behind.

By placing them together on this road, and introducing a life changing event that would tie their fates together, the writers tell what really matters, pointing us toward the meaning of life: Working towards leaving something of good value behind.

The meaning of life as understood from the text “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel is that life is a story of an individual’s own choosing. The more imaginative the story, the better it is. In chapters 95 to 99 while recounting the story of the sinking Tsimtsum to officers of the Japanese Ministry of Transport, Pi substitutes the characters in his original story who were animals for human characters in his other story, after they failed to believe his original story. Pi’s story and the story of the travelers in the song are similar in that they both want to convince people to believe on something.

The song lyrics as compared to the story of Santiago in the text “The Alchemist” are also similar. The wisest of wise men give Santiago a piece of advice that the secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world (Coelho 18). The similarity is that in both the song and the text it is encouraged to follow your dreams. Santiago travels from Spain to the Egyptian pyramids to realize his dream of finding hidden treasure. The travelers in the song follow their dreams and therefore have something to leave behind.

In the text “The Road” the story of the man and his son reveals that the meaning of life is in sacrificing in order for the ones we love to have a better life. Before he dies the man asks his son to go on living and not to give up for he could not bear to his son dead in his arms (McCarthy 145). In the song we find each of the travelers having made steps to leave a mark in the lives of the people they left behind.

The text “The Things They Carried” accounts for the meaning of life as a collection of items both tangible and intangible. “And for all the ambiguities of Vietnam, all the mysteries and unknowns there was at least the single abiding certainty that they would never be at a loss for things to carry.” (O’Brien 12). While both the text and the song agree that life is a collection of items the difference between the two is in the context. While the text defines people by what they had when they were alive, the song defines people by what they left behind after they were gone.

Works Cited

“Ludwig van Beethoven Quotes.” BrainyQuote.com. XploreInc, 2018. 14 April 2018.

Martel, Yann. ‘Life of Pi’. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2001, 95-99.

Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2006.

McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.

O’Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.

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