Johnny Cash: The Man; The Metaphor

To thine own self be true…

“How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man.”

“You’ve got to know your limitations. I don’t know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren’t too many limitations, if I did it my way.”

– Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash.

There are few names that evoke such a truly visceral response.

He lived, he loved, he lost. He redefined the American music landscape. He experienced a fall from grace, and survived the climb back to the top. His life epitomized the Hero’s Journey, as described by Joseph Campbell.

Easy to see why I resonate so clearly with the man.

Early last week I wrote a post that was really more of an opinion piece articulating my views of 20-something year-old’s in today’s society. In it I included the following sentence (that caught the attention of quite a few people):

“I know what it feels like to wear an orange jump-suit.”

As my writing has continued to become more revealing, I always read it with my parents before publishing. They serve as my “editors”. I originally had the sentence “I am an ex-con”. I agreed that this wasn’t quite capturing the image I wanted to portray. They were disappointed in my minor adjustment.

Later in the afternoon, after having a long and productive conversation with a friend, I had to run some errands. Shortly after leaving my house, the last song on the CD ended, and the next CD began playing. You already know who it was…

I immediately recognized the sign.

Here is a man that was idolized by millions, only to see it all come crashing down as he was arrested in the midst of a drug scandal in the late ’60’s – early 70″s. I’ll spare you the history lesson.

The point is this….the story of Johnny Cash didn’t end as a tragedy. And he wasn’t ashamed to use his experiences to further impact his generation, and the many generations to come. Just listen to his classic song “Folsom Prison Blues“.

I knew at that instant that I should stop questioning whether to be as open with the world about my past struggles. I am no longer ashamed of who I was, and what I’ve been through. I see my past as a gift – one that enables me to understand the struggles of so many more souls; one that allows me to reach the hearts of so many who need to hear a message of hope.

Admittedly, the above image will OBVIOUSLY be offensive to some. My point is this – if we are afraid to be offensive, will we be able to reach the world’s hardest hearts?

Johnny Cash wore all black to his concerts…he wrote that he did this as a symbol of all the darkness in the world; that until the world became a little brighter, he would continue to “carry a little darkness” on his back.

I’m not trying to come across as a modern-day Buddha or Jesus. All I’m trying to say is that God has touched my life.

When I was young, I enjoyed when figures of authority created boundaries for me. I saw it as a test. My rebellious, free spirit enjoyed the challenge. I pushed the line as far as I could to see what I could get away with, what I could get myself out of, and what I could survive.

Adults around me knew this. They knew that God was either going to use me for great things down the road, turn this courage and my soft heart and mold it into the gifts of a leader….or I was going to push the boundaries so far that I would be shut off from God and unable to hear Him when he decided to call me.

Well folks…I became a drunk drug addict. Was fired. Went to rehab. Got sober. Spent time in jail. And spent two years redefining myself and my relationship to God. Once I overcame the shame of my past, I learned to love myself. Once I learned to love myself, I learned to love God.

And that is my story in a nutshell.

I have no clue where my life is heading. I know I am enjoying the ride, I’m willing to face whatever obstacles come my way (with a smile on my face, by the way), and I am open to whatever direction I am called.

I’m going to end this by including two YouTube music videos of Johnny Cash. The first from the website “The Johnny Cash Project“, and the second is the music video to Johnny Cash’s last major hit, a cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt”.

After listening to them, I think you will know why.



3 comments on “Johnny Cash: The Man; The Metaphor

  1. I know you will find the direction you need to go in to help yourself and others. Jay

  2. “How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man..”
    Johnny Cash

  3. Love the man in black before he was cool. And love your honesty as well. Did catch the reference but some of my friends wore orange too.

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