This song arose while I was in undergraduate college in 2006 or 2007. This track is just a sample of the full song. Over time, I’ve been adding more verses, a bridge, and other chord progressions. But these are the verses which came to me first. Here are the lyrics as recorded in this low fidelity SoundCloud track:
Photograph shrines line wallets and walls.
Long distances are traveled by phone calls,
But bytes and bits and bits and bytes don’t shine much light on silent nights
when the spirit disappears.
Amputees and refugees can tell you there’s a war.
We didn’t start the fire. We just let it burn on more.
Neurotic circus acts keep the status quo intact,
but it doesn’t still our fears.
You’ll find us cryin’ for love but knockin’ on hate’s door.
You’ll find us cryin’ for life but knockin’ on death’s door.
Don’t you know that most people are both rich and poor?
The difference comes in where their treasures are stored.
Where’s your treasure stored?
So, that’s the bit of it that was ready to be recorded this summer. It’s a song about being lonely, even in a digital world. Not only do we have “analog” photographs and recordings to make us feel connected to our loved ones and acquaintances, but we privileged on the planet have digital, real-time connections. Yet cellular phones and digital social media haven’t done a great deal more than photographs to render our beloved in a way that dissipates our feeling of their absence. Even physical presence sometimes isn’t enough to shake us from our lonesome feelings, but emails, texts, letters, photographs, and social media comments certainly can fall short of conveying love and concern for/from our loved ones.
This is also a song about trying to think we have it all together in a world that’s falling apart. I invoke the lyrics of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire”, which lists a variety of world events over a forty-year span. The verses of his song simply list the events, people, and places of the time period, but the chorus says that “we” tried to combat “the fire” of historic events.
I felt compelled to suggest that many of us let “the fire” burn on more. To be honest, many “amputees and refugees” of global conflicts might think that those of us with an audible political voice do not do enough to fight the proverbial fire. The 24-hour cable news stations and insulating news websites create an idea that the status quo is viable, but we can’t seriously believe them when we search our hearts and minds. We still fear for our safety, for our moral high ground, and for the consequences our comfort exacts on other people in the world.
Beyond the notions of loneliness and lost socio-political opportunities, I find it useful for us to ask ourselves where our treasure is stored. The wording of this question comes to me from my Judeo-Christian spiritual experience, but it’s a question any of us can ask ourselves. Consider that J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter encounters this concept on the graves of his beloved mentor’s long-lost family members. Where is your treasure stored? Where do your footsteps show that you have walked? Where do we invest and seek returns? Where do we exert effort and hope that it may bear fruit? Where do our voices speak and our hands act in diligent and intentional work?
This song is in a minor key and the verses aren’t cheery, but, I find that the question “Where’s your treasure stored?” speaks hope and presents an active way forward. If we feel disconnected and if we wonder how to act in a world full of conflict, I think we do well to step back and question where we have been sinking our personal resources. Whether we are monetarily poor or rich, all people have abilities. When we question where we are using those abilities, we open up to listen and learn about ourselves and our place in the world.
Here’s the SoundCloud sample of “Where’s Your Treasure Stored?”: