asa hoffman guitar playing

Will the Circle Be Unbroken

Written by Dietrich Balsbaugh

“Singin’ seems to help a troubled soul.”
—Johnny Cash

There is too much to do tonight. I have a paper due in several days, and I really don’t know how I am going to get everything done. I go to bed worried and wake up tired. It’s Friday but doesn’t feel like it. The day seems to drag on as I imagine the paper writing that I will have to do at home while my housemates go to the evening activities. We planned a dinner together though, so I have to go home anyway, and I am planning to just stay there. I hope the dinner doesn’t take long. We eat rice bowls with fried eggs over easy, bell peppers, lettuce, onions, and salsa while we chat about the week. We laugh a lot.

Then dinner is done and we get to cleaning up, and my mind quickly returns to the boatload of work I need to do. I think briefly about just making an excuse to go get to work and leave the dishes for later, but there are five of us, so it should go quickly. I am the washer, so I turn on the water and start scrubbing hurriedly.

Behind me one of my housemates takes out his guitar and strums a few chords. It’s Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Dangling Conversation.” He starts to sing and we join him, breaking into a few harmonies. I cannot sing harmony, so I just sing melody.

We are verses out of rhythm…
And the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs
Are the borders of our lives…

Something in me stirs. I enjoy singing along while my hands pale and wrinkle under the warm water. We finish the song and move on to some Mumford & Sons while another housemate takes out my drum and starts to thump along. Before I know it, we are all singing at the top of our lungs to “The Auld Triangle” while we finish off the last of the dishes.

In these moments, it doesn’t matter who is musically talented. All that matters is that we are together. Music can make even the most homework-laden days at Hillsdale joyful and life giving. Johnny Cash was right when he sang, “Singin’ seems to help a troubled soul.” At Hillsdale you will find friends who are willing to put their work aside for a little while to rest and jam out. So bring along your instruments! You don’t have to be in orchestra to make a difference, with even a miniscule amount of musical talent. I brought my middle-school recorder.

That night once the dishes were done and the house cleaned, I went back to my work with a happier spirit. The Jam session had worked its magic on me.

Dietrich BalsbaughDietrich Balsbaugh, ’20, studies English and mathematics. He loves dancing of any kind and playing in any sort of water, particularly if it involves skipping rocks. If you see him on campus, he’s usually talking about fractals, writing, or tossing a frisbee. He doesn’t mind, so be sure to stop and ask him what he’s thinking about.

Published in April 2019