When he plays Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out in concert, Bruce Springsteen pauses in the middle of the song, where his friend, the late Clarence Clemons, sax solo used to be. He does so to honor a man that he was not embarrassed to say he loved or kiss publicly.
When he played the song during Springsteen on Broadway, he went one step further, pausing longer to explain his deep affection for the person he called, "The Big Man." When I heard him say, “He was elemental in my life...” it stopped me in my tracks.
The word elemental has many definitions – “fundamental, essential, primal”; “constituting an integral part”; “motivated by or symbolic of primitive and powerful natural forces or passions”; “of being the essential or basic part” and most literally, “pertaining to one of the four elements of earth, air, fire and water.”
So when Springsteen describes Clemons death by saying “He was elemental in my life, and losing him was like losing the rain” he is equating it to losing a basic part of his own being - the part that replenishes life and helps it grow.
The idea of being elemental in someone’s life is as beautiful a description of deep friendship as I have heard.
Throughout my life, I have been blessed to have different friendships at different times that I might describe as such. But as we grow, move, and change, the power of even these elemental connections can fade. The earth shifts beneath us, the air blows, the fire dims, and the water trickles where it once flowed more forcefully.
Springsteen’s tribute to Clemons reminds us not only of the beauty of such friendships but the need to more consistently attend to them.
So, much like he pauses in his song to remember his elemental friend, so too should we pause in our life to reach out and connect more deeply with ours.
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