OPW: Harry Chapin on Tiredness

I recently stumbled upon a spoken track by the folk singer Harry Chapin called “My Grandfather,” and was pleasantly surprised by how much it resonated.

My grandfather was a painter. He died at age 88. He illustrated Robert Frost’s first two books of poetry. And he was looking at me and he said, “Harry, there’s two kinds of tired. There’s good tired and there’s bad tired.”

He said, “Ironically enough, bad tired can be a day that you won. But you won other people’s battles, you lived other people’s days, other people’s agendas, other people’s dreams, and when it’s all over there was very little you in there. And when you hit the hay at night somehow you toss and turn, you don’t settle easy.”

He said, “Good tired, ironically enough, can be a day that you lost. But you won’t even have to tell yourself, because you knew you fought your battles, you chased your dreams, you lived your days. And when you hit the hay at night, you settle easy. You sleep the sleep of the just, and you can say, ‘Take me away.’”

He said, “Harry, all my life I’ve wanted to be a painter and I’ve painted. God, I would have loved to have been more successful, but I’ve painted, and I’ve painted, and I am good tired, and they can take me away.”

Now if there is a process in your and my lives, in the insecurity that we have about a prior life or an afterlife, and God (I hope there is a God–if He does exist, He’s got a rather weird sense of humor…), but let’s just…

But if there is a process that will allow us to live our days, that will allow us that degree of equanimity towards the end, looking at that black implacable wall of death to allow us that degree of peace, that degree of non-fear, I want in!

2 responses to “OPW: Harry Chapin on Tiredness”

  1. wow i always thought the cat’s in the cradle song was overhyped for its poingnancy and therefore dismissed this guy … but that was awesome.

  2. I have the album this is on, and the first time I heard it, I was struck by how relevant it is on every day of my life. I can remember many many times going to bed and thinking “good tired” or “bad tired”, depending on the day. On bad days I listen to it. I have always been a fan…besides being the quintessential songwriter and story teller, he was one of the greatest humanitarians to walk this earth…his early death was a tragedy.