Christopher Porterfield is a gifted storyteller, weaving grit with vibrant imagery throughout Field Report’s self-titled album. My favorite song on that record is “Taking Alcatraz.” Now, to be honest, I’m not quite sure what the song is really all about. It feels, however, like there is the consistent element of a desire to cause a little trouble, to take a risk. The first verse refers to a potential effort to conquer Alcatraz. The second verse describes the singer’s desire to tick off some bikers and “see what happens then.”
While all of this trouble-making talk is fun, it’s the bridge and the chorus that really speaks to me.
And if we die here, at least we’ll make the choice
and if we’re fine here, we can tell the boys
that a line in the sand don’t matter if you don’t care;
that a bird in the hand is worthless if you’re too scared.
“…if we die here, at least we’ll make the choice…” There is something in this sentiment that speaks deeply to me. It’s better to die than to not really live in the first place… to play it safe and not take a risk. I love this. It feels like I experience, time and again, these crossroads moments in life in which I have to choose the safe, known path or the unknown path that leads to deeper fulfillment, to a fuller life. Yes, the choice of the unknown involves risk. Yeah, it can be scary. But, the alternative is to stay stuck, stay safe, and never experience all that life can be.
“…and if we’re fine here, we can tell the boys that…” After the risk is taken, after the fear is faced, a testimony is born. Now, the person taking the risk can help others see the value in taking a risk, in living dangerously from time to time.
And then there are my favorite two lines in the song… “a line in the sand don’t matter, if you don’t care… a bird in the hand is worthless if you’re too scared.” There is deep, deep truth here for the listener. Daily life involves choices. Each choice is an opportunity to be fully engaged in life or to find a way to isolate and disengage emotionally. Many choices will involve a safe option and a risky option. Not caring and being too scared are choices that lead to death, honestly. There is no real life in those two choices. Full life comes from caring deeply and taking risks.
I don’t know if Porterfield waxed philosophic like this when he was writing “Taking Alcatraz.” I do know, however, that the lyrics stir me up. They encourage me. They resonate with my desire to live big, to take risks, to not settle for less than the full life I was built to live.