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The Space Between

Dr. Randy Watts
In the mid-1990s, I attended college and graduate school in central Virginia, which at the time, was a hotbed of touring musical acts that were encapsulated under the title of “jam bands.” Among them was a group of musicians from Charlottesville, known as the “Dave Matthews Band,” “DMB,” or to those of us who believed that we were on more familiar terms with the band, simply “Dave.”
This past weekend was Due South – a celebration of Southern sights, sounds, and eats, here in town. I’ve come to appreciate many aspects of life in Thomasville. That said, after faith, family, and education, it is an afternoon listening to good, live, Southern music (with a side of ribs) that most touches my soul.

In the mid-1990s, I attended college and graduate school in central Virginia, which at the time, was a hotbed of touring musical acts that were encapsulated under the title of “jam bands.” Among them was a group of musicians from Charlottesville, known as the “Dave Matthews Band,” “DMB,” or to those of us who believed that we were on more familiar terms with the band, simply “Dave.”

The band made its livelihood by traveling between college towns, playing on campuses, in clubs, and at small music festivals. They were so focused on writing and performing music that they did not produce an album for several years. The only way to hear their music outside of a concert was to obtain a bootleg cassette tape, recorded during a live show. The band permitted the recordings and encouraged fans to trade tapes.

Over time, I developed an impressive (If I do say so myself) cache of DMB tapes. What I came to enjoy in listening to their music were the mistakes. Each member of the band was exceptionally talented, and the ensembles that they produced bordered on magical.

For that reason, hearing dropped lines, out-of-tune instruments, or miscued songs was fascinating. What made the many moments of perfectly harmonized, spontaneous improvisation so sublime were the periodic reminders that the musicians were, in fact, human and fallible.

Allow me to change gears for a moment.

Freud proposed that our personalities could be broken into three aspects: the id (the wild, impulse-driven component), the superego (the pure, idealistic, righteous aspect) and the ego. The ego - the self - is in the middle and is where we live every day. Though not perfect, the ego develops strength by mitigating the conflicting demands of the id and superego. Not everyone buys into Freudian psychology, but I think we can all recognize that as we navigate through life, the internal demands of our personality are often “strange allies with warring hearts,” to borrow from Dave.

Allow me to shift gears again.

It’s our mission here at Brookwood to develop the whole child: academically, physically, spiritually, and socially. Drawing on the spiritual element for a moment, we know that one of the greatest gifts of faith is the recognition that we can ask forgiveness for our sins. As such, we are not perfect, but can always strive to better ourselves.

I shared this sentiment in a devotional for Middle and Upper Schools a few weeks ago. The phrase I emphasized comes from the above quoted, and one of my favorite, DMB songs called “The Space Between,” which suggests that we all live in the space between what’s wrong and right. All of us have and will make mistakes. The challenge is to constantly set a bar for ourselves, grounded in an awareness of our unique strengths and weaknesses.

As our Brookwood students move through childhood into young adulthood, one of their greatest challenges is to develop that self-awareness into a firm sense of self. We must recognize that, whereas we may lack perfection, we do possess the ability to do great things with the strengths we have been given. And we need to live with our weaknesses.

Our job as educators is to nurture our students’ strengths and interests, challenge their weaknesses, and help them move into the even more complex space between of adulthood, where they can be their best selves in the service of others. 

“The Space Between” is on DMB’s Everyday album. For a taste of the live experience without the cassette tape crackle, check out Live at Red Rocks 8.15.95.
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Located in Thomasville, GA, Brookwood School is a private school for grades JK-12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.