Who the heck was Cotton Eye'd Joe? (Yes, the "Where did ye come from-Where did ye go-Where did ye come from-Cotton Eye'd Joe-Joe.) Was he a man of significance that simply skipped the history books? Have you wondered how and why the mystery of his wanderings have been a point of relevance to any human other than Mama Joe or Daddy Joe? Maybe he was out past his curfew and his parents worriedly wrote the song to occupy their minds til he came home...?
Is it the gagging familiarity of the song that keeps us curious or is it a genuine question we are all personally seeking to have answered?
(If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can listen to the atrocious piece of music here, so you too can ask yourself why we are so concerned with his comings and goings. So concerned so, that his theme song makes an appearance at every horribly DJ'd wedding reception and emotionally misunderstood middle school dance in all of the West.
...and (after poking around a bit) thank you, Internet, for revealing the ever more entrancing version of this song by the amazing, Nina Simone. She could have sung about popsicle sticks and still, I would melt. Listen here.)
In all appreciation to Mr. Joe and the questions he begs us to answer, we all come from "some" place. Some "some" places are beautiful and motivating and fulfilling, and some "some" places are thick and murky and often have to ruminate awhile before you grow to appreciate them.
Personally speaking, the place I come from is about as opposite the place I want to go as could be. This place directly challenges everything about the type of life I think I'd like to lead; the person I want to be. The place I come from is heavy, dramatic, sick, misunderstood and ladled with trauma. It's loose and dependent, fears the unknown and is apathetic to the way it infects its surroundings. The place I come from eliminated the ability for me to be selfish (self-prioritizing), or to move in a place of independent thought or feeling.
And truthfully, I could not be more grateful that it is all of those things.
For is not the nature of a human being evolution?
We gather information, stuff it in our bucket, and let it compress and harden until out pops a satiable nugget of what we understand as "progress". Comprehension, space, time, forgiveness. Progress is to welcome the new, while always, always accounting, and respecting, the old.
These places, regardless of the intricacies of individual experience, are directly responsible for the places we go. The "some" place is the inertia that balances the new, the free, the vibrant, the unpredictable, the true release of where we want to be. The stillness (or lack of control) of our past, shakes the limitlessness of our future.
From these thoughts, I am reassured by the far more eloquently stated Friedrich Nietzsche:
To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, ill-treatment, indignities — I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished: I have no pity for them, because I wish them the only thing that can prove today whether one is worth anything or not — that one endures.
The most fulfilling human projects appeared inseparable from a degree of torment, the sources of our greatest joys lying awkwardly close to those of our greatest pains…
Why? Because no one is able to produce a great work of art without experience, nor achieve a worldly position immediately, nor be a great lover at the first attempt; and in the interval between initial failure and subsequent success, in the gap between who we wish one day to be and who we are at present, must come pain, anxiety, envy and humiliation. We suffer because we cannot spontaneously master the ingredients of fulfillment.
One of the marks of a successful life is in learning to operate from a place of appreciation for every single experience. Whether it be compliance or defiance, the places make us who we are, and for that, we must always be grateful.