“Timshel”

“This is something we don’t do very often, but we love the acoustics in this theater, but we’re going to need you all to be very quiet.”

Quiet? Yeah right.

“We are going to sing without our amps and microphones, just the four of us.”

Asking a theatre full of drunken Irishmen to be quiet was like asking a group of five year olds to be quiet, if the five year olds had each been given a liter of soda and sugar filled pixie stix. I’m sure you can figure out what to substitute in this scenario, a pint of Guinness or five.

Still, Marcus Mumford insisted. Blake and I stood together in disbelief. The crowd became loud with excitement, hollering over the balcony and pumping their fists wildly in the air. The four members of Mumford and Sons stood tall, side by side, completely unplugged. No amps, no microphones, just an acoustic guitar and four voices. The theatre began to still, and four voices melodically rose to the highest rafters of the small theatre in Dublin, Ireland.

Cold is the water
It freezes your already cold mind
Already cold, cold mind
And death is at your doorstep
And it will steal your innocence
But it will not steal your substance


Blake grasped my hand. There were 900 people in the Olympia Theater. The show had completely sold out. 900 people, all of whom I did not know, and at that moment I felt we were all connected.


“But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
Hold your hand”


Glistening tears trickled down my face, off my chin, and splashed onto my collarbones. I thought of what this song might mean to the other 900 people swaying on their feet, hypnotized. Were they picturing their families, their lovers, someone far away from them? Were they picturing hardships, triumph, torment, loss?

Did they have faith in the simplest of things?
Did I?

And you are the mother
The mother of your baby child
The one to whom you gave life
And you have your choices
And these are what make man great
His ladder to the stars


And these are what make man great, his ladder to the stars; a quote from a wonderful book written by John Steinbeck…I was probably the only person in the theater thinking about literature.

We all had these choices, all 900 of us, crammed into the theater, standing shoulder to shoulder. We chose silence, and 900 dreams unraveled the moment Marcus Mumford tugged at that string. We all had the ability to overcome, to choose perseverance. We also had the ability to choose withdrawal. We could choose to abdicate. We could give in to the things that scare us, and give up all together.

But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this


The theatre became a whisper as Marcus Mumford’s voice bellowed over our insecurities, overpowering the voices in our heads telling us to run away.

As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
Hold your hand


And we believed him. The noises grew louder, our voices timed with his. 900 people singing in perfect harmony. A mutual understanding charged through every person in the theater, as we sang the last lines of the song together. The silence was broken. I glanced over at Blake and studied his handsome face, eyebrows relaxed, focused on the stage. He mouthed the words to the song as if he’d written them himself.

But I will tell the night
And Whisper, “Lose your sight”
But I can’t move the mountains for you


As song ended and the theater erupted, the last of my tears fell on Blake’s hand. Gently, he squeezed his fingers around mine. I realized he had the same fears that I did, but together, we were making a choice. He couldn’t move the mountains for me, but we could move them together.

  "Do you take pride in your hurt? Does it make you seem large and tragic? Well, think about it. Maybe you're playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as audience." -John Steinbeck

"Do you take pride in your hurt? Does it make you seem large and tragic? Well, think about it. Maybe you're playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as audience." -John Steinbeck



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23 thoughts on ““Timshel”

    • So glad you enjoyed it! I’ll bop over to your blog on lunch break. It was an incredibly uplifting experience hearing this song live. I’m totally a music person, it just reaches me sometimes when nothing else can. Thanks for reading!

  1. Music is the gateway to the soul I’ve always believed. I’m a lover of all kinds of music and I’m the type who listen to the lyrics more than the tune itself. Beautiful blog and thank you for sharing your experience. Would have loved to have heard it live myself :)

  2. Oh man! What an amazing experience. Love that group and that song.

    We had a similar experience in Los Angeles when She&Him (pre super fame) in a 600-person theater decided to sing “You Really Got Ahold on Me” acapella, unplugged. That was J & I’s wedding song. So we were blown away.

  3. Any time I hear someone talk about this song, I immediately think Steinbeck didn’t render mashal (the perfect stem of timshol -timsh’l-) very well. Don’t get me wrong, I love Steinbeck. He’s one of my favorite authors, but his translation as “thou mayest rule” drops an elemental part of the verb form -the continuation of an action. Timsh’l is an imperfect form which means the action must be continued on and on, basically it’s the collective force of a bunch of smaller actions.
    Maybe, the band and the audience understood to scope of the word without knowing it themselves -904 voices, a few instruments combining together to make one song, to “rule over” silence. Powerful stuff.

  4. WOOO a fellow deconstructer…not a word? That’s ok. One who deconstructs…We’ll go with it. Having a degree in English teaching means I’m allowed to make up words, right?

    That is the AMAZING thing about literature, music, and art. It can all be broken apart, unraveled, and ciphered. I totally see what you’re saying about the imperfect form. Especially with Adam having whispered it at the end of the book, after everything that happened (Aron being killed, the stroke, etc) it would have perhaps had a deeper meaning had it been spelled timsh’l. We might have been able to conclude that timsh’l was supposed to mean that everything continues on…

    Still, I do like the meaning of ‘thou mayest rule.’
    That’s just me though, and I totally dig your take on it. I just fancy the concept. Thou mayest rule over evil, and all of the things that could destroy you if you let them. That’s what I was thinking about during the song.

    Please, feel free to leave more of your ideas. I really love this kind of stuff, it’s why I entered the teaching profession haha.

  5. Pingback: Can We Be Best Friends? | findingravity

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