I'm going back to Rock and Roll.
I've never been away really, but as I struggle with my own rebirth as a full-grown adult (I am 44 in 2013), and as I struggle with the way the world is changing, I am deciding to what extent my consciousness is maturing, and whether to "put away childish things", or at least which ones. Rock and Roll is staying on the list of current events because it is as much a part of who I am as anything. I can't disengage; it would be like removing my skeleton. I don't have to fold it up and put it away in a drawer in order to be able to raise responsible kids or care for the elderly, but I do influence enough people that I have to come to terms with what Rock music IS, and whether it is a danger or a divinity.
It is both.
In a stellar example, I can't help seeing shades of The Who in what Nirvana was doing in the late eighties/early nineties. Not to compare them directly or with intricacy, if you're a fan you've maybe already done that, but I remember distinctly the power angst in "Smells Like Teen Spirit" www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2WuL6…
(NIRVANA, 1991), ingesting it for the first time, and being blown away maybe even moreso than the first time I heard "My Generation" www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MnDbW…
(THE WHO, 1965), because this time it WAS my generation, and I remember a little later in the year staring at Kurt Cobain smashing his head into the amplifiers on the first "Lithium" video, www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkcJEv…
(NIRVANA, Lithium, 1991) and thinking nearly the same thing: "(!) This is different; powerful; disgusting; poetic; prophetic--amazing! And it's like a Who show! Wow--it's like a Who show! Finally someone has got some balls AND talent again at the same time! This ROCKS!!"
I didn't mean there weren't any good bands in between. Of course there were--hundreds. I didn't even mean I thought Nirvana were as good as The Who, or that nobody else had smashed their guitars or any of that, but by the end of the nineteen eighties the passion and drive of NEW rock music as a whole had been mainly in decline, or divided widely into genres, each trying to explode outward from Rock's heavy blues/folk based core and eventually finding itself something less than, lighter than, emptied of spirit, or became mired in manufactured corporate inanity (like it is today in many ways). Despite all that's been said by the Rock/Punk underground about Nirvana being "sell-outs" and "going corporate", the industry NEEDED that sonic blast of retro-modern Punk-infused power pouring out of Seattle, and in crate after crate of 'Nevermind' CDs to unite us across so many former dividing lines. It was GOOD! It was honest talent! Garage-bandesque, but slick and fast, it was take-no-prisoners and unapologetic. It was hooked into the moment, and that was intense to see in the mainstream again. It was great to see guys who could have been from down the street shoot through where so many had failed or were ignored. Finally the business was giving us something accessible, something modern, in a language we had been speaking for years, and it just needed someone to slide the box out from under the bed and open it up again. It was something we could play at a party and not get laughed at or yawned at, or that supercilious music theorists could even get a handle on. It was too hot, almost, to handle, and that was the point! Along with the other amazing Seattle bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden on their flanks, they were the spearhead, with all manner of other flight risks in the wings who had more or less been playing the Seattle and Los Angeles scene (and some other grungy scenes) for a few years, marching for the new takeover of nineties Rock music. They were taking music back from mediocrity with a resounding crash. That's what it felt like anyway. All we could do was hold on tight and ride the curl and splash of sound waves. It was fantastic! It was an embarrassment of riches. It wasn't just Nirvana any more than it was just The Who in the sixties British Invasion; far from it, but they were a lightning rod, a conduit, and that was a huge amount of power, and empowering for a whole new generation--MY generation--as raw and refined as any other in history. Kurt was honest, smart, funny, and moody--like us! He was no diva, he was the real deal. An anti-hero, he became the accidental mouthpiece for our generation. It would haunt him, because he just wanted to play.
I needed it personally--both the new music and Kurt's perspective--way off in some ancient land they probably couldn't have known about, or maybe even heard of, Delaware, USA, all the way on the other side of the continent in my little apartment at university, just winding down some great times with friends, learning the secrets of the world, but facing up to some hard times ahead on my own, and trying to knuckle down and make it.
The new era couldn't have come at a better time for me, and, as with so many others around the world, their music gave me hope and a new faith in an entire generation that we didn't all have to sell out to the greater corporate machine. That's the irony! The bands were inside the machine and outside of it at the same time. It was a revitalisation of the Rock and Roll vision of how much influence our voices can really have in a world that seems entirely moved by money or religion. If people wanted to latch their money-grubbing paws onto it, so be it. The value of these artists far exceeded any unit of measurement. When we have something to say SOMEBODY will pay to get it heard if the returns are even better, but the MESSAGE itself is sometimes priceless and beyond measure and scope. That is the power of Rock and Roll, and art in general. It was OUR OWN microcosm. It was a time to say something: "We, too, can use the system! We ARE part of it! We are ready, and we don't have to sign our lives away in order to live!" and the Punk/Rock ethos was still intact: "Fuck you, and listen!" The message was meant to cut through thousands of years of formative dogma and create our own--in real time, in the moment.
Nirvana says in interviews that the money from the big record companies seemed like a scam, because that was so NOT what they were about, but what band in their right minds DOESN'T want to reach all those lost souls who need that musical fix, need that life-raft, and had been dreaming about it? It was like kick-starting a newly customised classic motorcycle. The sound went right through us, and we were ready to ride! The Nevermind CD, which fused their early Punk Rock, Hard Rock, and Grunge roots with solid hooks, was like the handbill for the Theater of The Generation X. Nirvana's lyrics weren't case studies in politics or revolt, though, they were snapshots of in-the-moment bed-room musings that we could relate to and mold into our own interpretations. In one way that is why they are so popular. They are an open door. The punk ATTITUDE was unmistakable though, and their tight, practiced playing and raucous non-conformity was magnetic. Those things coupled with the band members' own indelible charm and awesome talents are what spans genres and generations.
"It's all in the music/It's all in your brain/Used all the old ways/Now it's all gotta change" (THE KINKS Attitude, 1979)
"But is this song so different?/Am I doing it all again?/It may have been done before/But then music's an open door" (THE WHO Music Must Change, 1978).
I have to say I was worried about Kurt right from the start. He was an odd mix of indestructible and frail, but I had seen this before. He was a Rock Star. He managed to put everything he was into art. He was a part-time Martian, but never forgot he was a human being. It was others who would forget. People often don't understand that to be an artist is to become something else: a vehicle, a channel, then only later we might return to ourselves. People are constantly expecting artists to be human when we are creating, and to be artists when we are just being human. Often we are transmogrifying somewhere in between, our skin too tight or too loose. Signals and barriers get crossed. It can be confusing, both for the artist and their friends and fans. Before anyone figured that out about Kurt Cobain, he was gone.
He was not a copy of anyone by any stretch, not even as much as Jimi Hendrix took some of what Peter Townshend was doing on stage with The Who back in the sixties, smashing guitars and amplifiers, riffing long, tortured and teased power chords for minutes at a time, and made it undeniably his through his own massive creative drive and the electric sustain and feedback loops through the amps and speakers as part of his playing, getting up close and personal with them in something halfway between violence and ecstacy. Jimi once famously (at Monterey Pop Festival, 1967) set his guitar on fire on stage and then smashed it, during the greatest version of The Troggs' "Wild Thing" I've ever heard (and I was listening to the audio recording long before I ever saw the video en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historic…
(JIMI HENDRIX [The Troggs'] Wild Thing, 1967)
"Right now I'm going to sacrifice something that I really love," he had warned the crowd, and the ceremony was enrapturing. It was like a Who show (and The Who had played a seminal set earlier), but it was a JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE show; it was a mix of being derivative and supportive and competitive with the Who and all of the other bands of the time, Cream, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and scores of others in the U.K. and U.S., etc., but ultimately forging something personal and intensely amazing, stratospheric. That's what NIRVANA were doing twenty years later with their stage act, with their peers, and of course, with love and respect for those who had come before. It was another groundswell of legendary Rock and Roll music.
As Townshend would say about the use of onstage explorations of sound, "It shows that radical experimentation really is worth pursuing. Because even though it might feel stupid and pretentious,* if you do discover something new, it's your property and you're identified with it forever." --Pete Townshend, Guitarist magazine interview, 1990 www.musicradar.com/news/guitar…
*Did Kurt read this interview? There's a good chance. Smells Like Teen Spirit was written within months of its publication. Might a poet like Kurt change a word by one of his axe-hero forebears and get "feel stupid and contagious"? It could be coincidence, it could be synchronicity in the Jungian sense, it could even be irony considering the arrogance with which they would come to regard each other, but it makes me wonder...
Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Mick Taylor, David Gilmour, Robert Fripp, Robin Trower, Alvin Lee--too many to name in one era, from one country alone--all fed their creative energy into their bands and through their instruments, amps and speakers, firing up thousands upon thousands of blissful nights for millions and millions of fans. These are the bands we grew up spinning, in endless vinyl grooves and endless tape loops, on into the digital I/O age, and were the concerts we frequented, whose LPs, EPs, and 45s we bought and shared, whose posters plastered our walls, whose names we scrawled across our paper textbook covers, whose lyrics filled our notebooks, as we chafed for the school bell to ring so we could get back to something important. Throughout the prior decades and throughout our own era in the seventies and into the eighties and nineties there was a mountain range of great musical material to scale, as Rock music reached unfettered levels of talent, spirituality, ticket sales, radio, television, and movie coverage, plus album and hi-fi stereo sales. It was no underground then, the entire world's culture was touched, enveloped, and forever changed. These releases of pent up emotion and ritual devotion to the music of every mood and spectacle and group mind are as famous as they are infamous now. This was some of the energy that our generations draw from, that we are wired into. A great number of elements came together in incandescent fusion. Rock and roll ruled the world at that time, and politicians were made into the pale, frightened children that they still are today. Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover both lost their minds trying to hold back the tide, and failed. We remember the time of the dinosaurs! What I saw and heard in Smells Like Teen Spirit and other Nirvana songs WAS that teen spirit ascendant again. It was a new youth movement, a new mythology. Nirvana didn't start it. We were already moving. They just gave our machine that kick-start, and invalidated our parking, violated it, and kicked our asses.
If one is truly honest, Rock and Roll IS the soul of young angst absorbed, identified, and converted and redistributed into creative tranferrable energy. It is the ultimate expression of self-deprecation, soul-searching, rejection of flawed ideals, and sacrifice, on our own stage, but also that of humanity. It is also ultimately self-affirmation and undiluted, indomitable joy in humankind, in the face of an indifferent, institutionally psychotic, and notoriously over- and under-protective world. It is a fight back, a DENIAL, but it is also that unveiled mirroring of society's failures and ugliness AND its raw beauty, wonder, and hope, by assuming everything aims directly AT us, and so therefore these emotions reciprocate directly back out FROM the youth of the world when, in every recent era, we begin to catch the first sparks of self-conscious energy and realise we are--ALIVE.
"Deaf dumb and blind boy, he's in a quiet vibration land/Strange as it seems his musical dreams ain't quite so bad" www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2sxO-…
(THE WHO Amazing Journey/Sparks, 1969)
It is POWERFUL because the young ARE strong, but often feel that our own failures, and being TOLD that we are failures, and ridiculed, and admonished, and threatened all our lives, by everything from grandmothers to gang warfare to advertising to corporate and political dogpiles, are why we can't consistently be what we think we are SUPPOSED to be, and that society's rules, the pulpit from which everyone with half an agenda preaches, are so geared towards a reduction of any kind of youthful or personal expressions and exuberance, or tuning into a greater view of humankind, are so filled with scandal, tribal ignorance, cheating, and social hypocrisy at absolutely every level, that we take it out on ourselves, or worse others, as social defectives, as human failures in front of the world, we are the FOCUS of all human failure, the REFLECTION of it, the embodiment of sadness practically before we've even started to live, because we feel we can't fit into the confining and ultimately inconsistent adult boxes and mazes, or even those of some of our peers--don't even want to. In a world where corruption and cloak-and-dagger manipulation is king why should we care at all? Why don't we just suck it up and JOIN THEM? Then, feeling sick and dirty ourselves, and sell-outs and thieves, as part of the bloody machine, we decide, "Surely there MUST be something better than this--some alternative way to live?" and FIND one.
We DO internalise criticism and hypocrisy that way. It becomes tied into our identity crises--crises that young people are even more sensitive to than adults, because it is often the FIRST time that they are confronted with issues of cultural and societal truth. The human condition now seems so unnatural, full of mechanised, stilted, cracked, and stale thinking, cut loose from the natural landscape from which we used to draw strength, in desperate bids to separate ourselves from ourselves, launching skyward to some new sense of ethereal reality, and drifting like leaking dirigibles through a world of completely human symbolism, weird and conflicting, that to a young person it CAN seem overwhelming and alien, not welcoming at all: ridiculous. What right does society have to judge US? Can it even SEE itself? We can. We can see you. We can see ourselves.
And so, one day, having found voices from various streams amazingly speaking our own language from out of the furniture--frequencies from radio, hi-fi, television, books from bookshelves, magazines and newspapers from tables, art from the walls and on the street where we truly live, where we tell each other the truth if we know it and don't always follow blindly, and concepts from conversations with our peers and mentors, tuned in from sources broadcasting and printing and dispensing wonderful, understandable, uplifting, and relatable ideas from around the world through the magic of wave frequency, polar magnetics and electricity, typeface and image, speech and cognition, electro-chemical transfer, our brains discern the patterns of symbols forming and pulsing into messages that we understand both cognitively and intuitively, messages from everywhere, carried in the code with which truth travels, and can NEVER fully be controlled, only guided. The undercurrent of truth is coveted by power then lost again to the public demand in neverending waves throughout history. We ultimately find a new joy in the underground, and lose ourselves in the grand moment when we realise we are NOT ALONE and we are NOT WRONG and we are IN CHARGE OF OUR DESTINIES! We take it upon ourselves to CELEBRATE our new-found ability to DREAM and to PROTECT ourselves from those driving coffin nails into our vulnerable psyches from any number of skewed and twisted realities surrounding us, all vying for supremacy and domination throughout the world, and we find the age-old ability, from LONG before our fake boardroom, and managerial meetings, to get up and dance, and to cheer ourselves on, and to think and BE WHO WE ARE and what we want to BE, and what we are FEELING! We are not toys, we are not game pieces, we are not playthings; we are not just anybody's idea of who we should be. WE ARE HUMANS and wear the faces of aeons of challenge and wonder. We are hard and soft, loving and dangerous. We are as important as anything that has ever been, yet we are not THE important thing, we are simply part of everything. We are not underlings, we are equals. We eventually come to realise that if enough people decide on something, then the concept of reality CHANGES. Our reality becomes our clothing, our warmth, our shell, our rite of transformation and passage, and with it we can go anywhere and we can make it anything we want to if it rings true, remains true, even in the middle of all other dogma and distraction, or a million sects and subdivisions. We are who we are and if we are true to ourselves we can hold onto that through anything.
And so, what we discover, in our journeys in and out of the inconsistencies of our elders, in and out of their adamancies, is that there are HUGE vacuums in our parents' realities. Because mostly nobody has bothered to figure life out for ourselves, we take what we are handed, and we use tiny eggshells in which to live our entire lives, that we harden around ourselves for protection at the limits of what we know. However, truth IS, and is all around us, and we ARE because of it. So, like the physical and natural, magical matter that it is grounded into, truth does not go away, and may come knocking at our eggshells whether we like it or not. Whether we thought through our life or not. It is a stunning and frightening revelation that our parents (or others' parents), even though they have taught us so much, even though they have loved us like themselves, might not know exactly what they are doing, at least in the broader picture, as we move outward in scale from house and home, and not just our parents, but EVERYBODY'S parents have not thought through everything pertinent. We ALL might not know what we are doing, and rely too much on the structural integrity of society, which is often blind and blindsided by mass ignorance. We all behave like we are living in hives and that WE ARE SURE someone somewhere has planned for how we will all integrate and behave. Where are they? When were they? What did they really decide, and is it applicable today? Why did they leave us these wars and tribes that act like barnyard, schoolyard, and jungle animals fighting for the right to be slaughtered next by some larger-than-life figure? Is it some form of ecstasy to see one's own blood set free and running away in bright streams? You tell me. Tell me all about it. Have you thought about it? Instead we come up with, across the face of the earth, many different interpretations, and yet, by declaring each reality as tribally and institutionally supreme, millions and millions of us are mangled in the machinery BETWEEN REALITIES because only a handful of people ever DO think about the WHOLE thing, and how to bridge the spaces between us--and we are still too far apart. Those bridges are constantly bombed and torn down by those who say, without pause, "I want what you have. Give it to me. I declare you inferior so that I might take it and feel good. I want you to think what I think whether it is right or wrong."
A billion people all hallucinating one version of reality doesn't make it good unless enough people think it through, and even then it is only one small part of the WHOLE, one small facet of truth, with myriad different facets of existence shimmering out in all directions in perceptually infinite layers of natural interaction throughout history, back into the distant pasts, out along all planes in the present, and into the unknowable futures, FOREVER as far as we know, and all layers are interconnected by rings and circles and cycles of polar influence and cyclical cause and effect by every single possible process, that we ourselves, as humans, are part of and help along for good or ill as we might happen to rationalise it. Sooner or later we all have a glimpse of UNDERSTANDING that we are at once at the center of all things, AND only a tiny molecule of an infinite whole, and not in the middle at all--we are almost non-existent. This glimpse at understanding can come from any trigger because it is already inherent within our consciousness and in the way we are wired. We are born with two inherent perspectives in two halves of our brain that allow us to see in three dimensions and more. It is within us to KNOW that we are part of something beautiful that is ultimately indivisible by opinion. Occasionally we can see forever--nearly literally. Love, hope, faith, wonder--all of these are tied into that feeling of centeredness, of BELONGING, of BEING a part of something infinite, and when we understand that we are part of everything, and everything is part of us, we also begin to see that all other emotions are part of the whole as well--hate, spite, malevolence--and we begin to wonder what to do about it, if anything. That is what we are missing out on when our eggshells only reach to tomorrow, or next week, or next year, or only back a few thousand years, rather than to all of them--all of the years we have been alive and should have learned SOMETHING. For too many of us life is only about what we heard today. What do we DO with that kind of perception? Our elders would say to subvert it, control it, take it away. It already BELONGS to someone--OUR tribe! It belongs to us (meaning human flavour of the week, flavour of the millennium). No it doesn't. It is free forever. Sit down. Or get up with us and dance and celebrate who we ALL are, as you will find yourself doing as likely as not. Life is about life. It's about living. It's not about YOU. Life is about about everything there is. Truth is everything there is.
The messengers today, as in many a chivalric, chimeric generation, our elders' included, seem too small to be heard above the clockwork gears of the giant machines ever grinding, grinding us down, eggshells and all, unless enough people hear the broadcasts, unless enough people are tuned in to the messages, the signals, the signs, and learn the ebb and flow of the currents of institutionally disseminated, broken, patched, rewritten, and cobbled together information streams about what may once have been sufficient to light the way for some of us, but never really all, unless we CAN cross natural and unnatural borders in order to OVERLAP our realities and tribal wisdoms, not crystallise them and claim them as dominant. The wonder of our oneness has somehow become corrupt and unglued, as more and more institutions detach themselves from reality, people in office buildings becoming untapped from truth, launching their massive dirigibles with people still hanging from the ropes and cables, falling to their deaths, to follow the mirages of profits and arrogance and carrots held before them, and images of holy grails, only to leave humanity and a firm future for the world behind, in dirty alleys, spit out by society and reason, with foreclosed dreams, on wasted landscapes, with toxic waters to drink, but gripping to our dreams.
Every institution starts as a handful of people backing ONE person with big plans to change the world by serving the People with some new product, some new IDEA, which feels divine because it is. It is derived from any number of inspired thoughts, ideas, and physical matters, given to this world, and helped along by our faith in our duty, and to our imagined exalted existence, and is meant to touch everything with a new influence of wonder. Then, along the way, after inspiring and helping so many, it becomes more and more self-important, self-serving, intolerant, and self-delusionary. The new tribe detaches from us and the world that created them and they try to make us believe that THEY are the ALL and have a direct connection to the world and the universe, and to the god of their choosing, that we are then supposed to beg admission to enter, and, because, even if they are scientifically and/or divinely inspired, they are a human endeavour and include hate, spite, and malevolence, which, when magnified to institutional levels, can be the destruction of as many as they help, or more. They decide, at some point, that they are for only A CERTAIN KIND OF PEOPLE and everybody and everything else is lower class. Everyone else is only worthy to kiss their ass, because success brings arrogance, and riches bring exceedingly expensive artificial surroundings, and a feeling of having achieved some lofty goal, separate and above all else in life and close to heaven, as well as governance that SEEMS like a class above the man in the street, and the tree in the forest, when NONE of it can ever happen without that same downgraded and discarded man, woman and child and ALL of the good things of the world. This is institutional hallucination. That same "lower" class is the root, the backbone, and the future of every great human endeavour on Earth, whether for that institution or ANY other, and a new tribe is just as likely to spring up anywhere and claim the same things. That is when we get panicky and selfish, and bring out the big guns. To disconnect and disrespect each other is the supreme arrogance and hypocrisy of human institution. Because these institutions are so wrapped up in their own justifications and illusions, they easily fall back to Earth when punctured by truth, either natural, or by any man, woman, or child speaking about injustice and disregard which is what happens when people get too arrogant.
We are inherently equals and our institutions are both at the center of their own world, AND insignificant molecules in the grand scheme at the same time, just another part of everything else and another life form in a never ending parade of life. We are EQUALLY scientific and divine whether we are inside or outside of spheres of influence, those giant institutional thought bubbles, whether we are part of the giant transmissional gears of institution or the lubricating fluid between them (even when it is made up of our mangled bodies and minds), and in order to remain grounded in truth we are all at LIBERTY to overlap our structures to strengthen the whole, or to break away, to take our chances, to sink or swim for some indefinable time on Earth. The greatest rock bands have to follow these natural laws. Rise and fall, breathe and exhale, love and learn. It's all organic.
In our own lifetimes we can stop the gears of tribal disharmony, neutralise the transmission, and shift into a more appropriate synchronisation for forward, uphill, or downhill movement, profitable FOR ALL, based on the truth of our outward terrain that our earthly vehicle, made up of all life, is traversing, and the pulse of our human heartbeat. That is what is supposed to happen when our machine is working, but we are still learning to try to synchronise with each other to greater degrees than we have before, and those gears too rigid or outdated to try to want to fit are still grinding us between them. Even our own vaunted leaders haven't grasped this vision yet, and I see people dying because of it. My friends and family are dying. Some are too sick in body or in heart to work, they stop, stumble, and go down. No smaller institution is strong enough to hold them up for long when the greatest ones are failing. It is not what we were promised when we were young. There are MILLIONS gaming the system and grinding us down, working towards some fantasy that is certainly not universal. It is not for us. No wonder we are turning back to truth. What is tribalism? What is YOURS doing?
In near pasts, and in near futures we have and can rely, not only on the imagined landscapes within our heads, blinding with promise, dreamed of, and lived in, worked for with blistered hands, and blood-streaked eyes, and bent backs, and sweat, both in the past and right now, as our dreams are and have been passed from one to another of us as if they were genetic, but ALSO by grounding back into truth and scrutiny, and what is truly happening around us, no matter how bitter or ugly it may be or how hard it is to synchronise. Want proof of synchronicity? Read the essay you are reading and see how many things over the next few days, weeks, and years relate back to it. And this essay is formulated out of things that have happened to me in the past weeks, months and years, and that energy goes circulating on and on, aligning with, and setting other things in motion, thus helping to weave the patterns of life. We are WRITING history. We are developing road-sensing abilities, and if we are agile, and adept, can slowly release the clutch again with a firm hand on the wheel, and continue without undue damage and in greater comfort for all, institutions AND the individuals they are meant to serve. We can do that despite our elders' assurances that they know EXACTLY what they are doing as their vehicles of separate realities collide head on into each other, and careen in weighty inevitability, tumbling off of the road in broken and twisted hulks, as they have been doing for decades and centuries, even as Generation X, and all the others still around either sold out, or stood back and watched.
"Meh," we said, "Same old, same old," in self defense.
Yes, maybe we have been slow to act as well, but faced with the recurring wasteland of error-filled idiocy, we, as young people, as young adults, and as adults finally waking up to the dissolution of our own futures, begin to stylise and blend in, but continue to send and receive messages. We are signalling to each other like cetaceans, like pachyderms, sometimes like lions roaring on the savannah, and reindeer on the make, finding those who will love us, and wolves locating the pack by moonlight in ghostly wails, ever calling, listening, scenting, finding each other, and nuzzling, appreciating togetherness, content that we are one with the sun, the moon, the stars, the winds, all things, and always receiving the affirmation that WE ARE ALIVE. We may be of one pack now, but we are really of concentric tribes, in ever greater scope, nestled inside of one another like nesting dolls, out into the universe. It is up to you to look outside of your eggshell until you understand that you are part of it all. The messages of Truth in our environments are what is constant and reliable in life. No matter what the signal, the symbol, the interpretation, the perspective we use, as perceptive humans, our realities fluid, TRUTH as it is in all matter, as it is in nature, is constant, and we can ground to those things that are true the same way as we can be pulled away (or apart) by corruption or misinformation, and misinterpretation and detachment, for some political and tribal gain, especially at the institutional level. We are never immune from coercion, we can only be on guard as we try to navigate risk and reward. WITH ENOUGH VARIETY IN THE DIRECTION OF ANY SIGNALS, WE CAN TRIANGULATE THE LOCATIONS OF TRUTH, and base the building of our ethics and tribal actions on solid ground, even if we have to dig down again to find it. At some point we must admit to ourselves that TRUTH IS UNIVERSAL, and our realities are fluid and dynamic, even at the institutional level, and can be remolded to synchronise as well as they can be co-opted for someone's idea of profitability. Our tribes do not have to blend and disappear into one, they only have to fit together with understanding. We are human and part of the world. We are part of the universe.
"If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern." --Aldous Huxley, 'The Doors of Perception' 1954, (perhaps after Plato's 'Allegory of The Cave' from 'The Republic'?).
"Come as you are/As you were/As I want you to be" www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJqQf5…
(NIRVANA Come As You Are, 1991)
The reality inside a corporation is different from without; the reality in another country is different to our own; the reality in the deep woods is different from that in a city. Tragically, increasingly, the reality in our governments are different to the common citizen's, often because they throw their lot in with big corporations and militaries bent on protecting EACH OTHER rather than the public--these institutions combine and begin to deal only with each other rather than directly with us or even FOR us. Corporations can only remain OBSCENELY profitable, rather than just ordinarily profitable, by the government looking the other way to their origami folded and hidden debt manipulations and extortions of their clientele and employees somewhere along the line, because the actual public are being sold out wholesale, to be left stripped and stranded, extorted, bruised and beaten, ground down--lifeless. Who looks more attractive to a politician, though, an increasingly betrayed and angry public, or a friendly, smiling company with money falling out of their pockets and into your political hand? Same old, same old. "Join or die!" YOU join or die. What planet are you living on? This one belongs to US, plural. For the common man to have to go and fight for institutional idiocy is the recurring tragedy of human life.
All of these realities, movements in business, politics, art, Rock and Roll, are not really that different when one studies all of the degrees of generations of consistency and separation between institutions and eras--the common denominator is our universal humanity. That doesn't change. But those barriers erected by congealing ourselves into institutions and then compressing or oppressing into classes and races and cultures are where most of us stop and pull back into our shells, our local tribes, too afraid of making a difference, too weak to try to influence, too proud of our own pedigree to disagree with anything except that which is OUTSIDE of our tribe, even when other tribes are mostly mirrors of ourselves in fundamental ways. We are too filled with cultural prejudice and learned hate, absorbed and magnified, and sometimes disseminated by our own institutions, to LISTEN for the signals from those outside our own tribe or outside of humanity, our fellow Earthlings. We are "too modern" to listen for the shamans from within, who are TRAINED in shifting perspectives, listening for the triangulating signals cutting between realities and the grinding of gears, across wars, and across time, and through lapses in understanding, who find the doorways between realities and use them. Why bother trying to understand? Isn't that somebody else's job? We have our own hives to look after, especially after we have our own children, to love them, to protect them, to fill them with pride, artificial and/or true. As we age we turn away from the broad idealism of youth to the natural comfort of our own hearth and home, that supreme bliss and centredness of our happy family unit, timeless and unchanged throughout the depths of history, universal to ALL tribes, and we turn down our own will and turn it over, not to those who have taken the time to triangulate, but to faith in whatever realities to which we have attuned ourselves--our leaders in education, industry, politics, science, and religion, our INSTITUTIONAL tribes, with all their inherent weaknesses and insanities magnified to the nth power. As long as they are powerful enough to protect our little family, we don't question how they operate. We trust that they aren't following profits at the expense of our interests. We TRUST in that--and are betrayed.
"My girl, my girl, don't lie to me/Tell me where did you sleep last night?" www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcXYz0…
(NIRVANA [Leadbelly, trad.] Where Did You Sleep Last Night, 1994)
In fact, we can never TRULY understand our own tribe, our own families, and the dangers of ignorance, WITHOUT some exterior frame of reference. Entire nations may fall to their own delusions of grandeur. They feed on internally reinforcing signals of pride and affirmation, when from without, from a more objective standpoint, they look arrogant and seedy, silly and dangerous. From an enemy standpoint they may look rabid, when that is only our own hydrophobia reflected back to us. What once made them great is increasingly pushed into the background as institutions polarise around teeth-baring militancy to support the breakdown of proper balance and the rigidisation of class inequality, the big gears hardening rather than adjusting to fit together, and they try for control, created by tilting towards monopolistic self-interest for powerbases and away from interest in the public welfare, as institutions have done with neverending lunacy throughout time. WE DENY RIGHTS TO OTHERS OUTSIDE OF OUR TRIBE AND THEN ACT STUPID WHEN THEY RISE UP. We DENY it could ever happen to us even when it is plain for all to see happening right in our houses of governance, right in our towers of industry and faith. ALL institutions are prone to this bias. The nature of things is that hives collapse due to incapacity to continually accurately asses proper distribution and use of resources--including shared resources, including perspectives, including understanding our own kind and our own intelligences AND where we fit into the larger sphere--either through failure to adapt to changing needs, or by the mutation and spread of greed and selfish power plays by people once dedicated to human interests--those people we trusted to understand the world for us, but who instead try to destroy us. Instead we find them attempting to carve new tribes out of the old--out and away from all of us--the unleashed dogs of capitalism--once cherished, fuzzy, domestic pets, now unchained and feral, on their own and forming dangerous unruly packs, rather than sacrificing for, and protecting what used to be the ideal of democracy. The People, used to be the ideal. We are a people free to dream and to grow. What have we grown into? We are betrayed as People, not only as machines of State, by our State institutions, including that we are losing the ability to INSPIRE through good governance and good business practices, and a reasonably balanced use of resources.
People have become greedy again. People pay for shiny paths to heaven and step off of them to fall back to Earth, where we all live and die. We, who pretend to separate ourselves from the animals, either need to DO that, and to understand the WHOLE picture for how we can PREVENT idiotic collapse and attrition through knowledge AND compassion for everything up to and INCLUDING the animals, and the basic rights and respects our nations have once dreamed and put into Law, as only the human animal can conceive of it, and prevent animalistic hate and destruction, by being humanistically balanced and culturally enriched and inclined, the way that each of our democracies set out to embrace, or we may as well admit we are very like animals and continue to live a more natural life in mirror image of nature with all its synchronicity, and impersonal (apparent) anarchy and danger and tribal attacks, like lions vs. hyenas, only remaining true to our own tribe until we, too, are brought down from without, or are sickened by our own actions into revolt against it in a never-ending pattern, and new young strength takes over from decrepit thoroughbreds, not fit for studs, but swaybacked now from trying to haul around their own superfecta longshot wins in gold bars on their backs, and trying to turn outwards against all comers and baring their teeth. THAT'S WHAT IS HAPPENING. Look around. Listen.
Why try to understand the meanings, why aspire to greatness if we are doomed to natural loss bred by willing ignorance, tribal programming, and corruption no matter what we do? Right now we are trying to have it both ways, and it just makes us look hypocritical and silly--ESPECIALLY to our young. Ask a child. Ask an animal. Ask a wise-person how we look to them: natural or artificial? Do we look intelligent or arrogant? Are we deserving or debased? Are we caring or catastrophic? Are we culturally enlightened or culturally insane?
"I get along anyway I dare, anyway, anyhow, anywhere" www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqOnv3…
(THE WHO Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere, 1965)
There ARE travellers, dancers, road shows, rock and rollers, shamans, diplomats, and prophets. There ARE messengers in EVERY era and every culture, who cut across borders seeking to include us all in a richer weave, a finer display, a SAFER lifetime, an enlightened ecstasy through the excitement of UNIVERSAL knowledge and truths rather than domination and dogma, rather than hoarding and hate, through trade of thoughts and discoveries of all kinds for mutual benefit rather than selfish aggrandisement for wealthy classes, and pugilistic preaching of insular ideals, for a greater awareness of the beauty inherent in ALL OF US, in everything. How well they interact and are received is often what defines our cultures in very impactful ways. How much are we willing to open up to truth? Can we handle it--or will the sheer depth of our own exploitation blow our tiny minds? Will too many of our pasteboard and plaster facades shatter and fall into the street exposing the termite-riddled foundations behind? In our polarity, we often magnetise to, or reject these messengers as heretical outsiders. We can question them and what they have seen. We can listen to their tales and metaphors with rapt attention, or deride them as incoherent to our reality and cast them out. It is as it has always been, and yet knowledge is something cumulative. Even when it is damaged or destroyed or forgotten it will be rediscovered until there are no humans left to find it. With the truths these outliers bring to our own perspectives, we may decide we can question conformity and hold our own society accountable IN PUBLIC and in private to a renewed ideal of human proportions: home, work, spirituality, country, Earth. This scares people who rose to power by making love with ideals that are entrenched and "untouchable" and highly exploitative. That is also universal, and yet we can overcome this recurring bias as well, because Truth is, and we are because of it. The truth the world is telling us is that we can't survive unless we address issues that affect all of us across the world, not just our own tribe. That starts with an attitude of hope, not hate. Hate is reciprocal, yet so is hope. Which makes more sense?
Even after thousands of years of world travel and even in the jet age we still build tiny houses and ships and caravans in our minds and never want to leave them. We are safe there--but it never lasts, because we never understand the winds of change blowing until they have buried us in a sandstorm that we could have prevented had we been thinking for ourselves rather than letting someone else do it for us. We can question the machine when it shows up at our door, asking for blood and sacrifice, when before we had offered it and we were turned away as unworthy, as "not the right kind". In fact we ARE willing to sacrifice for our corporations and governments and our People just as we always have--for a movement towards enlightenment across business, politics and militaries, not a dirty and disgusting, corrupt game played out repeatedly by today's bad actors who revel in their roses then who almost need to bring the curtain down, rafters and all, in smoke and flames, as they sneak out a side exit. That is how we operate despite all of our ideology, as though we are entitled to all good things in this lifetime AND the next, without having to work very hard at universal thought and understanding across borders and barriers to make CONNECTIONS, not DIVISIONS. "It is something for philosophers and priests." we say, "We are not privy to that world." Really? What world do you live in, then?
No doubt there is an extremely daunting wealth of knowledge available--and yet we can handle everything to which we set our minds and souls. In fact, we can build the greatest works of humankind when we use our minds AND our souls. The great wonders of the world are made that way, regardless of which faith we are using at the time. Where science and faith overlap exponential wonders are achieved. Why? Because they are UNIVERSAL faiths in our divine world and our divine selves. They are not at all separate, they all overlap. If we are going to TELL THE TRUTH to a new generation, we are going to have to learn HOW NOT TO LIE TO OURSELVES, whether we mean to or not, and when we really look at the world...so much of it is based on lies which we tell to hide our own ignorance or shortcomings!
We don't WANT to know, and we don't want anyone else to know that WE DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH WE DON'T KNOW, and that aversion allows our ideals to crash into each other like hardened cars and trucks and trains, and burning airplanes, as though we never even took a driving course to learn how to maneuver in harmony, and simply hopped into the drivers' seat when our parents grew too weak to hold onto the wheel. We allow this type of cultural anarchy (as it HAS to be, in tribal oppressions, at some point if we can't accept each other) to overtake us again and again in multicar pile-ups throughout history, because we don't even understand the rules of our own roads. The RULE is that REALITIES OVERLAP. Yours is NOT the only one. Understand, friend, or die out.
Believe me when I say that someone has worked out better strategies in every era since before historical record. In EVERY era someone has worked them out. Their work is often preserved, but we don't bother to look at it. We assume we won't understand, or that something written in another era can't possibly apply to us, or that ONLY something ELSE written in another era can apply to us, that our institutions ALREADY know what they are doing and will not use their weight against us and to repress these discoveries--but they do.. That is the beauty of human intuition and rational thought--it is repeatable and applicable to every era. Instead, "The whole thing smacks of effort, man" (THE SIMPSONS Summer of 4 Ft. 2, episode 153, 1996) we think, and go about our day. Then some of us don't live through the impacts caused by people creeping into our blindspots, some of which are only our own dirty windshields and our own shadows in the mirror. We come to find out our automatic sensing systems have not been warning us of imminent danger so we can course correct, but have been shooting other drivers--eliminating danger and competition that way--in secret. Some of our children are horribly maimed and killed as a result, as a result of other road raged drivers coming back to encounter us, and our secret automated killing machine, sometimes en masse, on battlegrounds. We call it war. Some of of our people are enslaved. Some kill themselves rather than face up to our own misalignments, because WE seem so scared to. IS THIS NOT supposed to be OUR world, as in, all of us on Earth?
This is CLEAR to our young people, in all countries, it is disturbing, and so before we are given the reins, the wheel, or the joystick, we try to go on the journey of discovery to rearrange ourselves according to CURRENT attempts at a more perfect form of Truth and Understanding, whether based on what we see now, or rooted in the lessons of the past, in old manuals and manuscripts--and musics--the literal frameworks of our own societies, because indeed they are all intertwined anyway, and we will come upon them the way so many others have--as ADVENTURERS, as DISCOVERERS, as HUNTERS and GATHERERS, MISSIONARIES, BEGGERS, MERCHANTS, ARTISTS, HEALERS, and some will end up being THIEVES. This is the eternal quest. We HOPE it is the journey our leaders have taken, and that they are not too hung up at the bar, and the swimming pool, and the lodge, the safe-house, the house of worship, or some million dollar speaking engagement to pay attention to our needs. What we find is that they would rather indoctrinate us than guide us, and so their tribal power is secured, for too many young people do what they are told instead of what they think might be right. Our brains are removed, placed in a cleansing and aenesthetising solution, and then returned to us, in "As seen on TV" condition.
What is new is that global information streams make global understanding more of a possibility than ever. Imagine the triangulating power for truth when there are twenty sources rather than three! If you bother to look there are more than twenty thousand, maybe twenty million. It makes global hate more accessible as well, but in a multi-literate interaction like the internet, ignorance can be engaged, adjusted for, and cancelled out. Already our governments are moving to close it off, divide it up, shut it down. It doesn't matter. Truth is universal. We will find it anyway.
"The drinks flow/People forget/That big wheel spins, the hair thins/People forget/Forget they're hiding/The news slows/People forget/The shares crash, hopes are dashed/People forget/Forget they're hiding" www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QaVzv…
(THE WHO Eminence Front, 1982)
"Here we are now/Entertain us!/I feel stupid and contagious...Hello, hello, hello, how low?" (NIRVANA Smells Like Teen Spirit, 1991).
We are taught this in schools and in houses of worship, but we are taught something static, something iconic from the past, things that have ALREADY changed but which have slowly evolved back into the very things we once fought against. Our ancient moral standings stem from fighting the very things that we ourselves have again become. Have things ever really changed? Or have they just come back full circle to the way they were before they EVER changed? Don't they always? Life is circular and cyclical, not linear. Yes, enlightenment comes in ripples from waves being sent out from BEACONS, then bouncing back to us like radar, showing us the lay of the land, in a miracle of human, natural, and divine insight, eventually becoming muddled and unclear again, from bouncing off of too many barriers and divisions and dead ends, from airships of State lifting off and trying to fly away, and the people cluttering around us with their hammered-hard ideals, and then the signals are sent out anew by someone else tapping into the current of Truth grounded in all of nature and our natural humanity, not only in tribes. It can be bottled but it is never better than from the source: humanity's creative contact with our spiritual and knowledge-based wellspring, tapped directly or indirectly into what we eventually realise is the magical, the divine, AND the scientific nature of all things, the nature in us all, both animal and human, that we are able to open up to if only we push through our everyday reality once in awhile, and cleanse our doors of perception, clean our windshields, and peer around our blindspots and into our mirrors, to tone down our autonomic sensors and not let them take actions counter to our own intuition. Someone HAS TO maintain personal autonomy, otherwise we are in danger of never having understood the difference between truth and illusion. This is going on all the time. It is not necessarily all bad to base reality on illusion (after all, what are dreams?), and sometimes mutations are good, but it is self-checking and cross-cultural vetting that keeps us centered, and brings our weighty institutions BACK to truth before they and their orbits decay, taking us with them. Truth is gravity, and so are all other natural forces, no matter whose celestial guidance we assign to them. Our endeavours must be grounded somewhere in truth, and a basic caring, otherwise we can't believe in them, at minimum, and at most they are deadly obfuscation that is corrupted into hate which leads to oppression, slavery, and war. The farther away from truth we get, no matter how comfortable our illusions, the greater the danger that we will be so blinded by the fog of war, or light, or rainbows, or darkness, that we fall off the cliff of our own insular, institutional, flat-edged Earth and into the void, dragging our children, screaming, and other living things with us, or as often happens, letting them find the edge first, because they are still questing and we are not, we are huddled around our cooking fire, and we have set that edge in stone, and won't go near it, when our young people will.
Next time you see or hear a rock and roller screaming their heart out into a microphone, or making a guitar do the same, it is with existential empathy, as a reflection of our world leading us into freefall. And it is in the falling that we find our wings.
"I'm on warm milk and laxatives/Cherry-flavored antacids" www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUlHx0…
(NIRVANA Pennyroyal Tea, 1993)
It is still necessary to tap into a wellspring of truth and that is found by contact with both the natural world, which never lies, by experiencing the wonder of being and happiness, and by triangulating with multicultural cross-references and observations, by being open minded, in order to find our own truths, by tribe, but in conjunction with EVERY tribe. It bends the flat earth into a globe, the pretty cloud animals into predictions of weather both harsh and benign; it washes away the pudding and gravy and bloodstains from our maps, our books, and our Constitutions, and gives us sparkling new perspectives on the knowledge of those who inscribed them. Nature is our reset button, as well as the source of everything we use in every tribe, in every life, and everything we physically are. Everything that we shape into the divine we get from what we see in nature and in each other, everything we need in that way, all creation. It is still necessary to maintain connections to the truth of what IS, not only what we BELIEVE about it, its spiritual and scientific possibilities. Those grounding rods to the truth of the natural world, in the physical world, allow us to be the conduit for the polar electrical and the ecclesiastical nature of what we perceive in the aether of our imaginations, fueled by our stories, our mythologies, our histories, our studies, and that circuit fills us with a glowing filament of enlightenment that strengthens our network of beacons, with the energy of NOW, drawn on the wellspring of seemingly infinite matter and energy, and which we can see that other organisms on earth share. We all of us shine. They are not separate from us even if we try to rise above them. Our natural ground taps us back into our actual surroundings so that we don't get too detached and incompatible and incomprehensible in our relationships, either to our resources, our spiritualities, to each other, or to life on earth. This is a basic tenant of truth, perception, and reality, and one that most of us never test, and so never understand it. We are NOT artificial beings, no matter with how much artifice we surround ourselves. We are symbol using creatures, but we are as true as anything ever.
We put all of our faith into a handful of realities, when realities are TRULY defined by the total number of cognitive, perceptive beings anywhere--each of us having a different, overlapping one. They are not solid, but travel in waveform and at frequencies that we can't always control. Truth is our connection to the Earth, the Universe, and other Life, including ourselves. Illusion is what we use to bridge gaps in our understanding which gives us the feeling of being whole. The two combined make up our realities. The only thing that separates our concepts, and thus each other, is our very own perceptions, which we try to solidify into overlapping (or repulsing) "realities", but which are never completely solid. If they become too hard they are prone to shatter, and we may shatter with them. Our realities and how much or how little we think about them, and how close we get to a UNIVERSAL understanding, or how far away from it we remove ourselves, are our roadmaps for how well we will get along. Nothing actually changes. Everything IS, and we ARE because of it. That is Truth, no matter what face of reality and faith we put on it. For all of our hives, our tribes, our lives, to complement each other we must be aware of our surroundings. It is basic to survival, whether for one of us, or all of us. For many of our youth just becoming aware, we find ourselves surrounded by the culturally blind, the institutionally insane, and as soon as we try to say so, we are fitted with all manner of masochistic, desensitising, disenfranchising equipment, and are routinely sent to institutions to be retrained to see exactly what the rest of the tribe sees, whoever we are, or we are simply ejected to sink or swim. Whatever. If it makes us feel good for people to fit inside our eggshells with us--if we let them in at all, then we are almost wasted with them. We want people to share our tribe. Others we oppress into classes, stereotypes, and codes so that they are more easily manipulated to institutional will.
This feeling of youthful (or indeed adult), discovery of the currents of truth about life flowing throughout the world, and signaled by beacons that ALL ages and ALL eras rediscover, like lost artifacts or magics, but which are renewed by our universal HOPE, and the wonder in all things embedded in our Earthly garden, through whatever means, of being tapped into by sub-culture, art, religion, industry, and science, inside of, or outside of institutions, but which can encompass EVERY tribe and EVERY reality and EVERY institution if we could only remain open-minded and free of prejudice--is drawn from some DEEPER human and life continuum, branching in all directions, than that which we normally are aware, and we can always find it even when we are in spiritual and emotional darkness, as though we are moths repeatedly called to a flame, seen or unseen, to dance with the creation and destruction of the world all around us--only to discover that we are...a PHOENIX!
"Now don't ask me what I think of you/I might not give the answer that you want me to" www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5SSOo…
(FLEETWOOD MAC Oh Well, 1969)
So what about the smashed guitars? Auto-destruction, as Townshend calls it (after Gustav Metzger, an artist who gave lectures at Ealing Technical College & School of Art where Pete went to school www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesig…
), is an expression of dissatisfaction with everyday concepts. The concept of damaging what we have created, or what created us, brings attention to both the fact that certain things ARE necessary for our survival, and that we ARE destroying them as a species, grinding our gears, moving towards implosion, even as we are creating something new. This is the irony at the very heart of human nature: We create ourselves even as we are destroying ourselves and our means of survival. Do we teach THAT in school? Not so much, or at least we maybe do, depending on politics, and then promptly forget it as soon as we leave and join the machine scarfing up resources at mind-blowing speeds, building towards collapse at paces that can barely be managed and often aren't. We DO teach it in art, though. We deconstruct our world and then put it back together constantly. "Art is a lie which tells the truth," --Pablo Picasso. There was also always a youthful fatalism in the words "Hope I die before I get old!" (THE WHO My Generation, 1965). That is the basic plea of humankind! We preach cataclysm and generate it ourselves, throwing ourselves wholeheartedly into short term survival, no matter what the sacrifice, but can't agree how to stop self-destruction and long-term degradation, not in our own families, as evidenced by divorce, disaffection and abuse; not in our own cities or countries, as evidenced by decay, pollution, crime and war; and not in our religions, which seem to welcome the population explosion that GUARANTEES cataclysm with fatalistic rapture and stoicism and ignorance. Our bliss often comes at the sacrifice of all others, but it cannot be a FORCED sacrifice, otherwise that energy, too, circulates across the face of the globe like a wave of dark energy, ripples bouncing, only to return to us as well, to overwhelm us in the end. No, it often seems we cannot stop cataclysm as a species, as we regurgitate indelicately over the face of the earth--if we never take notice of what, how, and why it is happening. That is what auto-destruction is saying.