Today I was driving along when I heard Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue” on the radio. Naturally I sang along (don’t worry, I was alone in the car so no actual human beings were harmed by this activity). What I noticed was that I, an enthusiastic singer, wanted to smooth out the melody and make it nicer, gentler, than Dylan does. And that’s when I realized, again, what is going on. I wanted it to sound “nice” -- Dylan didn’t care if it sounded nice or not. Why? Because he had something to say that was far more important than a smooth tune. It was rough, it was vital, and it grabbed you in the guts. His voice was compelling. We all get tangled up in a gentle, smooth tune – and sometimes that means we forget to emphasize what needs to be said. What’s more important – a beautifully illuminated manuscript or the words it says? Plenty of poets and MFA graduates can produce a well-turned phrase; but can they say what needs to be said? Perhaps they get Tangled up in Blue.
Every so often, of a hot evening, I like to fire up the charcoal grill. It makes for a pleasant outdoor experience and saves an already hot house getting hotter. People tend to be a tad different when they’re in a garden (even such a tangled one as mine) and that adds to the relaxed feel. Now, I used to happily crumple a single sheet of newspaper into the chimney device, pour charcoal in the top, and with one match and that paper I could start the coals. This is not possible now. The same trick done today produces merely a charred outline of the paper, which then extinguishes itself and fails to light anything. The reason is that paper is no longer what it was. Instead of wood pulp we now have some sort of clay material which does not burn, and – so my recycling friends tell me - is really hard to recycle. We may want to let that thought sink in. We try to be recyclers, but the game has changed, and what we’re recycling isn’t now amenable to the process. Now, I like trees, and I want to save them. What I don’t like is the creation of yet another substitute material which seems to be every bit as noisome as plastic, and every bit as hard to deal with. This is not progress, my friends.
Recently I've been enjoying reading about archaeology. A couple of websites exist that I like - one simply called The History Blog. This is not just idleness. By seeing what has been uncovered I'm reminded of just how long humans have been around, trying to figure out life, death, and everything in between. It also gives me a renewed awareness of how everything I do in my life will, most likely, fade and be forgotten within a very few years. It reminds me to seize the day. It nudges me to recognize that great cities and civilizations rise, and fall, and are forgotten, and that ours is no different. It reminds me that creating more love and harmony is the only thing worth doing.
There’s a moment in “The Secret” when someone (I forget who) tells the story about how we want things our way. This is roughly what it says: A pilot was forced to crash land his plane in the Arctic and it seemed as if he was going to freeze to death. So he prayed to be rescued. After 4 days an Inuit happens by, drags him from the wreckage, and puts him on a sled. About a week later they get to a settlement with a hospital and he survives. When he was feeling better he was asked about his experience. He said that he had prayed to be saved, but ultimately he gave up on God. “But – you were saved,” said the interviewer. “Yes, but by a damn eskimo!” The point: if someone turns up to save your hide don’t worry about whether that person is what you expect, or has no language in common with you or smells of seal blubber. Be grateful. My point: Hillary may not be perfect in some people’s eyes, but that doesn’t mean she can’t get the job done right.
Listening to the speeches of the two rival candidates (yes, you know which ones) I was struck by several things. The first thing I listened for was motivation. Why were these people running for office? Knowing that would be important, I felt. Hillary went out of her way to say that she was inspired by her mother to become someone who serves the needs of others, because it is the right thing to do. She also stressed that we all have to work together. This is the language of the Monarch archetype - the person who seeks to enlist everyone in doing the best for the realm. This is one of the highest archetypes we can aspire to. This campaign is not about her; it's about what we can all achieve if we elect her and get working. Trump, by comparison, talks about making us "great" and that this is something he alone can achieve for us. He wants us to be passive and let him "lead". He is, no doubt, motivated by a desire to be great, as great as his now deceased father. Yet this is the shallowest of motivations. It is the language and the thinking of the least developed of all the archetypes, the Orphan. Motivation is pretty vital. Think about this.
I read, with sadness, so many comments from distressed Bernie supporters. They're angry, they want to sue the DNC for the return of their contributions, they want to vote for the Green Party, or even for Trump. I'd suggest we need a little self discipline, here. Defeat the fascist Trump FIRST and then overhaul the electoral system. The house is on fire, people. Let's not argue about whether or not we have the right to spray it with firehoses or if the hoses themselves were made with sustainable resources. Let's put the fire out.
Sometimes I go to Facebook and I find myself wondering what on earth I can post. You know, as if it’s some kind of competition to see who can get the cutest cat pictures or the most exciting looking plate of food excess. And when I’m in that space I can think of nothing. My brain shrivels. What I’ve learned is that at such moments I can do better. I don’t have to play anyone’s game. I just have to be me. And the best way of being me is to remember some event during the day that made me happy. Suddenly I discover I’m full of things to say. I overflow with the moments that made my heart feel full and transformed my day. I discover I have had sensations that will stay with me (I hope) until my dying gasp. I’m in contact with love and the wondrous, fleeting moments of life. Pay attention, those moments say, or you might miss us.
The other day I had to buy new sneakers as my old ones had split along the side. So I went to my local sneaker store with my two shopping savvy fashionista side-kicks, Zoe (3 and 1/2) and Ellie (18 months). I know I can rely on their good sense. It was a nice big store, with wide aisles and good music playing, plus big mirrors so you could admire yourself in whatever new sneakers you were trying on. Now, when you're a very small person under the age of 4 big mirrors are immensely attractive, and music is, well, just great. Pretty soon I'm dancing with my two little personal shoppers, checking our moves in the mirror, and squealing with delight. Assistant : Can I help you sir? Me: Just trying out these shoes for fit. Zoe: Dance with us! Dance with us! Assistant leaves looking thoroughly fed up. The sneakers passed the test; Ellie liked the colors and Zoe liked the laces, and I liked the way they brought out my inner dance. At the cash the same fed up assistant waited. Leaving, I thanked her for her patience and I smiled. And, after all -- if they didn't want us to dance then why did they play the music?
Zoe ("I'm three" she says, and she holds up three fingers) has gained in confidence and seems no longer to be particularly interested in toys. That is to say, the conventional doll's house, the pink plastic "child's computer" and such like highly crafted items don't interest her that much. She's much more likely to say "can we go outside?" and then frolic in the garden, with imaginative games that involve picking up pine cones or, indeed, almost anything - and she calls this "picking the corn" or "collecting apples", or "going shopping". I'm hoping that this shift away from the specificity of things and towards the realms of the imagination (where anything can be anything you wish, for now) will stay with her forever. For things are not reality. How you look at them is your reality, and what you make of them is very much up to you. We can learn from this.
People keep asking me about Brexit, so here's my view. Let’s consider this all as an elaborate political game that got out of hand. Cameron wanted a way to divert attention away from internal Tory dissent, so he proposed a referendum on the EU. The Labour party, seeing how daft this was, found themselves caught. They didn’t want to vote “Leave” but then they certainly didn’t want to be seen as supporting a Tory initiative by urging “Stay”. What should they have done? Possibly they should have protested loud and long that a referendum such as this would be a farce. But they didn’t. It didn’t seem like it was their fight – and anyway perhaps it wouldn’t happen….. Well, it did. What we might want to bear in mind is that it exposed the real problems. First, that Cameron’s government has done nothing to address rural poverty and the creation of jobs (hence the right wing anger at so-called “foreigners” taking “our jobs”). The government has done nothing to address the erosion of health and social services (which are stretched to the limit by all these “foreigners”). Third, nothing has been done to alter the recurrent tendency to favor the very wealthy at the expense of the less wealthy -- this time actual foreigners have been actively encouraged to buy housing as a way to park their cash while not in fact living in the housing, nor paying any taxes. This has created acres of super high priced developments with no one in residence. Londoners can no longer afford to live in London. You can see how well that would go over with the right wing. Meanwhile, fourth, no one has done anything about the refugee crisis. Do you see a pattern here? It is, truly, a crisis around what to do about “foreigners” but it’s been couched as a deceptively simple question: “Should we get them out of here?” It makes about as much sense as responding to a twisted ankle by amputating the entire leg. Cameron hoped no one would notice that he’d done nothing about serious issues. He simply waved a diversion flag at us. Now he’s resigned. Or perhaps not, as he’s still in number 10. And we’re out of the EU. Or perhaps not, because no one has triggered article 50. And the referendum itself wasn’t legal. Or perhaps it was. No one’s in charge; no one’s admitting responsibility; nothing’s happening -- apart from an increased lack of confidence in the pound and a threatened recession. Despite all this I am not pessimistic. Good old British indecision and obfuscation will cloud the waters and about six months from now we’ll notice that the UK will still be in the EU, where it will remain. I write this on the hundredth anniversary of the first day of Battle of the Somme: arguably the most costly day in human lives in military history, and nothing gained. It seems fitting, somehow.