Nothing is pure.
And so, the music is not pure.
It is ethereal. It is luminous and a pure expression of itself. As are we all.
The voices harmonize and echo and refract off each other. Each word, each note, stretching so that they swirl into each other.
There are breaks in the facade. There is a yearning. This is an activity undertaken by humans. And the breaks create a sense of nuance.
Nothing is pure. Nothing is just one thing. We are all too vast for that.
Still, if I had to distill my experience of the song, the word that comes to mind is – whimsical.
The feeling is – jaunty.
Everything is – light. It bounces. I begin to bob up and down. I smile. I smile.
“Just like Jack the Ripper
Just like Mojo Hand
Just like Billy Sunday
In a shotgun rag-time band”
I am lost as I wander from simile to simile. Comparisons ricocheting off each other. Words calling forth myths. Who then merge into each other, but they are larger than life and cannot be subsumed. Jack the Ripper. Mojo Hand. Each made concrete, each made distinct, by how they reflect off each other.
Conjured up and dismissed. And the song goes on.
What happens when they become slightly more abstract? My brain to twists and strains to make connections that aren’t there –
Logic fails and something like whimsy seeps in.
At least when it’s put to this beat.
I ask my brain to make two things fit that don’t fit… except, of course, that they do. Everything is everything. It’s all connected.
Although, I give special attention to the “shotgun rag-time band.”
And most of all, “Jack and Jill.” Climbing climbing climbing the hill.
And as the cascade of words come together it becomes all too easy to see how “sitting plush with a royal flush; Aces back to back” is exactly like “Jericho.”
Extreme experiences, dependent on luck, courting disaster. As is much of this abstract thing we call life.
I wander through these disconnected images, smiling and exploring. I find myself rambling.
Sometimes, when I feel threatened, my body tenses and my mind narrows. All I can see is the problem, all I can feel is the threat. I appreciate nothing.
If I remember to put my hand on my heart, I can sometimes notice how trivial the trigger is.
Putting my hand on my heart is nonsensical woo woo self-hypnosis.
But why then, does it work so well?
My inner life operates mostly on borrowed ideas from the culture I live in. And that culture says that the brain is logic, and the heart is love, which is wisdom, and everybody knows that touch really does matter.
I secretly love the lungs, but that’s another story.
I touch my hand to my heart and I let a smile form on my lips, and the world around me expands.
The music is a smile. It has a bounce.
I have traveled for days, and seen nothing when my mind was closed. I have seen the universe in a drop of water when my mind was open.
To ramble, to explore, I require an attitude of friendless.
To embody Rambleing Rose is no small thing.
There are things I have learned from others, and things I have learned from thinking.
And I like to think.
It’s easy to think, “I should approach life with ease and openness.”
It’s easy to think, “These defenses no longer serve me.”
It’s easy to think a lot of things.
It’s a different thing all together to know. To take something into my bones.
To be changed by experience it helps to put my hand on my heart.
I wonder what would need to shift to let me smile and ramble with ease and grace?
Nothing is pure. There is fire that fuels that whimsy. And when the song turns in on itself there is a sense of danger. Just as when I start to turn in on myself. The mind examining itself is the only thing that can bring understanding. But it is not easy to look clear eyed in the mirror and be changed by what we see.
“I’m gonna sing you
A hundred verses in ragtime
I know this song
It ain’t never gonna end
I’m gonna march you up and down
The local county line
Take you to the leader
Of the band”
When the singer says “I know the song ain’t never going to end” it feels a little bit like a threat. Although it’s not clear who it’s directed at.
The rest of the band? Me? Is it a threat to themselves?
All these seem like possibilities, but what I do know what I know for certain… what I know beyond any reasonable doubt… is that being brought up to the leader of the band is not an honor.
Being brought to the leader of the band is to be called to account for your sins. And I suppose your honors, if you have any.
When words fail to convey the experience of listening to music it is easy to lay the blame at the feet of music. Music expresses something abstract, just as our lives are often abstract.
To try and talk about that experience seems futile. It is more than our thinking brain.
That is true as far as it goes, but I would also like to lay some of the blame at the feet of words. For life is abstract and words are cumbersome. Words fail all the time, even at descriptions much simpler than music.
I can tell you about Crazy Otto. I can tell you about Jack and Jill and climbing a hill. And I have an idea, or an image, or a feeling, in my head. I am trying to draw forth the same one from your brain. So I use words, I use symbols, and it bring something out in you. Whatever you think is based on your experience and your thoughts and your world and your hill’s and your Jericho’s.
When I tell you what I experienced while listening to this music you are imagining your childhood, your grappling with power, the times that you were unable to get someone else see what you saw. This disconnect can be lonely.
Nothing is pure. The notes and the voices layered on top of each other are luminous, but they are still notes stacked on top of each other.
There are instruments that create long unbroken passages. But these are not those instruments. As the voices fade away and the tension builds this becomes more and more obvious. This is a line created by dots and dashes.
Dashes and dots. Dashes and dots. They feel like they’re going somewhere. The dashes and dots feel like they know each other. I ride them and each time I fall into the gap towards oblivion they catch me, hold me, carry me, cradle me.
Not just me. They feel like they are protecting everything. Because they know exactly what they’re doing. These notes know how to relate to each other with kindness and sympathy.
There is beauty to the human voice. There is beauty in seemless flowing notes.
But there is also beauty to things that don’t quite connect but still go together. Deep low notes rumble and ramble underneath. Piano keys wander about on top.
My life is not one thing. It is one thing after another. From a great distance it can seem as though I am on a path. It can seem as though I have always been heading somewhere. I can tell that story. I do tell that story. It is beautiful. And in it, because I know the ending, I am often at ease.
Another truth is this: I have wandered from thing to thing. I have encountered larger than life figures. I have paced the walls. I have met Crazy Otto. I have climbed hills. As I live these experiences they are often one shock after another.
I live I fear of being called to account. I am not at ease.
I can tell a story about my life as a line. But I live it as a series of dashes and dots.
I wander, but I do not ramble. And I wonder. I have thoughts, and I learn things. And I wonder
…what do I need to know in my bones in order to move with ease? To smile? To take live with whimsy?
The song breaks open. Or does it narrow in? Does the song do it, or have I just put my hand on my heart and now I can see what was always there?
Regardless, it feels like its denouement.
“Goodbye Mama and Papa
Goodbye Jack and Jill”
Words alone are insufficient. A woman’s voice, before now heard only in harmony, comes forward and: wails.
“The grass ain’t greener, the wine ain’t sweeter
Either side of the hill”
That is freedom from want. Freedom from fear. Freedom from being judged.
When I was younger, I thought so many things might help… the right friend, the silver and the gold, the cake, putting words in the right order.
I was afraid of so much, and so I explored so little.
We are all gunna be dead soon anyways. Goodbye Jack and Jill.
It’s not that it’s not worth going to the other side of the hill. It’s that the act of expecting anything in particular from it detracts from the rambling.
May I will be changed by this. If only a little.