Looks Like Rain

The punctuated notes that mirror our own finite existence fade away.

In there place, the music shifts and a unbroken vibration rises up to that mirror my infinite emotions.

Love reigns supreme. In the absence of love, the absence of love reigns supreme.

There is another song that says:
“Love is an easy word to say, roll’s right off the tongue
Seems to crop up like a weed, in every song that’s sung”

I have people who love me. And there are people I love.

By loving those people I come to know myself, the universe, and everything that I value.

It is through this emotion of love, that I transverse my own inner labyrinth. It is through this emotion of love that the outer world comes to have meaning.

Without love there would be a lot of rocks floating in space. I’m not sure what else their would be of note.

The meaning of love is like the sound that emanates from the stage. Brief moments that seem to last forever, joyous, and sorrowful. Love is both all-encompassing and specific.

The vessels that give me love and to whom I give love are not here right now. Right now the people I love are far away. That absence defines my existence. That absence defines my journey.

Their existence, however it was, whenever it may be again, is an active force on my present. It is the boundaries of meaning.

Love tempts me into hyperbole.

I want to say: love redeems the indignities of life.
I want to scream: love and only love will endure.
I want to say: love makes the world go round.

And maybe all of that’s true enough in some cosmic mystical sense. I have my doubts.

But how does that mysticism relate to the flesh and blood creatures I claim to love?

“I woke today, and felt your side of bed
The covers were still warm where you’d been layin'”

What tenuous thread connects transcendental moments to warm bodies and fitted sheets? How do these occupy the same space? Or, do they?

Here is what I know. I have felt a thing I call love. I have been told I am loved.

And through that love, I have been changed. I love someone, and I want them to be happy. Unselfishly, without expecting anything in return.

They are kind to me. Which opens me up to doing the same for them.

I have felt warm sheets in the space where a body was and smiled.

We gladly make unspeakable quiet gifts from our time and energy and egos. We escape our small limited selves through each other.

We do this, again and again. In ways that are easy. In ways that are painful. And ways that brush up against danger. And in ways that are mistakes. We touch something that encompasses more than ourselves.

Peering directly into that is ecstasy.

This practice expands the heart. It is the foundation for kindness to others who may not return our love.

It opened my eyes to see beauty in new places. Those spaces of exploration contained new emotional contours that make life seem impossibly wondrous.

These implications are cosmic and mystical. They happen while listening to cats frolic. They happen passing food at a shared meal. They happen in quiet conversations. They happen between flesh and blood and bones and skin in mundane moments. They are whispered. They are sung.

Woven throughout this song is a long mournful line, sliding over and over the same ground.

Our bodies are the containers that loss sits in. Love is infinite, but we are finite. We give our hearts to fallible people. Again and again for banal reasons – I hurt those I love. I fail the giving, compassionate, spirit of love in favor of my small self.

And perhaps even more terrifying, sometimes it’s not my fault.

Sometimes people disappear for reasons outside of my control. And they carry part of my infinite mystical love with them.

“You were gone, my heart was filled with dread
You might not be sleeping here again”

And they are gone. And my heart is filled with dread.

What threatens to break my heart in this song, is the utter sincerity. The voice is earnest and heartfelt. Injured, but not cynical. It reminds me of my youth, when I felt things so deeply that the smallest slight could pierce straight through me.

The undying intonation provides no remove, no distance, from the subject. And the subject is really only a couple of lines repeated again and again.

The song clocks in at seven mins, but the song simply tells the same story again with the music filling in the rest.

“It’s all right, ’cause I love you
And that’s not gonna change
Run me round, make me hurt again and again”

Here is the power of love. Though I know my love is contained in broken bodies destined to disappoint, all there is to do is continue to love anyways.

“But I’ll still sing you love songs
Written in the letters of your name”

When that happens, worlds come crashing down. The thing that provided meaning has dissipated. The key to my own heart, given to another, is lost.

I face that suffering as it rings out from the long mournful notes. They pierce through the cynical protections I have foolishly designed. As if they meant anything on this stage.

Where does the bravery to love in the face of devastation come from?

From the only thing powerful enough to make the world go round. The only thing that will endure.

The small touches of bodies, the whispers barely spoken, the scent of rain. These things that let me glimpse the freedom of something larger than my small self. These moments of skin and promises that allow me to explore my inner contours. And see those contours inside someone else.

“I only want to hold you, I don’t want to tie you down
Or fence you in the lines I might have drawn

Love must exist for its own sake if it is to mean anything. If it is to reach its beyond us, then it cannot be only us. We must allow our hearts to be breakable, in fact to be broken.

Yet, of course I want to hold on to the body. Cosmic significance be damned.

“It’s just that I have gotten used to having you around
My landscape would be empty if you were gone”

I look to the future and know for certain that it looks like rain. And that tears will surely come.

Climbing the Mushroom

My search led me to a field of dark speckled flowers. Their thorns tore at me and left my hands bloody.

By the time I reached the center I was panting and had to stop to rest. It was dark. The moon and stars were hidden by the gigantic petals above.

Halfway up the stalk my arms began spasm. I paused to rest. Then again. And again. Each time to diminishing returns.

By the time I reached the top, I was too exhausted to feel relief. The room was green and smelled like summer.

The floor sagged as I stood, breathless, and waited for my eyes to adjust to the glow.

For a long time there was nothing but fear and pain. My body hurt. My mind tormented me with my failure. There were no answers, there was no way out.

As the soft light grew, I saw a pod with liquid inside. With nothing else to do I took a drink.

I closed my eyes and felt the suffering fall off of me.

In my mind I was a child at a party. I was dancing, my body moving freely with excitement. I smiled so widely the skin on my face stretched.

I saw my grandmother watching me with love in her eyes. I reached out for her hand…

And the ground beneath me gave out.

I was falling. I grabbed at the plant, but it crumbled in my hands. Down down I fell.

Down past the inches and feet I had so carefully climbed. Down past the places I had rested in fear.

Nothing to hold onto. Nothing to control.

Down into oblivion.

Ramble On Rose

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 be changed by this. If only a little.

the first one said to me

said to me,
“the world you know will burn.”

I said “I know.”

The next one I went to see,
said to me,
“the world you know will burn.”

I said “this place is vast. So, you’ll have to be a little more… specific.

The last one I went to see,
said to me,
“the world you know will burn.”

I said “the loss is deep and unmanageable. Do you have any advice?”

The last one I went to see,
said to me,
“no”
and fell to there knees.

Whoo-whee

Feel Like A Stranger

At first the song seemed awful.

The piano was relentless and artificial. The lyrics evoked lust across a barroom floor – unfulfilling and empty.

It’s often not wise to simply accept what the world gives. But…

I decided to take it for what it was, and look deeper.

The tinnyness of the piano faded and what came through was the relentless aspiration. The striving.

For?

Through some evolutionary quirk I have developed an ego that doesn’t understand itself. It strives against all reason to live forever. It is trapped in flesh and thinks that it is separate from everything that is not that flesh. That separateness is pain and suffering and fear and death.

And so I want to scream and I strive to be able to connect with something larger than myself… with other humans… with love.

That is what Feel Like a Stranger is about. At first glance it is a song about seeing a body across the room.

The song does not hide the fact that we have bodies and desires that are not simply philosophic abstractions. They are physical. They are meat.

There is no clear line dividing body and mind. Love and lust. Dividing the sacred and the profane.

I strive for beauty and grace. My methods are crass and human.

After the narrator establishes a spark, he says “Let’s Go” and the repetition that was grating becomes essential.

“Ifin this were love then how would I know?
How would I know?
How would I know?
How would I know?”

The song’s setting is grounded in flesh and yearning, but the scream is existential.

Even if I found love, even if I found a true connection, even if I found that mythical mystical moment of true connection… a connection to someone outside of my small self… something with the ability to break down this illusion of separateness…

“how would I know?”

The build and release of the piano. Still artificial but striving, reaching… aching.

And then back in on itself. As if it has nowhere else to go.

Is there any way to get out of our own heads enough to appreciate what we have?

The is awareness of the other person – of the sacred potential – is embedded throughout.

“Inside you’re burning
I can see clear through”

Of the other bodies agency

“You keep firing glances across the room

And I can’t stop wondering
Just what you got”

The band does not answer “How would I know?”

An unanswered question is a powerful thing. Like the music, it too mirrors the unsatisfactoryness of life.

Some profess to prefer questions to answers. I think this is bullshit.

The inability of the universe to offer answers is a source of unending tragedy. There is a difference between accepting a limitation an admiring it.

Still, if all we have is questions, we might as well shout them into the wind.

Not just one voice, but many.

Not just questions, but a declaration. A promise. Striving to influence what it can.

“It’s gunna be a long long long crazy night.
It’s gunna be a long long long crazy night.
It’s gunna be a long long long crazy night.”

The question and the promise overlapping. Echoing off each other. Again and again.

How’s that for a cry above suffering?

At first glance it works as a commentary about the song itself, about this event itself.

It also works in the narrative of the possibility of finding someone – at least for the night – or the concert.

And in so doing, finding a moment of joy, however fleeting, however impossible. It is crazy to build a promise on that, to believe it will last.

But maybe it can last a night.

The music interweaves itself throughout all of this. Bending and stretching time as it seems to declare that those moments of connection – whether through music or with another person or simply from having gotten out of your own head can – can seem to last, if not forever, for at least one long crazy night.

It is fitting that it descends into a shamanic chant again and again

“Feel like a stranger
Ifin this were love and then how would I know? Long long crazy night”
At one point singer… Howls.

Crazy night… What does it mean to go crazy?

To take leave of your senses. To be enthusiastic. To feel out of place… out of time… Unconstrained

Or… to even though you are fully human, as human as everyone else, nonetheless feel like a stranger.

Like everyone else I have ever known, I feel slightly out of place. Slightly not at home. Slightly like a stranger.

A stranger yearning for connection, a stranger ready to embrace a night that is crazy. Perhaps if it is crazy enough then I won’t feel quite so strange…

Or perhaps more accurately – the night will become strange like me and I will feel at ease.

For me at least the musical jamming is a place of introspection. I’m looking inward. I’m relating all of this to myself. I identify not just with my body or my ego, but also with the music.

I exist not in the crude realm of thoughts, as the music moves it moves with it the realm of my emotions. I feel things within me for which there are no words, shift and move.

There is structure. There are drums. And yet above all, what I sense is exploration. Curiosity is what moves within me.

And thoughts, like rhythm guitar, come and go, fluttering across my consciousness. As a commentary upon the music itself I can’t help but look forward to something later in the night like Dark Star. Which would shed even more of the ground and float in pure exploration.

These are thoughts. Thoughts are not a mistake. They simply occur. Hanging onto them is the mistake.

The jam is everything and it is nothing. I’m thinking some thoughts and not others simply because of the context, the wrapper, this song – this moment – comes to me in. Something like Dark Star is more spacious because the container is more spacious so the possibility space is wider – more abstract. Less tethered.

The jam itself is of all time. The jam itself is nothing. The music is not talking about Feel Like a Stranger or Dark Star. It is responding to the universe as embodied in this moment in these people.

Or maybe not. But I can tell you this for certain – it is a mistake to look ahead to Dark Star now. Now is the only time that exists and so I return. This moment. This meeting of minds and bodies. This music, being created spontaneously within a structure before me.

And something within me writhes. Moves. Reaches out. All along, I have seen the song has taking place in a bar, laying my expectations on it. It takes place in the dance. Something within me dances as well.

And now, the guitar having been absorbed into myself… having seen myself in it… having imbued the music with my own spirit…

Begins echoing the riff from the beginning of the song… Now it is anything but inauthentic. Now it is me. Now it is a particle and wave. Now it is natural and supernatural.

Now these words are hyperbolic and nonsense. They are ravings. But they do not feel untrue.

Jam

Bee’s sense the world through electromagnetic waves.

What does they see? What do they know?

Music moves through time. Time is how the mind interprets a certain kind of movement.

The world we see is a hallucination, tethered to our ego. In ways I’ll never really understand, my mind prioritizes a futile attempt at survival over a true understanding of reality.

All of this is unsatisfactory.

The music starts chaotically. Deep notes resonate. Melody’s flutter in and out of existence. Evoking chaos – but chaos does not sound this good.

The underlying dissidence mirrors the unsettled feeling that permeates my life. Only better, because it seems to make sense, it seems to be beautiful. Music only exists in time, but it doesn’t have to be a consistent monotonous beat.

It can swing, and more… time can unwind. Perhaps even your ego can unwind, if only a little. Coming into harmony, then falling apart, then coming together, and falling apart.

None of this is quite satisfactory. There is no ground to stand on. It is the perfect place to start.

There is relief in having this unsatisfactoryness acknowledged.

On and on. It says everything. It says nothing. It melds into something else. Says something else that is also everything. It is beyond words.

And out of the primordial jam comes Feel like a Stranger.

 

Without this costume that I wore

He wants to write a love song

An anthem of forgiving

A manual for living with defeat

A cry above the suffering

A sacrifice recovering

But that isn’t what I want him to complete

I want to make him certain

That he doesn’t have a burden

That he doesn’t need a vision

L. Cohen

 

they set out together

90 seconds

For ninety seconds after, there was complete silence. Veronica knew this because although she was too dazed to move, she improbably found herself staring as at the second hand of an expensive silver watch.

It was one of the many unlikely occurrences that day held.

For ninety seconds, she observed the dark black line slowly make its orbit, marking off the seconds as reality adjusted. She wondered whose watch this was, and how it had ended up in her yard.

A bird chirped. Veronica looked up and realized that it was over. Nothing more was going to happen now. All that was left was to get up and try to assess the world as it was.

3 minutes

The realization that it was only self pity that held her down made it hard to stay on the ground, but she managed to avoid any movement for another three cycles of the second hand.

2 days

How many people lived on her street? Within a quarter mile?

If she was the only one left, then that made her what?… 1 in a hundred… 300?

Nothing would work.

It was easy to check on people. In their last moments everyone had left their doors wide open.

She hadn’t gotten the memo, another mystery. The static on radio was deafening.

The electricity was still on, but there was no internet or cell service.

How should that figure into her odds? 1 in a thousand?

4 days

There was nobody left in her neighborhood. In a few homes she found hasty notes:, to do lists of names, but no explanations.

It’s not just that they were gone. it’s that everyone else had seemed to know something was about to happen except for her and her husband. They had missed the invitation somehow.

When they had looked out the window and saw everyone’s cars with their open trunks and hoods open they had stepped onto the porch. Their neighbors were all lined up outside, waiting.

Had they seemed scared? She thought so, but she had been scared so who knows.She missed her husband, Ian, most of all. He had been calm, inquisitive. Naive.

2 months

With nothing else to do, she processed her grief surprisingly quickly. The world around her was full of possibilities and the only immediate concern so far was the dogs.

The outside world was keeping it’s distance. But the animals that had been left behind had become a serious threat.

Even the cats moved in groups, looking slightly unhinged. When she saw them prowl the streets at night in ever larger packs,  she imagined how betrayed they must have felt. They had given up their wild selves to build a life based on a certain kind of companionship and civilization. Then, with no explanation it was gone.

Her grief was in the past. The loneliness existed in the eternal now.

6 months

Slowly she had adapted to the mystery of her current circumstances. What had taken everyone? Should she trust the tap water? Why didn’t the car start? How would she eat when the perishable food ran out? Would they be back by then? How long would the electricity last?

She knew she had changed, but just how much was confirmed when she spotted a house-sized creature and did not scream. It was mostly robotic, and mostly spider shaped but with a humanoid torso and face. She was surprised of course, and afraid for her life, but she was not overwhelmed.

She hid, but it found her anyways.

6 months 1 day

In the end, all it wanted was some cake. She scavenged some, and they had a small birthday celebration.

6 months 3 days

He had been literally living in a cave and had no idea what had happened. But he offered this:

“Sometimes you just have to accept that the impossible happens and all the rules you knew before are gone. That happens and my ability to accept it when it does is one reason I have lasted as long as I have.

But…  not yet.  Let’s go visit the local power station. And if that doesn’t work well see if we can’t track down some aliens or old gods or something and wring an explanation out of them.

If you live long enough sometimes you find that you can do something, and even if not, it’s usually more interesting to try.”

6 months 1 week

She set her house on fire and watched as the irreplaceable memories held in the objects from her old life burned.

She opened up as much cat and dog food as she could find.

And they left together.

Paul Watson – What I want is peace

Paul Watson:

The big question, you know, “What do we really want?”.

I used to say happiness…

And then it took me some time to come around to understanding that what we really want is love.

In the sense of a universal love that gives you strength when you are dying.

You’re not afraid, because you know your presence is acknowledged and you are loved.

And that gives you the comfort to go.

I’ve sort of reached a stage more recently where I think what we all want is peace.

And that’s certainly what I want now.

I just need peace.

 

From: On The Media – The Body Of An American http://www.wnyc.org/story/body-american/