Sunday, April 30, 2017

Just not so Strenuous as was the Trip

"Immigrant Song" is printed nicely and secured to a wall of my study. I can't be brought up on any charge of treason, because America is not a Christian nation. I'll allude to this opening line that makes a joke of the highest crime--of course charge of treason can't apply to art in a free country--as my ditty of an essay comes to conclusion. As if led by a fiery manic Norse seaman, the oarsmen of ancient origin threshed their way to the Western shore of America. Heavy metal's maximum power of amplification. With whom that form of music began. Britain certainly hasn't found any cause to diss any member of Led Zeppelin, either. I've sometimes noticed the print there on my wall slightly to the left of my forward vision, and have wondered at how rock was derided by my parent's generation as cheap and immature. I'm 56 and I respond to this song--instrumentation and lyrics--as if ageless. Today, I thought of it because I had to stop. Just as one of the song's lines gives just that advice with electric fervor. I make ruins of my life. Over and over again. Always rebuilding.

I decide to go on a roll, always to gain a goal I know I need to attain, and though I don't tell anyone else, I do confide in others. They might read my handwritten journals after I'm dead and gone. If the best passages are transferred to print by a good editor who can read my handwriting, and who has the audacity to improve upon my errors within the context of meaning--as I've invited any to do-- more people will read than any in my family the immense stacks as they stand. Always I go out to stand my trials knowing that before any is over, there is the possibility I won't be here to recoup, but most likely, it will just take both a little R & R and the exercise of very strenuous effort to regain my focus. Just not so strenuous as was the trip.

Here it is only a day after the very long day I blogged about yesterday. After recent days on end fishing, blogging, photographing, doing other activities while sleeping irregularly and performing the hard tasks of my wage job to the expected level of competence and a little more than that. I'm happy to report that I'm fine.

Much of my life is not "held in abeyance" as poet Walt Whitman described suspense akin to depression but not the same as that, as Whitman seemed to know, though differently than I do, that depression is a failure of nerve, and nerve fails because of bad habit. Especially where I perform my job, though not always, my inner situation involves less abeyance of mind than deep inward engagement such as Danish existentialist, Soren Kierkegaard, fully committed himself to, calling this private activity "passionate inwardness." If any contradiction between the deepest inner reach and the immediate demand of a customer existed, I would be unable to perform the job I do very well. So it's not the same as "the dark place," featured in the terrific new movie, Get Out.

We all must dress, however, for the rigidly defined costume party or freak show our culture has become to some degree. As I write, there's a party across the street, and the mum sound of music and animated voices, no harshness in any of the tones, reminds me that America is still here, just as plenty of customers at work remind me every day. Martin Buber, 20th century Jewish prophet, wrote that anyone who comes to fully believe that society is the like of a freak show "has succumbed to demonology." Jared Loughner, who shot Congressional Representative Gabby Giffords in 2011, killing and injuring many others, hollered about the "freak show" in court. That statement of Buber about demonology, a sophisticated modern like us, strikes me as odd, but I know just enough about where he's coming from--a hugely broader and deeper perspective than his century--to respect those words he had published, despite their riling my humor a little, though with no respect whatsoever to Loughner.

Get Out serves as a powerful commentary on us today, but no one is slave, not in any circumstances, not even if bought and sold, in fact--unless a slave in his or her own mind. Resentment is always directed at a superior. It stimulates thought, but ultimately it is impotent if thought just digs a rut. A big rut got dug during the 1960's.

The transformation of Old Norse myth into modern paganism indeed targeted the West as, ultimately, its only goal--to conquer us. The "kids" of the 1960's and early 1970's called this "changing the world." I often drive past Ithaca, New York, on my way to fish the Salmon River. Thus far, always with my son. Ithaca is a hippy town, but instead of the modern shambles of religion in sex and drugs and rock and roll, I always think of ancient Greece. There is also Marathon and Syracuse on the way north. Three names of ancient Greek city-states. But mostly, I think about ancient Athens. And now the Latino immigrants across the street begin to play guitar and sing and clap along. Beautifully.

Ancient Greeks were pagans, too. Not the same as Norsemen, but not Christians, Jews, Islamists, or any of the host from the East. Many, many years ago, I dated a Princeton University student. I once told her that when I die, I want to be reborn, right here on Earth. A devout Christian, she was alarmed, and she told me, no less by a very informed academic grasp but from a very oblique angle that struck me directly, that Aristotle was in hell, because he lived before he could have received Christ's redemption. Of course, she got this from the poet Dante. I don't think she got it from the musky fisherman of the same name on Lake Hopatcong, who probably avoids River Styx, a sector of the lake I like for pickerel. It was her response that hit me as so wildly relevant to me. Why did she bring up Aristotle to warn me about my desire? Besides, here I am. Some 2000 years after Christ. The young woman and I attended the same Episcopal Church.

Most of the hippies had no idea what they were doing, but Led Zeppelin did and does, only now, well, things are rather uncertain now, compared to the revolutionary fervor of David Bowie's Golden Years. Martin Buber wrote, "The distorted face of man is temporary," forecasting the future from not all that long ago.

The past is pagan, not the future. Hubris, as the wise Greeks knew, always fails. This is not to say outrageous arrogance is not inspired by an idea; it certainly is so, but something stronger refuses to budge or give in. Aristotle was pagan. But do you really think, if he were reborn today, he would be a pagan like so many hanging out in Ithaca, New York? After the Catholic Church basically used his works as its blueprint? When the dozens of his interests, many divided into individual works, serve as blueprint for the universities developed primarily within a Christian ethos?

Oh, drop out and turn on. Where did that lead? "The distorted face of man is temporary."

You can tell by earlier sentences: I feel a certain reverence for "Immigrant Song." Such mania is of course native to me. How else appreciate that song? But I've also performed, many years, as a vocal artist. Not rock 'n roll, but a wide range of vocal forms, including great masterpieces like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem. This work is immensely more powerful than any rock performance. And it is pure sublimation. Not raw. Mozart possessed native mania, but as a great artist, he disciplined that disease greatly.

My favorite line of "Immigrant Song" is the last: Peace and trust will win the day. But the wolf-like moaning of Led Zeppelin vocalists after their last word--losing--is like a twist on the Lyceum, the failed school of Aristotle. The Academy of Plato is the university of today. The Lyceum, however, despite it's folding, never really lost at all. Plato's otherworldliness is no prescription for life on earth, nor do Plato's works serve the structure of the schools in his name, as do the works of Aristotle. Lyceum means--wolf den.

Just a pet peeve of The Philosopher. 

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