Tuesday, June 26, 2012
NOTHING WILL BE THE SAME
I'm of at least two minds about leaving this world, this dimension, whatever it may be. One is I am curious about the other side and sometimes a little alarmingly ready to have a look. On the other hand, it's not like watching a movie for 2 hours and turning the light back on. I have to leave this playground I've taken so seriously for so long, sometimes despised it, overall loved it. It makes me look out the window at the leaves of an oak sapling swaying up and down lightly, home. I think of leaving my friends and baby Vada and I feel sorrow, pre-grief maybe. I know a few of my friends will carry a deep sorrow for some time, as I have done for a few of my friends in the past. It is a great sorrow to lose people important to us, the biggest drama in life. This human existence is a puzzle without end, which makes it so interesting and keeps it interesting. Buddhism says it is a life of suffering. It's true. I see the suffering begin in a baby new to a body, bump head on a chair leg, it hurts. Much more suffering follows. We get used to it. Even if we were meditators we'd have suffering of varying degrees in our lives all the time. We have plenty of the other, joy, for balance. I say "we" when I'm not so sure it is entirely "we." I'm actually seeing it these days like joy is the nature of the soul, our innermost, or real self. All the self-centered focus locks onto suffering and sorrow, gray clouds around the soul, a foggy mountaintop.
A moment stays in my mind from half dozen years ago, opening the inside door to the library, a woman I knew on the inside was going out, she opened the door with an exaggerated welcoming gesture and said, "What have you been doing since your store closed?" I said, thinking as fast as I could to condense several months of experience into a phrase, "Getting some joy back into my life," which was literally what I was doing. Her face fell almost to the floor. She said, "I've never had joy in my life." My heart sank for her. I knew she meant it. I knew her husband, more than likely a model of her daddy; jumped from one frying pan into another. I have felt for her ever since she said that. I did not know what to say at the time. I felt a need to hug her and say, "I'm sorry for you," but didn't know her that well, the entire library staff was watching. I could have hugged her in front of them if I'd known her better, a gray-haired old hippie biker chick. One thing she gave me: she showed me I have a way of taking joy for granted, like it's easily accessed. It had never occurred to me there might be people who knew nothing of joy. So little is as it seems, I wonder why I try to assess or understand anything.
Big Mama Thornton is singing in my head, Let's go get stoned. Why the hell not! After a lifetime of taking everything seriously, I'm seeing there's nothing serious about any of it. The redbird is jumping about in the rhododendron the other side of the window. A crow calls in the trees across the road. Katydids inside my head. That's one of the nice parts of living in the midst of what we call nature. In the city, ringing in the ears can be maddening. In the country you don't notice. It's katydids, treefrogs and crickets outside singing with the ones inside, making me one with nature. I look around my world of the mountains I love thinking about leaving them and feel sorrow, a kind of pre-grief, the anticipation of grief. I have to feel it now, because there won't be any feeling it later. When the angels are leading me up the tunnel of light to music of the Bell Spur String Band, I doubt I'll be looking back and missing the mountains. So I'll miss them now, while I can appreciate them. I have songs in my head, How beautiful heaven must be, sweet home of the happy and free, fair haven of rest for the weary, and Peter Tosh singing, Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. And, farther along we'll know all about it, farther along we'll understand why.
Do I sing these songs to myself to comfort myself? Probably. There are other good songs in my head that are not about the other side, like Peter Tosh's African. Don't care where you come from if you're a black man you are an African. Beautiful song of black identity, black pride, beautifully conceived and Tosh sang it well. I say I look forward to the other side, but when I really think about it, it makes me want to put on some beautiful music I love or a movie I love or read some Chinese poetry. This tells me music, drama and poetry I value most in this world, the stuff my house is full of. I have ingested so much of it into my record of experiences that it has become part of who I am, a big part. For me, living in a world of people informed/educated/led by television is like living in a foreign country with people of another language and another culture. I am a stranger to television culture in that I don't keep up with it. But the fact is, I live in television culture because everybody around me to all coasts are the children of television. Now, grandparents were born in front of the tv.
On the news, at the coffee shop, here and there, everywhere I talk with people, the ongoing paean is what's the matter with this world? Let's start at the beginning. This is television culture. It started 60 years ago and grew into this world where prison construction corporation stocks only rise. Police state looks really secure on tv: arresting niggers with attitudes and no tshirts on COPS. Like the Randy Newman song, Rednecks, keepin the niggers down. Steven Seagal arresting black guys who ask for his autograph in handcuffs. Nobody white with any power or desire for power cares that we have the most outrageous prison system on earth as long as the prison population is mostly black. For the black American man prison has become an initiation into manhood, a bootcamp that develops unbreakable bonds. Like a white man I know said to me, "I can't trust you cause you never been in prison." The black men of America have that kind of a bond in a network all over the land, the convict brotherhood. Pre-television, we were moving toward unity, toward "integration," allowing people their rights. Half a century into the time I think of as Led By Television, division has been the emphasis until we're on the verge of civil war again, this one everybody against everybody. Seen from outside television culture, Americans are going collectively crazy. And they're taking me with them, because I'm one of them; it's their culture, it's our culture, it's my culture.
While we snoozed in corporate entertainment and got fat on corporate fast food, the international corporations that keep their money free of taxes in Cayman Island banks took our government from us, our democracy, our constitution and gave us police state, systematically over a period of 30 years, on tv where all that is fake is real, and all that is real becomes fake. It's a fake belief system. During the time of the African civil wars, it was a truth that whoever held the radio station held the power. Here, it aint none of us hold no tv corporations. We don't even know the people that own them. We couldn't even get a job at their country clubs. You think they give a shit about us? :) Of course you don't. Only as long as we keep the garbage and sewage under control. The excesses of Capitalism foreseen to take it down are happening. Capitalism is undergoing what looks like rising tides due to ice melt splashing against the foundations of skyscrapers built by the economic system that melted the polar caps. Kinda like one of the movies made by the gross now, The Day After Tomorrow or 2012. I'm thinking these movies are symbolic of the self-destruction of Capitalism by greed. That's why it's called a "deadly sin," it leads only to self-destruction.
The country I grew up isn't the country I live in anymore. Probably wasn't then. It was the time of the Ugly American when I was learning about our righteous history of wars where we never tortured prisoners and we gave aid to the colonial world of po' nigras (and kept them in poverty at home). It wasn't long after high school I began to see it wasn't like it was told in school, certainly not like told in church, not like told on tv in any kind of way; a sham, a show, light flickering, pixels changing color, a vapor, a scent on the breeze for a second, illusion within illusion. I came into this body a few months after Pearl Harbor, a time of pulling Americans together into one great cheering squad. It took. A dozen years ago our government imploded the WTC towers, rallied us around terrorism, and now is imploding itself, allied as in wedded to Capitalism. They took down democracy and all our values with it, they being our corporate government, taken by quietly systematic coup under smokescreen while we were watching tv spellbound by pop culture. I'm sorry for my country. I can't say I'm sorry to be leaving it before people like me are rounded up for FEMA camps. I saw the very tail end of the Old South in Charleston, South Carolina, the tail end of the old-time ways in the mountains, and the end of democracy in America in this lifetime. It's been both joyus and sorrowful living in Prozac Nation.