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Wednesday, June 11, 2014


john cage

I see a brown thrasher has taken to perching on the wire fence where I give the donkeys carrots in the mornings. The ground the other side of the fence is trampled to dirt with donkey droppings mixed with the dirt, returned to dirt. It must be rich with bugs. I see birds lighting in the meadow going through the piles of donkey droppings for the bugs. Crows scour the meadow in early morning. The meadow has become rich in life forms. I see mushrooms I've never seen before, toadstools. Jack dug out a large circle of dust, tore up all the grass with his front hooves. I was looking at hiring somebody to trim his hooves, but now that the meadow has been his territory long enough it's home, he keeps his hooves trimmed himself. I've seen two of his dust circles he created before on the other side of the creek. All are on a place where the ground is sloped just a little bit. Perhaps it makes the rolling on his back easier to get up. Maybe if the ground were flat a donkey might fall into a turtle on its back situation, all four feet in the air and can't roll either way. Every move a donkey makes is fast, even when it looks like they're moving slow; these donkeys are fully attentive to every moment. They miss nothing. I'm imagining, since a donkey never likes to be vulnerable, the slope helps the donkey get up on its feet fast if need be. They process what they see in patterns of donkey thought, another world to me. I like all their experience with me to be benign, never a gesture that could be interpreted a threat. I don't kick them. They don't kick me. I like that Jack has made the necessary place for a donkey to roll in the dirt. Keeps the flies down, the parasites down. I'd like to do something for them to eliminate their parasites, but their role as bug magnets goes all the way back in their evolution, like fleas and dogs. I see the donkeys have their own bug-control knowledge by instinct from hundreds of thousands of years. Their swinging tails that look like windmills shoo the flies from their rear ends continually.
john cage
Flopping ears keep flying bugs in the air. I see flies now on Jack's and Jenny's faces and think of documentaries of African children in refugee camps with extended bellies and flies walking around on them. Of course it's a drag having flies walking around on your face, but we're spoiled humans who seal ourselves into air-tight houses and vehicles. We don't spend enough time in the world of insects to get used to them crawling on us. Farmers did. Farmers spent much of their time in silence. They lived in their minds, largely. The farmers I have known were deep thinkers. Their patterns of thinking were pre-Copernican, the Bible their intellectual and spiritual foundation. They don't seem intellectual to us, whose educations include knowledge of the solar system and galaxy, at least to some degree. We understand we are a part of the night sky, not separate from it. It's not because they're ignorant. William Blake was of the same cosmology and he was not ignorant. Because evolution was not covered in their education does not make them stupid. I knew incredibly intelligent men and women who did not believe the round earth theory. It didn't matter to me, or to them, that two cosmologies separated us, major generation gaps. Though I believed the earth to be a ball in orbit around another ball, I couldn't give evidence of it to somebody who didn't get it. Their way is right before your eyes, the obvious; the sun comes up, the sun goes down. The sun is in motion, not earth. I have a difficult time refuting the obvious. I don't know what to say after, It's really not like that. It's something quite different from the obvious. It's the opposite of the obvious. The difference I saw between us was that I saw myself included in the cosmos, the universe. They saw the universe, the cosmos separate from them. It's a big difference. It didn't matter that they watched television shows from satellites.
john cage
Much is yet unknown to the most advanced among us, cosmologies yet to be unveiled in passing time. Does that make us ignorant now? No more than it makes William Blake or Shakespeare ignorant. Our cosmologies characterize the time we live in. In 1614 there were brilliant minds all the way around the globe. They thought much the same as we do, though different because they had different experience. In my early years in the mountains, I saw the tail end of the people from the old-time ways. Grandpa wore bib overalls and a hat. Grandma wore a long dress and had long hair she kept twisted and pinned up out of the way. She was busy physically with a garden, the cooking, the cleaning up, taking care of everybody. They listened to square dance music. Next generation was the Hank Williams generation, blue jeans and white tshirts with a pack of Lucky Strikes or Camels rolled up in one or both of the sleeves. Skirts up to the knees and hairdos by permanent. Then the heavy metal, Southern rock country, and boys in cowboy boots and long hair. The babes in tight jeans and all lengths of hair. And the California surfer look, the kids in school. Since then, the last generation of bib overalls and long dresses is gone. The Hank Williams generation is on its way out. The surfer look-alike style faded away, replaced by the hip-hop rap style, gangsta, which, by now, has faded into the past. The cell phone generation now is dominant. Just before the cell phone was the Britney Spears look awfully common among teenage girls. These are the changes I have seen in microcosm in these hills. It's the end of the world as we know it every decade, it seems like, or even more frequently. Nascar is now the most watched sport on tv, according to surveys. That's a big change. The television network that purveys fake news as policy is now the most believed news source, as is Jon Stewart's Comedy Central news satire.
john cage
It is a very different culture we live in from when Little Richard was banging his piano singing Lu-ci-lle, you ran off and married but I-I love you sti-ll. I've kept up to a point. It's become dizzying. I've already been through nuclear threat. I'm not going to do it again. I don't even want to know what's pop anymore. I have my own music in the house from years of listening and buying, I don't need any more in my mind. There's no room. My music file is full. On facebook different people put up music videos. I see James Brown, Night Train, I don't need to play it. I hear it in my head as soon as I see the title. One that just now came to mind, The Jamies, Summertime. I was fifteen the summer it was new. It was in the time of Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On and El Ranch Rock, Splish-Splash, Peggy Sue. I didn't identify the song with summer time. I liked it the way I liked Rockin Pneumonia, The Jamies were a straight-up Fifties Lawrence Welk acceptable family singing group. I about fell over backwards when I looked them up on YouTube. The song had the zip of Gene Vincent's Be Bop a Lula and Carl Perkins' All Mama's Children. Year after year it was the summer song radio stations played for so long the music changed so much it just didn't work anymore except on oldies stations. The vitality the song had then, it has now. Little Richard's Lucille is still beautiful, as is Chuck Berry's Maybelline, as is Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. Coming in at the very beginnings of rock & roll, I've had the great good fortune to follow the music through several periods of its evolution as a music. Music is coming in from all over the world, everything changing so fast that what we call rock is now one of many genres. I like my Blue Ridge Mountain home. It's time to hunker down a notch further, take a step inward, allow even the thrill of seeing Eric Cantor unseated in DC pass on by as nothing worth notice. The seasons are far more interesting than the dis- and mis-information we're fed through the media, even NPR. I've come to like silence about the best of any form of auditory experience. I like face to face and facebook communication with others. But in between, I like the silence with a wind chime tinging in a light breeze, tree frogs and katydids, the katydids in my ears, all singing together such that I don't know what's in here or out there.      
john cage himself


  1. I met John Cage once - when he came to Beloit College to do a concert. I ran some lights and afterward had a chance to speak briefly with him. I was passingly familiar with his "odd" music and asked him how he defined music. His brief, quick answer to obviously and often asked question, "sound." - Dudley

    1. that's very cool, Dudley. I feel like he told you what he had to say. Seems to me a right-on answer coming from him. He made his music of sounds, all kinds of sounds. Last week when Hank Brodt who'd survived Nazi camps talked at the library about his experience, a woman asked during question time what was the difference between fascism and communism. He didn't even hardly acknowledge the question but to dismiss it. How do you answer that question in a phrase or less? Same woman asked if it could happen again. He exploded with examples of where it's happening now.