A week before Black Friday and the million man/woman march to watch Rome burn. You can Nero the end by turning away with a mediocre book read by firelight. The second edition of On Rainy Days the Monk Ryokan Feels Sorry For Himself is a fine tuned reminder of the sameness of civilization 12 years on. Meanwhile, an excerpt where Ralph Emerson meets the end of man (rated “R” for rat poison):
What is wise? Are wise men extinct? Emerson thought he was wise. He had a national following. And for good reason. His hundred and fifty year old wisdom still holds true. But it will never be enough until taped on the end of a stick, and sent running amok in a world gone wrong. Here, read it:
“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. All is riddle, and the key to a riddle is another riddle. There are as many pillows of illusion as flakes in a snow-storm. We wake from one dream into another dream. The toys, to be sure, are various, and are graduated in refinement to the quality of the dupe. The intellectual man requires a fine bait; the sots are easily amused. But everybody is drugged with his own frenzy, and the pageant marches at all hours, with music and banner and badge.”
Sorry Ralph, but now our world has become night and day. That lazy bean-sowing friend of yours, Thoreau? He was right. But only part right, because he couldn’t keep himself away from men. And worse yet, he wrote about why he stayed, or couldn’t stay away from them. What business was it of theirs? Still, I wish that in your life you were half the man Thoreau was. Writing a whole lottocrap about self-reliance and letting them applaud you on and off their crude, manure-stink stages. Ah, go to the Devil Ralph Emerson! We need to be like Thoreau in his extreme. A man today must come to that end, or he’s simply no longer a “man” beyond the biology. No difference of heart or mind can separate him from our meanest citizen alive, unless he flee to the woods and remain out of sight of everyone. Retire in obscurity to befriend the raccoon, or revolution in the streets. I tell you it’s got to be one of these two things. Shake imaginary hands with the river rat or war with any population of men who cannot value the life of you or the river rat.
Lies, lies, lies! Emerson was right. I just changed Janie’s diaper, and understood the world of men to be a crying helpless baby wet and shitty with saffron colored digested mother’s milk. I tell Marie that the baby is lucky that this is a world without Doctor Spock. Otherwise, she’d be singin’ freedom songs from her playpen cell. And then I start to dance around the room with Janie singing, “Rocka my soul in the bosom of Abraham..,” I change the words a bit to make the situation more humorous. “O rocka my soul in the bosom of mommy…” And then, “Spit up my soul on the bosom of mommy…” Falling back into an even deeper, more plush pillow, I tell Marie about my fifth grade music class, when I imagined a slave baby being rocked by Abraham Lincoln, not the Abraham of Issac. I didn’t know the Jewish story. I had Alpha Bits for breakfast and waited for the yellow bus to take me to school. Then I played jump up and down with my little friends while the bus driver listened to the latest reek of news to blow in from the Middle East.
The situation is much more precarious than that. What does this ‘banner and badge’ crap even mean? The sots are easily amused… In 1847 the sots went to Fourth of July picnics. They were amused by a parade and the noisy bangs of Chinese exploding paper.
Folks, you must juxtapose. I like that word because using it properly, might drive us insane enough to make a difference.
So let’s juxtapose.
In the year 2002, how are the sots amused? You tell me. It must be understood that two to two billion people do not matter much if just one man or woman over fifteen years of age, has heard, and understood an utterance by a civilized human being.
Living in society means pajamas after thirty, slippers after forty, mother’s milk in infinite varieties of processed foods, local taxes, far away taxes, shoveling the driveway, watering the lawn, “the right way,” “the wrong way,” anybody’s way but your own way. Even the most expressive person cannot create without some major help from society. The painter must purchase the paint and flush the toilet. The writer writes at a desk and turns out the light. The dancer twirls on a stage, and rents a movie for later tonight. The musician bought a folding chair. He goes over the score while smoking a pipe and cleaning between his toes. It’s a piece by Beethoven because people in the twenty-first century have no idea how to play their own music on a log. God forbid that there is a fool somewhere who would take up the violin solely for enjoyment! No, for that he must succumb to a life of Beethoven and sweeping floors in a dentist’s office. Nobody gives a hoot about him or his violin, until he comes to the concert hall, dressed in his pajamas and slippers, reading a symphony that Beethoven wrote in his head while peeing on a wet log.
What good is a Beethoven? Any sot today can buy a CD at the world’s biggest mall. That is not beautiful. How can that be beautiful? Whistling “Erotica” from beginning to end while searching for toothpaste above the tampons, next to your favorite hair shampoo, is a destruction potentially wrecking more devastation than a nuclear bomb. The reason there are nuclear bombs is because of Beethoven. It’s all his fault. Not the man’s necessarily, but his music. How shall I prove this to you? Who do you think Beethoven wrote for? Us? Do you really believe he cleaned his stinky toes and washed behind his ears in anticipation of our appreciation for him? The notes go up and down to the rhythm of his boots avoiding piles on a street walk from piano to pie maker. He wrote for Claus and Heidi, his father and mother, Napoleon, any German lake, fish in the water and birds in the sky. Now the same man buying—(Listen, it’s always buying from now on. Nobody makes beauty. Sometimes we might put it together, but we must buy it first, already assembled or in pieces.) Now across from the man buying a Beethoven box set, stands another man in his pajamas holding an Eminem CD. For those of you reading in the year 2030, Eminem was a shrewd criminal brain who gained fame at the age of twenty for sipping his mother’s milk from a slipper, while rapping, “When the cops weren’t looking, I raped a pickup truck. And when I got through with that bitch, I rammed it up a duck….” Beethoven and Eminem. Finally! We are beginning to juxtapose.
2002. 1803. Emerson had his high thoughts about illusion. He would be the first to say that Beethoven was drugged with his own pleasure of music. And he’d be right of course, in 1845. Ludwig would be the intellectual type who required a fine bait. Besides the fiddler at the dance, the sots knew themselves to be the gifted music-makers. Music was made by the sots themselves. If they felt the urge coming on to sing, they sang. They laughed and cried in song, thought in song, stirred cornbread batter in song. They sang their songs. They alone were the living creators. Which of them was strong and lucky enough to climb over the Alps and get an okay to come inside out of the rain to hear Beethoven and his friends go “da-da-ta-da” with a score of washed musicians playing with their polished and finely tuned instruments? Maybe a thousand people in the world heard Beethoven while Beethoven was alive. And I promise you that the ears listening were the richest most uncreative morons of the early nineteenth century.
Don’t you see? Beethoven, like Emerson, existed in a higher state of sotdom. He wrote for music students and professors of music who had an “in” with the right paying society, the princes and princesses.
Now juxtapose Emerson today calling on Eminem and his mommy at their city house on a street. “What!” he will wonder inside himself while walking through the ugly of a Detroit or Cleveland, “Society has come to allow this thing and its mother Beethoven’s freedom?! Oh my God I am so sorry I did not see this coming. New York was bad. London was worse, but they all got theirs with a dish of the smallpox. I was so wrong to pursue my own illusion down such a straight and narrow path. What kind of philosopher was I?
Henry was right. I was wrong. Did that boy just say, ‘Yo fukamudder, washyoumakin’bigshit’boutRalphie?’ Did he just say that? My God, what is it?”
“Ma’am,” Emerson asks, “Did you make it?”
“Did you make this thing?”
“You mean my son, mister?”
“Yes if you are not so ashamed to call it that.”
“Well, I gave birth to it, and it was such a sorry-lookin’ thing when I done it. But it was tough raisin’ him. His Daddy worked overtime most the time at the plant, and little Em here started calling me fudderfupper at a real young age. I dunno, two, three. We partied a lot those years. We thought that was something’ though, so we bought him a ‘Sing along with Beethoven Mini-studio’ at Montgomery Wards, and he just looked so smart singing ‘slap da bitch,’ and ‘bust ya face,’ that we thought genius like that should bypass maturity and concentrate solely on being stupid and ugly. This is a free country, ain’t it Mr. Emerson? You see, I know where you’re getting at, coming back from the dead and all just to interview our boy. You want to know how nuclear proliferation, and sick, twisted anomalies like my son here can happen in such a short time after hard tack and gathering fuel for the fire. What amazes you the most, and it’s no small thing I’m sure mister, is that some simple-minded daddy of two, and husband of one, can know about little Em from so far away in the February of a cold winter, upstairs in an old house that was built during your lifetime and only two hundred years after man had to dress up in a deer suit to get dinner. I agree mister, that is amazing.
“Yes madam. But tell me, where does a quiet, unobtrusive philosopher catch wind of such foul stinks like your son here? No offense.”
“Mister, the only offense I take is what little Em dishes out. He probably heard about him at his job—he has to have a job, mister, if he wants to live in society—And anybody who works today knows about Eminem. My boy has made quite a stir! Or, he might have heard them talkin’ about Em on the radio. National Public Radio most likely. Especially if your quiet man wears an old-fashioned Irish cap and has day and night dreams about money.”
“Dreams about money? We had a lot of that in my day too Madam.”
“No mister, not quite like us. It’s not the same thing.”
“Because I think if you was poor back then, you darned socks and sweaters and starved a bunch. Sometimes you might have thought it’d be nice to have money to stay alive, but you also dreamed about Africa’s wild elephants or sailing on a green sea in search of anything besides socks with holes in ‘em. Now money ain’t like that anymore. Even having a bunch of that can’t help us.”
“Why, is the cholera still a killer.”
“No mister. But my son is. Would you like to buy his CD? He makes ten thousand dollars every time he says ‘fuckdabitch,’ on live television.”
“No thank you madam. I think I’ll go start a fire in heaven. Maybe ravage that little Alcott beauty, stick a vein, or piss on the world. I thank you dear woman for creating that useless piece of horse crap of a son of yours. Good bye.”
“Bye mister. Watch your step on the stairs. Little Em leaves his Matchbox cars there all the time. I tell him not to, but he just laughs at me until I start to cry.”
What is the truth about Beethoven? Was he civilized? As civilized as today’s average monkey? He had to dress up in a heavy wool coat and walk to the concert hall if he was to hear one of his peers conduct a concert. That was his illusion. Snowflakes falling, an intricately carved cane donated by an admirer, and a musical walk down a busy street. The movement of many people. A pig in a box. A horse sneezing snot while trotting by. Firelight. Beethoven was every other man and woman, but different with the gift of concentrated illusion. He had a purpose and was praised for it. He had everything everyone had, plus one big thing: The desire to express thought, dream, history, happiness, madness, peace, beauty, and the galloping animal world of the black forest, through music. Beautiful music! Intoxicating music. Music to sooth the beast in us—not the beast to make the music—which is what happened not long after the death of men.
When did men die?
You tell me mubbafucka.