Part of my literature for the upcoming spring show:
While at the periodontist yesterday I read a recent interview with Bob Dylan in AARP magazine. Rotting gums, Bob Dylan, and a bland publication representing a powerful lobby of 35 million members. Not much excitement to look forward to after 50, if I decide to tow the line with this lifestyle. Anyway, Dylan remarked that he is no longer passionate, that that’s a young man’s game. The elders should seek wisdom, or at least shut-up and fake it with boring silence. Yet in the same interview he admitted that perhaps there isn’t a generational difference between the minds of old and young after all. Maybe grandpa can relate to all things granddaughter and vice-versa. Then he told the interviewer that he doesn’t worry if his records sell or not. His business people take care of that.
Here is a point in time where both wisdom and passion can collaborate, if one chooses to act, whether she be fifteen or fifty-five. First the facts up front. Bob Dylan is a multimillionaire who has a business team of professionals working for him night and day. The AARP is a multimillion dollar lobby putting all American people over 50 in a blender and aging them together on high puree. A periodonist is expensive but worth the investment if you still long for a kiss at midnight, but hope to avoid your lover’s tongue prying off your lower partial.
Now I will spend a moment in my imagination, and work through the institutional obfuscations that plague all innocent ninety-nine percenters of the earth, and leave them daily worried, bewildered, and confused. The media has never been so practically omnipotent wielding its power to keep minds, and what are supposed to be wiser minds (those over 50 at the periodontist), at rest, in a kind of living death-rest way. I read what Bob Dylan has to say, and suddenly feel, that yeah, maybe he’s right. I shouldn’t be passionate anymore. I should just grow old, find drugs to decrease my joint pain, and shut up. Even if I arrived to the periodonist singing along and imagination dancing to what Jagger and Richards thought passionate back in 1974, I must come to terms with my old age eventually, give up all firecracker electricity in my veins, get out of the car, check my belt, adjust my glasses, and enter one of the many waiting rooms of my future. No spark. No passion. Just quiet wisdom. And look! The new issue of AARP. Advertisements, pop culture, television, an interesting hobby, travel, gum disease, tooth extraction, and then death. Many studies have proven that the dispassionate actually choose what type of deodorant to buy. The dispassionate want quick weeknight meals, packages to tropical island getaways, historical vignettes, and even an interview with an elder, creative millionaire who, at present, is pretending to be a 1940’s lounge crooner.
Sometimes my mind can work through these persistent media distortions. I actually agreed with Bob Dylan, until I got back into my car, turned on the CD, and listened to his 1981 non-smash hit, “The Property of Jesus”. The gears began turning. I thought about my upcoming painting exhibition on hydrofracking, an adulthood of going my own way (always against the AARP grain), and strangely enough, my lifelong friend Pat and an expression he’d often share with me. (I’ll get to that in a moment.)
I want to quote Dylan’s lyrics in full, minus the repetition of the refrain:
Go ahead and talk about him because he makes you doubt
Because he has denied himself the things that you can’t live without
Laugh at him behind his back just like the others do
Remind him of what he used to be when he comes walkin’ through
He’s the property of Jesus
Resent him to the bone
You got something better
You’ve got a heart of stone
Stop your conversation when he passes on the street
Hope he falls upon himself, oh, won’t that be sweet
Because he can’t be exploited by superstition anymore
Because he can’t be bribed or bought by the things that you adore
When the whip that’s keeping you in line doesn’t make him jump
Say he’s hard-of-hearin’, say that he’s a chump
Say he’s out of step with reality as you try to test his nerve
Because he doesn’t pay no tribute to the king that you serve
Say that he’s a loser ’cause he got no common sense
Because he don’t increase his worth at someone else’s expense
Because he’s not afraid of trying, say he’s got no style
’Cause he doesn’t tell you jokes or fairy tales, say things to make you smile
You can laugh at salvation, you can play Olympic games
You think that when you rest at last you’ll go back from where you came
But you’ve picked up quite a story and you’ve changed since the womb
What happened to the real you, you’ve been captured but by whom?
Boy, I know that feeling Dylan had and evoked with this song, and it’s not just for the Born Again Christians, of which I am not one at present. It is radical, for humans anyway, in the sense that it is deeply rooted in our DNA and impossible to kill. It is the essence of individuality expressed as righteousness unto the clan. Society needs more individuality, not less. But not the kind that promotes itself, rather one that nurtures love of life, and right environment for all to share. Very difficult to love life from a cesspool. I believe that every healthy mind feels this way, that is, morally, upon waking up in the morning. At least one begins so each day before the virtual onslaught of media mores, which sadly have become the norm in gaging how society behaves in public. That is, wholly dispassionate, quiet, careful, without opinion expressed outside of the everyday fact that “I am human”, just as any streamlined institution says what it is depending on the product to be sold or the idea being disseminated; “I am fruit cocktail”, or “Liberals are communists”, or “I am Bob Dylan the wise old man who could afford a private nose-picker if desired”. Those lyrics express what it truly means to be human among humans… Passionate for the betterment of all. And I don’t see any age requirement. As a Christian holding tightly to morality, Born Again Bob wasn’t feeling ostracized because he rode around in private planes, but he sure as hell should feel that way now.
Okay, back to my friend Pat, and what he said to the opposite sex a few times when we were fourteen. He would walk up to a girl he knew, she might be opening her locker or sitting on the bleachers at a football game, and he would whisper by her ear, “Tickle your ass with a feather?”
The girl would exclaim, “What did you say?”
To which Pat immediately followed with, “Particularly nice weather?”
This memory pops into my head from time to time. I can’t help it, the brain is a mysterious recollector. Anyway, I come home from the periodontist, all jacked up with angst and gum pain, and I start painting while day dreaming of what I really want to do to the gas men, which is, tar and feather them. Unfortunately, it’s already late in the day. I have been AARP’d and orally violated to the point of my drool bib getting Pollocked all bloody, so my age begins to show by nightfall, and although I want the corporitos publically humiliated and dragged through the streets, I remember my media training in dispassion, and write instead,
Particularly Nice Weather, Tar and Tickle Texas Feather
It’s the safer way to keep eyes affixed to the painting. Even though it will hang at a gallery called “ArtRage”, I am reminded by Bob Dylan and the AARP that it is foolhardy to make passionate expression at late middle age. Even if I have nothing to lose! Opinions are always suspected. Negative ones can place you in the order of fanatics. Once Bob Dylan expressed his belief in Jesus, he immediately became a fanatic to the cultured, dispassionate public. If I tell (or yell) my fracking woes too loudly, I will be deemed environmental fanatic. No one ever calls the gas lobbyist fanatical, maybe because he wears a suit and has a manicure, but what is he if not Mr. Fanatic himself, spending a life’s profession pushing for just one platform? Even I, as painter, will go on to the next subject after ArtRage. We, as dispassionate Americans, allow this trespass on our families, without a fight. It is polite. Shhh. Quiet. It is best to pretend wisdom like Bob Dylan getting old.
After leaving the periodontist and coming home to paint, which is my passion, I realize now, more than yesterday, that AARP Magazine will never show on its cover the face of a sick child affected by water and air pollution produced by hydrofracking. They will continue to feature dispassionate people like Bob Dylan in his cool new hat. He won’t mention hydrofracking either—his business people frown on political opinions generated by old millionaires. It upsets the purchasing climate. AARP would sell less Toyotas and prescription medications, and Bob Dylan would pass away wondering why nobody cared that he dreamed he was the idol of the bobby soxers.
I need to work on my passion. Not only is it the voice of wisdom, but it’s all I have internally after a life lived loving Bob Dylan songs . When fifty, I’d rather be the property of a defunct Jesus, than belonging to the old age club that credentials anyone, even a pimp or pedophile, simply because they have hit a time marker. I think tortoises and elephants can get in too, as long as they reached a ripe old age in captivity.