“In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty.” ~ Phil Ochs
Changing glasses, because I need my readers to clearly see the computer screen, I am thinking about Phil Ochs. Do you know him?
Bob Dylan once threw Ochs out of a limousine, calling him a journalist rather than a songwriter, after Ochs criticized a new song that Dylan had played for Phil. The message in the anecdote is: don’t mess with a legend.
I first learned of this unknown singer/songwriter after he hung himself, and I felt the primal, instinctual sadness that comes through such a tragedy. This discovery was made for me during the first year of my recovery from a freak bicycle accident, in 1984, a time that also had me just beginning to search for the nature of the near-death experience that the accident had triggered.
Rolling Stone magazine delivered the news to me and I wondered if the place that the near-death experience had shown to me was the same place that Phil went, regardless of the violent way that he died. Celestial punishment for a suicide seemed incongruent with the realm of wonder that met me as I crossed over to the Other Side, which some call Heaven.
Why am I writing about Phil Ochs this morning? Listen to this guy! Click here to do so. Or click here to listen to the wondrous Neil Young sing a song of Phil’s, and talk about Phil with awe and beauty. Both videos are of the same song: “Changes”. I’d cry if I could.
“Moments of magic will glow in the night
All fears of the forest are gone
But when the morning breaks they’re swept away by
golden drops of dawn, of changes.” ~ Phil Ochs
The songs is embedded in my mind as an ohwurm, which is a German words for ear worm, a song that gets caught in the magical place that we call a mind, but I think it is more than that, it is the vehicle that drives us along the long road to that place called Heaven.
Ochs and Young were inspirations for me, and they, along with others of their craft, were prime influence for my prose. It wasn’t only writers who helped me to hone my craft. It was also songwriters. Neil called Phil “one of the greatest poets that ever lived”. Maybe that was enough.
A pale yet colorful sunrise is happening outside, as I sit at my desk being the wordsmith that I am. It doesn’t hurt much. Don’t worry about that. It actually soothes and calms me to a great extent. It’s my day off, I’ve nothing to do but go to the laundromat and to the store for a can of cheap ground coffee, and sometimes during those tasks I will vividly remember being taken to the ground twice, yesterday, by powerful shelter dogs, who forced me to become a wrestler for a short time. I was rescued from wrestling dogs by a beautiful and tiny 20 year old Spanish woman, who collared the dogs so I could let them go. I was laughing all the while. Wrestling dogs is fun, even though those critters defeated my effort. I like to embrace Nature, and the dogs helped me, by gifting me with intimate knowledge of dirt.
Now about Rabbit, who’s picture opens this post. Rabbit, in its totem version, tells us about how our instincts are not to be taken for granted, and that they must be nurtured and embellished by changes delivered from our own hearts. Standing still can get you killed out in the wilderness. Rabbits will circle around to behind a predator that is stalking them. Safety and vigilance is good. But how can I, as per the title of this post, imagine a rabbit going over to the dark side. I mean, really?! “WTF, dude”, I say to myself, under my breath. Yet when I got the intuition to visualize this possibility, that was driven by artistic license, I found it to be easy, considering one of the symbolic meanings bourn by Rabbit. What if you repress your instincts and turn to a plug-and-play way of being? That is the kind of thing I am talking about. I didn’t know squat about wrestling dogs until I did so: first instinct, then analysis. I was down in the dirt with dogs. Analyze that! To embrace such an animal in performing my job, my instinct guided me flawlessly. Their beauty in proximity, in playful competition, changed me. Touché!
In closing – um, I’m not sure I know what to say next. I’m in a depressive phase of bipolar disorder. Fear is stalking me and I will sneak around behind it to get a look at the dark critter that it is. Fear is an odd thing. I’ve spent my fair share in its grip. A lady friend once told me, “I think you’re enjoying it”, when I confessed to being in the grip of fear. I responded with a soft WTH, in its non-acronymic form.
I simply love that last sentence. One cup of coffee is all I’ve had this morning. I ran out of the stuff. Maybe I should quit? I should quit a lot of my questionable and caustic behavior, but those are not the kind of changes that I am wrestling with these days, or gracefully allowing to emerge. My animal instincts are still quite present from yesterday’s match. Who am I to disagree? Phil Ochs, dogs, and rabbits. Who knew it would come to this?
“If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is and who and what is really important – if you want to operate on your default setting – then you, like me, will not consider possibilities that aren’t pointless and annoying. But if you’ve really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars – compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things. Not that that mystical stuff’s necessarily true: the only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.” ~ David Foster Wallace (RIP).
That’s kinda the thing that I am looking at in writing today’s post. Read David’s masterful “This Is Water”. Click here me hearties.
Peace out, y’all. Goof gloriously.