Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Guinea Pig Speaks

I'm sitting in my 20 year old Holiday Rambler motorhome, where it's parked in what was once a horse corral. The table tilts slightly, and my laptop with it. This is because I have not gotten around to leveling the vehicle. I live here now, which on occasional moments like this, freaks me out just a little. Some time ago, I decided to give up my beloved Altadena bungalow, and attempt to finally live the artist's life. And now - on a temporary break from my music - I am writing a series of essays for a blog I've begun. Why would I do such a thing? Well, it's not what it might look like. It's NOT an attempt to join the never-ending debate that seems to have gripped our country like the British Invasion did when I was a child. (no, not King George ... the other invasion).

We've become a nation of bloggers, and Facebookers. I now have about a thousand friends on my Facebook page, some small number of which are actually friends of mine. On any day, if I am foolish enough to check my news feed, many of these people will be busily posting and re-posting links to articles and videos that have either got them riled up, or have, they think, given them the opportunity to slam-dunk some idiot who has been caught saying something they consider stupid or worse. Context doesn't matter to them. Facts don't matter to them. Their own integrity is mostly of no interest to them. They want to win, and to be seen as having won.

That is, unless they have simply posted a picture of their dinner last night at the little Italian joint they love, or an adorable picture of their dog and cat cuddled together sleeping. I get those too, and the long strings of old videos because somebody has wandered into Youtube and is following a thread laterally through all these amazing songs and just has to share each and every one with their Epals. "Gary Puckett and The Union Gap! 1968! I was in second grade!!!" Thank you for sharing, my dear friend-slash-stranger.

This is all fine. But I, being a bit of a debater by wiring, sometimes do not successfully pass the bait on one of the politically-provocative links, and get sucked in. I see what it is; something Gingrich said, or something revealed about Obama that "proves" his Marxist agenda, and I foolishly read a few of the comments. Most often they will seem like the kind of knee-jerk responses that virtually preclude any depth of thought. I sigh. I look at the clock. If I am running late, I am safe. If not ... I am screwed. Just a quick peek, I tell myself, then I'm off to a productive day. Just gonna click here like this, and take a quick look at what was said in this article. MmmHmm, MmmHmm ... excuse me? Wait. I see what was said by this person. Why this isn't at all what these Facebook idiots are saying was said. What is wrong with these people? Doesn't anybody have any self-respect anymore?

And the hook is set. But I still think I can just type up this quick response and fix the injustice being done. Or the mistaken notion turned parrot-mantra being once again used to unfairly tar an entire segment of the populace while simultaneously proving some dimwit poster as being on the right side of some issue. I'll just be very clear here, I tell myself, ... not offensive ... and they will see the error of their ways, and I can be off to do those errands or get that song finished up. Who knows ... I may even get some exercise. Remember exercise? I think I used to do that with some regularity.

Twelve hours later I am still trying to make a simple point. The sun has gone down, I'm hungry and my breath is bad. The coffee pot is empty and I've microwaved this cup of tea six times, unable to finish it due to the constant interruptions. I have six Wikipedia pages open and have read ten thousand words in an attempt to make sure that at least ONE PERSON on Facebook is not talking out of his or her ass. The thread is now forty or fifty feet long. I've done some of the best writing of my life here; razor-sharp metaphor and example in service of logic that the term iron-clad would damn with faint praise. Opponents have come and gone. Some have babbled incoherently for six or eight posts and apparently wandered off to talk to themselves at a bus-stop. Others have conjured thatches of word-vine so dense that twenty men with machetes could never find the logic within. Some just say: Well, I still think blah blah blah non sequitur, non sequitur, and never return (apparently still having some connection to the world that must still be out there). And I will try to answer all of it. No matter the mounting evidence of objectivity-deficiency or truth-allergy among my opposite numbers.

This is, of course, an exaggeration. But only in degree. By this date, two years on Facebook, I have probably gone all-in on less than fifteen posts. But when I do ... things get EPIC.

And I have repeated simple, logical ideas, principles and bits of knowledge so many times that I am sick of explaining them. (and as a singer-songwriter I have a high tolerance for repetition)

So, I have decided to take the time, here in the winter of my under-employment to spell out some of what I think about different issues. Then I can just refer people over here, and if they can't understand what I'm saying, It's no further concern of mine.

And so I am writing some essays. This is not one of them really. This one, apart from the bit above, is an attempt to explain why I think anybody ought to take anything I say seriously. I have no formal education past high school, and frankly my relationship to learning even then was anything but formal. I never went to college even for a single day. And though I have taken a couple of night-school extension courses, I cannot imagine that I will use anything from those larks of learning here. Unless we suddenly drift into a discussion about navigation for small motorized water craft. Which seems unlikely.

No, what I have learned thus far in my life has come from three primary sources: the teaching of wise people I have known, books that I have sought out when something has really grabbed my attention, and concentrated self-reflection. The wise people taught me to look within, and the doing of that led me to the books.

Most of what I know has come from watching myself as I've wandered the treacherous topographies of life that all of us have. And as many who know me have observed, I've often not only sought the dangerous regions, but once there, behaved carelessly. I have not always, in other words, lived a prudent and well planned life. Much of what I've done and had done to me was damned uncomfortable. But each misadventure has taught me much about how the particular human being whose body I inhabit thinks and feels in such situations. And I am not talking only about swash-buckling adventures or wild lawless times. I am also talking about prolonged drudgery, ill-advised relationships, long pointless depressions, and all manner of thoroughly unglamorous tedium and pain. And through each, I have taken copious mental notes. And when confused as to what just happened, I've felt free to repeat any and all till I finally get them perfectly wrong. For, in the world of the self-examiner, the good information does not come from getting it right. At least not the first time. Maybe eventually.

I watch other people pretty closely too. But I can't count on them to tell me with much accuracy what happened and how it all worked out. I pick up what I can, but there is just no substitute for rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty.

So that's what I've been doing my whole life ... setting myself into just enough of an oppositional attitude as to prevent contentment. It's been a rough haul. But I have been fortunate enough that my mind has survived. My body too is relatively fit; voice strong, back sturdy. Even my face, which will not be mistaken for that of a man even one day younger, has taken on an agreeable patina of wear.

I may be delusional, but it seems to me that my time has come. Not for the gathering of overdue riches or fame, mind you, but to do what has always struck me as a human's greatest ambition; to make my contribution.

Unless I am wrong, all that I have learned by going where no reasonable person would, has taught me things that can be of value to many others. And unless I have missed something important, I am a standard-issue human male. Yes, I have a small compliment of talents that might be seen as unusual, but what goes on in my emotional self is no different than what happens inside countless other people.

I know this every time I'm demolished by the simplest song, fall for a practical joke, or well-up reading a greeting card. For all my natural intelligence, I know myself to be a regular person. I'm no better or worse than most others. It doesn't take any specialized equipment or complex schematics to operate me or communicate with me. I'm encouraged and thwarted in all the usual ways, and am subject to all the usual egoism and self-flagellation.

My aim is to tell you what it all looks like from my angle. And maybe, in doing that, I can save some of you a little trouble.

A lot of what I will be saying will not be taken to with kindness by some of my friends. We live in an age where the academics carry more than their share of the conversation, and this has led to some conclusions that work a lot better on paper than in the real world. Once, when discussing a philosophical book we'd both read, a friend patted the book and said, "This is just one guy's best attempt at a map." then he put his hand on my forehead and said, "This ... this is the territory. Don't confuse the two."

I've tried not to. Still, my intention is not to dismiss good studies and the best attempts made by scholars to explain we humans, and therefore arrive at a wise understanding of our challenges. I use their knowledge freely, and may quote them from time to time. But, for better or worse, my strongest advocacy will be saved for the stuff I just know by looking at the world outside me and its effect on the world inside me. Often I see beliefs or packages of them that have taken root in academia and spread through the world at large - but are in my view, wrong. I will talk about them, and not hesitate to say what I think. Some of you are so married to these beliefs as to have a nearly sacred attachment to them. I'm not here to bum you out, but I'm also not here to curry favor, or to hold back for fear of being called primitive or conservative or simplistic or ignorant.

Of course I hope to change a mind or two, everyone who ever argued anything did. But I know that folks don't change their minds unless something about their current thinking has begun to ring false.

I've been a long time in the laboratory of my life. I've been experimented on without mercy or intentional cruelty. And I have conducted these experiments myself with help from everyone I've ever known. The numbers are crunched and the data roughly organized.

The Guinea Pig is ready to speak.

Dave Morrison ... January 25, 2012

1 comment:

  1. Write-on Dave! My thoughts exactly. I've recently spent more time than usual on FB(we were snowed in for a week, but the power stayed ON!. I've got "friends" from the extreme way out there radically strange conservative Republican typically Christian end of things, some really sweet people,I'm sure, but geez! The hate for Obama is staggering. And guess what, though it's been gone for decades among my real friends, homophobia seems to be alive and well on FB too. Who knew. When I just had to respond to someone's gay bashing "Why so Back of the Bus!?" I knew it was time to stop. Stop FBing. More lurking, less posting, more books, less computer time, more walking with the dog, less inside time. But here I am, happy to have wandered into your world. As you already know, the power of music does allow you to take your good ideas out & about in another way, sneaking them in through the air waves in a song. Hope you'll keep writing those. Hope to meet someday. Cheers to your new endeavors.