The Airing of Grievances
Thursday, January 13, 2005
There are two quotes that are bouncing around my head these days:
So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children cry, and tonight the stars'll be out, and don't you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what's going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of the Old Dean Moriarty, the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.Contrasted with
On The Road, Jack Kerouac
These two passages may mean nothing to you, but they mean a hell of a lot to me. The second one is exactly why I haven't posted on this blog in damn near a week. It has rendered me useless to describe the world as it presents itself today and has left me with such a case of writers' block, so bad that I can't tell you. I read it on a flight from Palm Beach, back to New York, last weekend, a transition from sunny irresponsibility back to a cold, unsatisfying real life, where I work at a job that I hate, in a city that I love, at a pace that is getting too fast for me. Depression is genetic in my family and I'm in the full swing of the seasonal affectedness disorder that some of us go through this time of year. I always thought the weak suffered from such problems, until two years ago when it dawned on me that I was among the weak.
Clausewitz's book seemed outdated, but there's a lot in it that's real, and you can understand a lot about conventional life and the pressures of environment by reading it. When he claims that politics has taken the place of morality and politics is brute force, he's not playing. You have to believe it. You do exactly as you're told, whoever you are. Knuckle under or you're dead. Don't give me any of that jazz about hope or nonsense about rightousness. Don't give me that dance that God is with us, or that God supports us. Let's get down to brass tacks. There isn't any moral order. You can forget that. Morality has nothing in common with politics. It's not there to transgress. It's either high ground or low ground. This is the way the world is and nothing's gonna change it. It's a crazy, mixed up world and you have to look it right in the eye.
Chronicles, Volume One, Bob Dylan
But Dylan's words slapped me upside the head and have affected just about every thought I've had since. I had to read them three or four times to get exactly what he was saying, but once I got it, I realized that he managed to articulate, in paraphrasing Clausewitz, exactly what I've been thinking for about 3 months. Imagine that. You listen to Dylan 15 years and you don't get it until now. You think for the longest time that the most personal thought he had for you was "I'm not the one you want, babe, I'm not the one you need" or "You just want to be on the side that's winnin'" and, just like that, he beats the shit out of you with a few sentences that tell you that the moral code you always assumed would make sense of the world for you is garbage and you can't trust it and it leaves you unable to cope.
But you read the Kerouac passage, and you find something to believe in. Because that's what Dean Moriarty was to me. He was this iconoclastic vision of a post-Eisenhowerian God, living his own code, drinking until the wee hours, fucking wherever he saw fit. Do we have that? Is there room for someone like that in America right now? I don't know. Kerouac was a drunk with a severe Mother infatuation, so I'm not going to treat him as gospel. But like Salinger and Kesey, he's one of the few authors who I can say changed my life. So, his optimism resonates. Kerouac got the joke. He understood the backstory of power just like Dylan does. His wistful thoughts of a Moriarty are in the same vein as mine, as I wish for some relief from the growing repression and lies that we are fed.
It's good to be back. I promise to join the ranks of the blogging again. You may have missed me, you probably didn't, but either way, this blog is going to change. Not only will the interaction improve, but I will be improving. I've finally hit upon something I can build on for a little while and it'll be fun figuring out how the refuse we see from our government and our society fits in to one of the two camps that I've laid out for you tonight. I suspect we'll be talking more about the second, but I'm always up for something to believe in.
Finally, a special thanks to the Unknown Column. You broke me out. Thank you.