“Life’s tallest order is to keep the feelings up, to make two dollars’ worth of euphoria go the distance. And life can’t do that. So fiction does.” – Stanley Elkin
I suppose I was a much more idealistic person in my youth than I am now, although back then, I had little indication or evidence that such a stance was meaningful, applicable to the world I was living in or even relevant within what I saw transpiring around the world. I simply believed in the “power of Good.” And over everything else, I was a “Good Guy.” It was a badge I proudly wore. I was also, as other have related to me, possessed of an optimistic, sunny nature, which belied the awful and at times, traumatic childhood I endured seemingly alone. Maybe I was just flushed with optimism because my “innocence” survived fairly intact. I felt free, free of my childhood, free of Toledo, free from my family and when I arrived at Bowling Green, Ohio in that late summer of 1986, I freed myself from an oppressive marriage and job, and I felt free to be myself, or invent another self that would be more fun.
So I invented myself as a Reggae Musician. It was a complete transformation. I didn’t know it then, but it wasn’t real, for it ended when I ended my involvement with the band by quitting over something probably frivolous. But that’s another story for another time. I want to talk to you about something else. So listen:
It’s true, I was more possessed by the spirit of wonder and joy in those days. I could afford to be, living in that idyllic bubble in that small college town in the middle of a flatlands nowhere, surrounded by adoring fans of music I didn’t even know I had within me. Women, for the first time in my life, to quote the old Rogers and Hammerstein’s song, saw me as “Something Wonderful.” Surprisingly, they even wanted to fuck me! Almost everything I attempted, worked.
Maybe this is how it is for the those who swear by the power of Positive Thinking. It was for me a time of easy living and no cares, because, as I have said, everything worked. When it all inevitably fell apart and I lost everything I worked so hard for, the world still carried on, was still fucked up, was still in deep shit. But I hadn’t noticed that when I was carried aloft in the flow of fortune. Being given what I wanted somehow cast an impenetrable curtain before my eyes that blinded me to the disgusting, horrible shit that was going down in the world all around me. As the reversal of fortune swept me away in the other direction, I was able to the others who were being swept away along that same black tide, far, far worse off than me. The curtain that was so effective in allowing me to expect to live a happy, fulfilling life without regards to others, was beginning to come down.
Now I know what you’re thinking, I did make a stand here and there. I engaged in protests. I wrote songs about hearing ‘the ghettos cry at night,” and that “there was no life in Guatemala.” I sang songs of hope and rebellion, but they were just songs sung to a few thousand people at the most. Made no visible impact at all. Just sayin.’
So if it seems that I’ve been “blue” or not feeling it, that’s not true. Emotionalism never solved anything. I may have lost the “wonder” and “joy” in life because I can’t stand what’s going on here. I can’t “appreciate” anything “ truly beautiful and miraculous,” after reading stories like the one below, where 14-year-old girl after being raped by an older cousin, beaten by cousin’s wife and then lashed to death by demoniacal religious zealots:
It’s a Fiction that there are beautiful moments or miracles that exist in this world alongside the sinister nature of human beings. There are no angels, only demons in every way, possessing us and directing us into the most evil acts imaginable. To be continuously shocked at the depths humanity has descended into leaves me with no hope, no warm fuzzies, no beautiful sunset to ride off into. They were all fictions to hide behind, to shield us from the awful truth of ourselves. They are unreal, as only man’s evil seems to have the immense and sickening weight of reality. So I have to deal with these things that are real, and not go and escape into the dreamscapes of hopeful, future expectations. The most courageous way is to take off the rose-colored glasses. Release the hopes that “Something bigger than myself will Move things into a more desirable state. Let go of seeking out that pretty picture to still the terror in your heart. We all have to wake up and wake each other up to what is happening to us, not to wallow in sorrow and misery, but to wake up from our self-satisfied slumber. And that’s part of what I am doing.