Think About The Way XV

Think About The Way XV

The fifteenth of a never-ending series

By Doctor Gonzo 

18 November 2000

Minneapolis — Walking outside on this cold Friday night, past the corner of 6th Street and 13th Avenue Southeast, there is a profound silence all around. When it is this silent on a Friday night around the University, it is a real oddity, and I can't help but notice it. It is the silence of a small town getting ready for Christmas as it would have done forty years ago. Perhaps the frigid November air has kept the drunks and the accompanied yells off the streets. Perhaps it is just the bright stars in the clear sky are all in alignment. Whatever it is, it fits my mood perfectly.

Maybe not. It is hard to figure out exactly how things interact with each other, the causal relations between them. I had just finished watching a special on the Beatles, and that was probably the key that put everything together. The night, my thoughts, the television, history, they were all woven together into some tapestry that blanketed all of reality and stopped it. Once in a great while I manage to ascend that stairway and gain the power to stop motion with just a look, and reflect upon the reality I am seeing. The Beatles could do that too, I am sure. Along with a bunch of other people who were bigger than Jesus but didn't say so.

This night could have been taken from a Norman Rockwell painting, almost forty years ago, a time when few people knew what was going to happen next. A year like 1963. Who would know that in a few days our president would be shot, or that 50,000 Americans would lose their lives in a doomed war? Who knew that soon a band would come from across the Atlantic and change history. When people attributed the fall of the Berlin Wall partly to the Beatles, they were right. It was a time when people tried to change the world not with guns but with thought.

As I watched the tales of boys growing their hair long, of people putting signs up saying "Keep America Beautiful -- Get a Haircut," and a very amusing young David Bowie forming a society to protect longhairs, I was reminded of the fascist institutions in my own past. The night was not the only thing that was a throwback to the 1960s. It was funny in a way, but at the same time the knowledge that this small-minded bigotry and stupidity is keeping the world back is depressing.

Probably the biggest reason that the Beatles reminded me so much of a certain backwards high school I attended is that exactly five years ago I watched a similar special on the Beatles during the same time in November. Beatles songs will never change, but my thoughts toward them (and with them my thoughts toward life) have wandered. Music is the best memory enhancer, so it is not a surprise that listening to these songs and watching a special on the Beatles made me think of the last time.

My attitude five years ago, in my opinion, was like that of the beginning of the Beatles craze. Silly love songs and overtures about adolescence, things that have been sung about forever but with a new twist that the squares didn't like. About the same with me. I wasn't seriously testing any boundaries except in a cautious way, but in a way that still managed to piss off another generation. Thinking more about idealized love than anything real, having yet to experience it. Pretty typical.

Now it is five years later, and the parallels are interesting. The Beatles craze of 1963/64 has given way to 1968. Riots in the streets. Death. A nationwide swing to the right that threatened free thought and expression, culminating with the election of a Republican who promised to bring back "Law and Order" to our neighborhoods. A generation that was ideal at first but resorting increasingly to violence because the Summer of Love didn't cut it, and a band that was going in strange directions. Meanwhile, in this reality, protesters got clubbed at a WTO meeting in Seattle and locally a boy was shot for being high on LSD and singing naked to a light pole. The death of one of my closest friends is probably as big a deal to me as the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. And the probable election of a Republican to the presidency vowing to bring back decency or some bullshit. Dubya is far more idiotic than Nixon was and far less sinister, and I actually think that makes it worse.

Most importantly, I am far less idealistic and far more frustrated than I was five years ago. Trying to change the world by living a good example and convincing people one by one that there is a better was is not only inefficient, it isn't working. The politics of joy just isn't going to work in any year, and that is why people then changed tactics. I don't know what kind of tactics I will be trying next, but the status quo is too damn annoying. Hence the need to listening to the wailing of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" or the sheer insanity of "Helter Skelter."

I don't know how far I can drag this Beatles/Me analogy out, but if it does hold true in any accurate way that means the breakup of myself is only a couple years away. I have no idea what that would mean, or under what circumstances that would happen. If history is any indication, then the next couple of years are not going to be good ones for just about everybody. The revenge of the racists, the bigots, the hicks, the Silent Majority.

I think the Beatles made a journey that many of us have made. From the simplest applications of an idea to molding into a tool to reshape the world, to finally failing for reasons that nobody really understands. Theirs was a failure that would be a success by any other standards, but people who are divinely inspired usually don't settle for anything less than global revolution. I certainly still intend on thrashing the world about until it conforms to my will but I am having more and more trouble figuring out exactly what is the best way to go about doing that. It seems to be a futile journey, but a journey that must be made all the same.

I am trying to look back to figure out where I am going. We don't go forward in time with our faces ahead; we look backwards while the past recedes away from us. The future is always outside of our eyesight. I have no choice but to look back, but it is pointless. Knowing how I felt sitting in front of a fire listening to the dying cries of embers and mates, knowing how I felt when I heard "Eleanor Rigby" poolside and in the shelter of my crumbling fortress, what good does that do me? Questions surround the future, and digging around in the rubble of the past doesn't work. History always repeats itself because people are too stupid to do anything about it.

There is only frustration when you can neither glean direction from the present or the past. I can sense that we are on the cusp of something big, but until we get some direction in this whiteout we will only walk around in circles, trying to find a landmark telling us which way to go. Divine intervention is the only thing that can save you when the past and present are as muddled as the future, and divine intervention is not something that comes when you ask.

I suppose that I am taking the Beatles pretty seriously here, but there is not much of an alternative. In terms of music, they are the foundation. While I will always love Led Zeppelin, I can't help but give a nod to the Beatles and appreciate them as the forerunners. Worship Zeus but remember the Titans.

Actually, it seems that the longer I go on the more muddied my message is getting, so I will try to bring it back to a main point: What I felt when I was walking around, thinking about the Beatles and my own history, was a profound sense of seeing everything. These sensations don't last long and are even harder to put into words. Though I have tried mightily to do so, I fear that I haven't been able to do it as well as I had hoped.

But everybody has had that kind of experience, or at least I hope they have. While a lot of people probably won't believe that it is possible to step outside of yourself or stop motion in its tracks with just a thought, people may once in a while get a feeling of being plugged into a higher body of knowledge for a second. I fear, however, that this might be wishful thinking. If these experiences were that common I doubt people would worry themselves with stupid things like they do.

Now I feel like I am just going on for the sake of filling up space . . . so fuck it. You had to be there, I guess. Or you have to be here, and most people aren't even that up to speed. It's happening all around if you shut up and listen, and manage to avoid the spun bullshit that is attached to damn near everything these days. The Beatles did not spin, even when they were the targets of public hatred (such as the American opinion that they were Commie atheist who needed to be hung after their "Bigger than Jesus" remark). They lasted only a few short years and accomplished more than just about anybody, but they fell short in their own minds. It has so far cost one life. It will cost them all.

I am not saying I am anything close to the Beatles, but there is a parallel . . . a growth and understanding that came about like theirs did, living through life and sudden death, love and sudden loss. They did it better than anybody. Not only that, they paved the way for others to come up and unseat them. It is that ideal which should be lived up to, in my opinion. Not only doing something better than the world, but opening the doors to challengers. That way it isn't merely an ego trip, not a dictatorship. Actors who not only throttled their parts, but who changed the stage at the same time.

The night has passed and the screams have returned. Respite is brief around here, and Minneapolis is far away from a small town over a generation ago, or my hometown five years ago. My feeling of insight is long gone, and only eddy currents remain in my psyche. Obviously the remnants were not as numerous as I had hoped to write this rant, but you make do with what you have. With that, a heavy sadness descends upon me and I depart . . .


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