Sunday, April 30, 2006


(Before the journal, here is a song for the reader. )

During this last tour, we were stopped in Atlanta, staying with my father, and we happened to have a few spare hours to watch the second installment of the Godfather. Having never seen one of these films before I have to say that I was completely gripped. The story is immensely compelling (partially due to its epic nature) and the characters are often well developed and believable, a fact which increases the viewer's shock when they (the characters) are terminated, a rather frequent occurrence. Obviously, the most important thematic juxtaposition in these films is life vs. commerce. Family values are often stressed, however the ascention to power within the business structure requires the destruction and debilitation of those same families, always by way of murder. This proves shocking to me not only because of the visual gore involved, but also because of the prevading notion that life is cheap.

Ever since my Grandmother's death I am filled with this constant and often overwhelming sensation that life is precious, all the time. When we are forced to contemplate the finality of death, one of the hardest things (in my experience) is picturing that deceased individual in action- perhaps a totally banal action such as cleaning the house or checking the mailbox, or conversely a more significant action such as birth or the attainment of financial success- and coming to terms with the idea that the pictured action is now automatically something which belongs to the past, and can never be repeated in the future. The image outlives the person, and that's very hard. Perhaps this is the point where it's important to start exploring those things that have seemed overly mystical in the past: the continuation of the soul, the concept of a person's energy lingering after their physical demise. This is what I mean by a constant sensation that life is precious. So much is left up to mystery, and thus the empirical things that we are allowed to experience and take part in are so, well precious, because they are eventually fleeting.

For a long time I had this notion that a career based in passion was the key determiner in life-fulfillment, the logic being that if I could bring some form of art to the world, or at least a small percentage of the world, then I would never be alone. These days I am finding that this notion is largely false, or not necessarily false but actually insufficient. I think this has something to do with the fact that, in a way, musicians are manufacturers of kitsch. Milan Kundera once defined kitsch as "the absolute denial of shit." Kitsch presents an image of the past that contains all of the pastoral elements required to achieve a specific emotion, yet lacks any of the visceral stuff, the shit, that belongs to those same moments in time, thus creating an innacurate picture of the human experience-memory in sepia. Songs capture a moment, often times a very specific feeling and that is why we respond to them. Perhaps very good song-writing does its best to capture the shit as well, but no song is ever a substitute for real human interaction.

In this way, it seems even more ridiculous to me that music, or art in general, has something so big built up around it. By this I mean the fact that there are music critics, and that there are cliques within music, and varying decided levels of 'cool.' When I was a bit younger and first started going to rock concerts, etc... I was very overcome by this notion that some musicians and the people they kicked about with seemed so inherently cool, and how did they ever attain these super left field, almost frightening aesthetic personas? In retrospect it seems ridiculous because obviously ninety percent of the population was raised in pretty similar circumstances, the same channels of media, the same ads on TV. Chances are that the process of human development was also uniform- the same new emotions, awkward experiences, small failures and gains. Thus, if the initial groundwork is the same for most people, then the construction of music or a whole image is a calculated move to tug the listener in one direction or the other, merely a new arrangement of the same twelve notes (this is specific to Western music) and the same basic noises. I hate seeing a critic rip apart something that the creator was emotionally invested in- where the fuck do they get the right to make or break a person's confidence based upon a hierarchy of kitsch?

This is not to disregard my love of music or desire to participate in it, OR my appreciation of the opportunities afforded thus far. On the contrary, I feel very lucky to be able to have done the little I have done. What I'm trying to say can be applied to any occupation or any community of people involved in that particular occupation: that these things fun like dressing up to go out, it's enjoyable to participate in these things, but also important to maintain the knowledge that real life is contained in much heavier moments.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Forces of Nature

(Before the journal, here is a song for the reader. )

Now it's time for tour preparation, leaving home for another almost month seems a wonderful yet exhausting prospect, though to be honest, these days I probably find it harder to relax when I am home for too long than I do when faced with a constant schedule in a little black binder. When I am in Austin the most relaxing thing for me to do is to visit the pre-school where I used to work and while away time with Noelle and the kids. We chase, throw balls, all of that stuff, and then I just go into the classroom with them and sit and chat as they make pictures or hit each other over the head with plastic cars. They have no concept of where anybody's been, what they've been doing, advances or failures, and frankly they don't really care. The only thing that matters is the immediate present and so the interaction is pure. It's all new- all discovery.

That ignorance, or lack of experience, is a really amazing thing. It seems that the older you get, the more of your freedom you are forced to abdicate. In reality, I suppose the reverse is true because you are gradually gaining autonomy from your parents, aacademic instiutions, etc... and guiding the course of your own life. But it doesn't really seem that way, does it? I suppose it's a give and take. To fix your eyes on something and then seize it, you must gradually incorporate increasing levels of beaurrocracy, and thus increasing levels of external control and influence. Who is really the key determiner?

I'm standing behind two of my students, Evan and Emmitt, who are plying with a stick at something on a tree trunk. I lean down and ask, "What are you doing?"

In unison: "Killing fireants."

"Killing animals is cruel. Just imagine if somebody smashed you with a twig the size of a fire truck!" This logic is quickly superceded.

"No, the fireants are eating this caterpillar and he's still alive. We're trying to save the caterpillar. I wouldn't want to be eaten alive."

This is true, being eaten alive would be terrible. I start thinking again about wonderful ignorance, about how these two five year old boys are naive enough to believe that by the elimination of fireants they can save the caterpillars of the world, I think about abandonding the scary inevitability of natural processes. How wonderful to be completely oblivious of all the things around that control you, that will one day control you. And then I start to feel terribly sorry for them, mainly because the environment is going to shit. I mean, global warming is completely terrifying and nobody seems to give a shit. What can we do, realistically, about global warming? How can we preserve things so that blissful ignorance can continue to pervade? And how touching and simultaneously heartbreaking to know that this crushing weight and worry rests on not only you and me, but also on two clueless boys trying with all their might to save the world one caterpillar at a time.

Suddenly I am snapped out of my thought process.

"But it's a force of nature, right Ramesh?"

"What did you say?"

"A force of nature, what happens with the ants is a force of nature. Right?"

"That's right, Evan. It's a force of nature."