Traveling through the South I’ve been reminded of a couple images of Rumi’s, the wine that smashes the cup and the ink that breaks the pen. My phrasing may be inelegant, but I think I’ve got the idea right.
It may not be anything special about the South beyond how foreign it seems to me. Behind the accent is a whole history I’m more a neighbor to than a participant in. Plus, the sheer fact of driving hundreds of miles a day, passing over river after river after creek. Then, arriving in some city, showing up at some bar and playing my four songs to some collection of absolute strangers. Jackson Browne famously wrote at least one great song about it, and summed it up in one line in a different great song:
I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels.
But it more than feels crazy. Or, rather, that crazy feeling that can’t be told results of touching on the incomprehensible immensity of it all. Anything I could possibly say feels vastly too small.
Every time I pick up my phone to take a picture I have to fight the urge not to even bother. The frame just won’t do whatever it is justice; except in such cases where the object is already framed, like a condom dispenser above a urinal. I’ve got a couple good shots of those, captured because it’s amusing to compare the one from Georgia, which preached abstinence, to the one from South Carolina, which offered Horny Goat Weed pills and a special Bin Laden condom. And this Bin Laden condom plugs in to an idea I’ve been turning over in my head while driving, about how the liberal culture I’m familiar with is re-importing forbidden masculinity.
It’s fortunate that, in English, pen is so close to penis, as this gets me to Mars and to a description of the fifth sephiroth of the kabbalistic Tree of Life. I watched a lecture on YouTube one time by some rabbi that I found quite interesting. I don’t remember his name and I can’t find it again at the moment. Anyway, point being, that this rabbi said the function of the fifth sephiroth, which is associated with Mars, is to limit the radiance of the Divine. There’s a Hebrew word for it, of course, but I can’t remember what it is. Whatever it is, it gets to a critical issue of this trip.
That being the question of how to be the pen broken by the super-abundance of ink. We have little in the way of clear objectives; and what objectives I do adopt come to seem, for the most part, to be insubstantial. Going around the country playing open mics, meditating on the secret unwritten Act of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is not like Jackson Browne on Tour, with stadiums, roadies, groupies and cocaine. I guess that all goes without saying… except for the fact that I’m here, in the midst of this immensity, looking for signposts and provisions so subtle as to be existentially uncertain.
It’s like a dream I had this morning. I have almost no memory of it, but enough fragments of fragments to feel that it was profound to what I might call an apocalyptic degree. It was as if I’d taken the computer-generated imagery of some stupid whiskey commercial I’d seen before going to bed and imbued it with all-encompassing meaning. Then I woke up and it was all completely irrelevant.
What, though, is the real context, as moment gives way to moment gives way to moment?
As anyone who has created anything might attest, there can be a profound sense of purpose in the act itself. Each song is a sort of triumph. And I’ve played enough times now to trust that my music reaches some people. It’s not, as I’ve come to think of it, like chocolate, but like olives. Everyone loves chocolate. Some people love olives.
So, on the one hand, every night I gain something by just getting up in a room of strangers and presenting my olives as best as I can. Consistently, some people love them. But on the other, I haven’t found a way to frame this that makes any financial sense whatsoever. Moral victories will not fill a gas tank.
I need to figure this out.