Death Is Not The End, Part 10:
I Will Take You Home
Everybody's wearing a disguise
To hide what they've got left behind their eyes
But me I just can't cover what I am
Wherever the children go, I'll follow them
- Dylan, Abandoned Love
So, what is the complementary message Garcia and Cobain together left behind, the spiritual diptych? That love, peace and freedom never go out of style; and neither does anger and rage at the fact that those things are constantly having to fight for their own existence. With the increasing sense of isolation, fear and paranoia in our society, and the escalation of violence in all its forms: physical, emotional, spiritual, why is Western society, America specifically, surprised that all kids want to do these days is either have sex or kill each other? What ELSE are they bombarded with? There will be no market for love, understanding and forgiveness until advertisers realize the lucrative worth in these concepts. Duh. Until then our unprecedented democratic experiment will endeavor to slouch towards Bethlehem and the No Holds Barred, Take No Prisoners, Kill Or Be Killed replay will be shown ad nauseum on pay per view. As a society we must examine the anal retentive need for paranoiac safety and it's overcompensatory inverse: emotional and physical violence. The value of collective and individual independence is moot if the result is boys and girls growing up who can't communicate with each other, haven't got the social tools to settle disputes with reason, tact and diplomacy, and would rather fondle guns and rifles than each other.
We now live in the midst of the computer/information revolution where a whole new tool has created jobs with incredibly lucrative positions for those who have the intellectual capacity to exploit them. One person I know who has been shuttling between jobs in the software industry for years maintains that the industry is "an immature, disorganized, frustrating, poorly managed, high-turnaround, high-burnout industry run by smelly people with no social skills and no regard to human decency, an industry that thrives only because of the incredible markup allowed on its retail products. I don't know one person at Microsoft who wants to stay right now, and I know plenty. Sure, these companies make enticing places to work, but hey -- they're like honey roasted peanuts. Everyone loves them, but if we didn't have them around we wouldn't miss them." But will we miss a band that had stayed together for thirty years despite the deaths of several members of the band? When asked in interviews over the years to try and analyze the reason that fans of the Dead would quit their jobs and follow the band around the country, Garcia frequently said "To the kids today the Grateful Dead represents America: the spirit of being able to go out and have an adventure."
We live in an age of celebrities, not an age of heroes. And the kids growing up today realize this. The human fascination with heroes is a constant, as a married friend with two young daughters realized recently: "Our fascination with heroes is the relationship between ME the adult and ME the child. The heroes odyssey is one of the child as the person, adolescence as the journey, and adulthood as the return. Trouble is, most of us get so fucked up on the journey that we never quite return, or if we do, we've changed too much. The trick is to come back and still have the child AND the adult inside you together. Very rarely done. And I think that's why we're subconsciously fascinated with the whole hero thing, in all its many guises. Woody Guthrie said it best: Watch the children. Do what they do. Dance like they dance. We spend so much time trying to teach them to sing and dance and act like us, when really it should be the other way around."
Who was it who said "the child is the father to the man"? We will be who we were, and if we were cool then, we always will be. And there is nothing a child wants more than for EVERYONE, including adults, to be children, to savor and cultivate that sense of play which is the fountainhead of all joy, art and beauty. I often think that at the root of the gender wars is the fact that until females entered the work force and had to deal with the level of competitiveness necessary to succeed in a cutthroat economy, they were oblivious to the pressures breadwinners (traditionally male) have to go through to try and keep their playful spirit intact. Fortunately, the tide has been turning for a while now. But there can be nothing more humiliating for a male (as a breadwinner) than to be castigated by other males for trying to keep alive one's playful spirit. That's all an artist does. But that means pitting yourself against those who have succumbed to the avalanche of macho peer pressure. (Man's laughter. Manslaughter. Huh.) The higher the level of competition, the more emotional armor (ego) the soul needs to be able to function.
Cobain and Garcia both sired daughters, Kurt had one and Jerry had four. With the opportunities for females opening up logarhytmically, it's obvious that the future belongs to girls. As Nanci Griffith pointed out when I saw her in concert with Sara Hickman last year, this is the first generation of females that has a chance to do it on their own, they can't even turn to their mothers for guidance, really, because they truly are blazing their own trails. Even though there have been countless examples of civilized matrilineal societies throughout time, there has never been a matriarchal society, which only goes to underline that great quote of Germaine Greer's about how the challenge that modern women have to face is how to utilize their innate networking skills to establish a sense of community beyond home and hearth, yet not let it evolve into a hierarchy.
Who was it who said "religion is what one does with their aloneness"? I'd change that to "religion is what others make you do with your aloneness; spirituality is what one does with their aloneness," and The Dead provided the opportunity to be unashamedly spiritual, not religious, with every single person at their shows. It wasn't about style or volume or subversive political messages. It was simply about being, understanding and appreciating the interconnectedness with everything and each other. I think our culture is finally at a point where it is able to make a distinction between religion and spirituality but for too long the media has been trying to interview God, as if he is The Other rather than the god(dess) in each of us, which is fine, but they always ask the wrong questions...
(Larry King in U.S. News & World Report: "If we had God booked and O.J. was available, we'd move God.")
I constantly hear the term "female spirituality" and I've decided that I don't know if there is such a thing as "female spirituality" because I don't know how it would be different from "male spirituality" and I don't believe spirituality is gender specific. If it IS gender specific, than it must just be a dietary thang, a lunar/cycles/menstruation connection, or a running-with-the-wolves way of learning how to fold the newspaper. Segregation in whatever form has always frightened me for all the right reasons. It's like that line of Seymour's from Salinger's "Franny & Zooey" that I've always loved: "...all legitimate religious study must lead to unlearning the differences, the illusory differences, between boys and girls, animals and stones, day and night, heat and cold."
I think of spirituality and I think of two incidents.
I hitchhiked to the Bay Area for four months in 1986 (Valderie!), after I left Bellingham (Valderah!), believing that the earth will give to you (ValdeRIE!!!) and ask for nothing in return (Valderah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah), and that summer, those four months, meant more to me than perhaps any other summer I've ever had, meant more to me than the Expo up in Vancouver I missed that year. That summer I took my sleeping bag and nestled under the stars on top of the Berkeley Hills, and camped in the eucalyptus grove on the UC Berkeley campus, and finally began camping with the homeless on the grounds of one of the major churches in Berkeley, and fed them meals the next day at a mission and found a few folk so shattered, so full of something to give to whomever wants it, folk clenched so tightly together strictly out of centrifugal force. The congregation of that same church had decided (that summer) that the sight of the tired, poor, huddled masses under the cloisters was too unsightly and never permitted us refuge again.
Later I lived in a house on Delaware Street, a house with five women and one son. Steve (my traveling buddy) was seeing Linda and I was seeing her housemate Sue, a woman with a voice, untrained, which could easily match Sade, who was her heroine. I don't believe anyone other than her housemates and lovers ever heard her voice though, which is a pity. She loved putting brewer's yeast on everything she ate. Later Steve and I were house-sitting for a lawyer when I discovered Carlos Castenada and read Tales of Power in three sittings. I met filmmakers and Basques and 40-year-old punk musicians. I could fill five books on that four month period alone.
There was just something very magical about that summer. It felt as if I had evolved in leaps and bounds spiritually what only turned out to be four months. Basically, I had always wanted to prove to myself that good people outnumber bad people by a sizable number, so I anted up, threw myself into the arms of the world, and me coming from an overprotected suburban background I still had way too much naiveté, paranoia and fear of the world that I needed to unload. Camping by the 200 ft cliffs by Davenport; working at a movie theatre where "Mona Lisa" was playing; reading The Gnostic Gospels and The Nag Hammadi Library and realizing that The Bible (like any other book) was subjected to the prevailing censorship of the times (in this case, the Romans), and understanding how the teachings of the spiritual disciplines of the east (such as reincarnation) had been excised from The Book and only in the past hundred years have those edited sections been found and studied to provide the essential spiritual complement to what has been passed down as the word of God in Western society. (Nihilistic Western thought finally goes down on naive Eastern philosophy. Film at 11.)
I also think of standing in line for four hours one Saturday night in October 1995 for Seattle Mariners tickets to game seven of the American League Championship Series with the Cleveland Indians just to get a ticket to GET tickets Sunday morning at the exact same place. Being a Seattle "native," that was everything. "Every everything is everything," as Jay Buhner said during the team's first ever run for the pennant.
The ticket line I was in really emphasized just how much the Seattle area was suffering for a sense of community, which the whole Mariners/magic/stadium vote thing was emblematic of. This wasn't just about a sport. This was civic pride. I mean, I was standing next to a guy who looked like Steven Spielberg who talked all of our ears off; a black guy and a white guy next to me became friends instantly; Tracee, a girl who looked like she could pitch a few healthy innings to Treva, who was there with her little dog Amber (who she found), and her little brother Kevin, who got on top of Tracee's shoulders and got to throw the Nerf football around with the crowd, who also served as the gopher to get T-shirts and baseball cards.
When it was finally time to get tickets, Tracee, who was standing in front of me, got the very last ticket for game six before it sold out. But she DIDN'T WANT IT because it was only one seat and she didn't want to go alone. I had to agree with her. That would be sad and miserable watching the M's "alone." I thought that was perfect.
So, Tracee and the rest of us only got tickets for game seven.
Ah, who knows? Maybe life is just an elaborate game of Myst, where, finally, after you finish, you realize that if you told someone else what to do, you'd only ruin the surprise. I find as I grow older a lot of spiritual truths are either discovered or revealed that are so deliciously subjective, that you really can't tell anyone because you know they'll be overjoyed when they do figure it out for themselves. All I know is that when I'm alone things make sense to me, and that perspective does change when someone else is there, and if/when you're lucky enough to find that special person who changes so well WITH you, well, whatever happens, happens I guess.
"Reach out your hand if your cup be empty, if your cup is full may it feed again. Let it be known there is a fountain that was not made by the hands of men. There is a road, no certain highway, between the dawn and the dark of night. And if you go no one may follow, that path is for your steps alone. Ripple in still water, where there is no pebble tossed nor wind to blow. You who choose to lead must follow, but if you fall, you fall alone. If you should stand, then who's to guide you? If I knew the way, I would take you home."
- "Ripple," 1971, Robert Hunter
All in all is all we are
- "All Apologies," 1994, Kurt Cobain
Special thanks to: Diane Ackerman, Pete Andersen, Lester Bangs, The Beatles, Helen Bedtelyon, Jello Biafra, David Bowie, William S. Burroughs, Joseph Campbell, Neal Cassady, Carlos Castenada, Leonard Cohen, Ian Curtis, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Brian Eno, Brian Foley, Dr. Donna Gaines, Allen Ginsberg, Germaine Greer, Nanci Griffith, Dave Grohl, Woody Guthrie, Sara Hickman, Robert Hunter, Angelica Huston, David Johansen, Joy Division, Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Jack Kevorkian, Treva King, Raymond Lefevre, John Lennon, Evelyn McDonnell, Jim Morrison, Van Morrison, Krist Novoselic, New Order, Yoko Ono, Phish, Robert Plant, Perez Prado, Ramones, JD Salinger, your Seattle Mariners, Russell C. Smith, Wallace Stevens, Cason Swindle, Casey Toth, Pete Townshend, The Velvet Underground, James Walkden, Tom Waits, Yes, Frank Zappa, The Dead and the dead.