Paul Williams – “Common Sense” (1982)

April 26, 2009 at 12:54 pm (Poetry & Literature)

 

A guide to the present situation

 

Our purpose here
is to take action
and have an effect on the world.

We have been born
into a moment
of unprecedented danger and opportunity.

Our failure to act
is itself a choice.

There is nowhere to hide
from this awareness.

It is time.

It is time for each one of us
to commit our energy, time, money, attention
to a vision of enduring peace and abundance
to a vision of humanity as a sound mind
in the healthy body of the biosphere
to a vision of a world that works

to a vision of our children’s children
growing up in a world without war
a world committed to the freedom and dignity
of every individual
regardless of race, sex belief or nation
a world committed to clean air, clean food, clean water
for all
a world united in the awareness
that in diversity lies strength
a world more full of love than hatred

It is time for each of us 
to vote with our lives
–our daily lives–
for or against
the vision of a more hopeful future.

Our purpose here
is to build a bridge.

The purpose of the bridge
is to span the distance
between our present situation
and our vision of a better world.

The beauty of a bridge is that,
once it is in place,
anyone can walk on it.

A few people can build a bridge
that can be walked on by many.

This is our response
to the dangers that face us:

We will build a bridge of faith
over the great ocean.

Every individual on earth
is welcome
to take part in this work.

It is as individuals, working alone or in groups,
that we will accomplish our goals.

This is the greatest challenge we have ever faced.
We humans are being given the opportunity
to use what we’ve learned.

Hey, I see you, hiding under the rug there.
Come out, my friend, and be of service.  It’s time.

breathe in, breathe out
breathe in hope, breathe out fear
breathe in courage, breathe out despair
the time for action has arrived
breathe in love, breathe out fatigue
breathe in, breathe out
fear keeps going out
there’s never an end to it, but it’s not a problem

there are no problems
 

keep breathing

I am bringing forth my own energy
I can feel it welling up in me
and pouring out into my work
I can’t say thank you for the gifts fast enough
I can’t stop crying out for more

What a wonderful moment to be alive in!

The momentum achieved
by many different people
in different places
working towards a common goal

is a tremendous source
of encouragement and strength

it allows each of us to approach our individual efforts
with joy and energy and love

and yet that moment always returns
when we are alone with our uncertainties

On the edge of the dream
we face our deepest doubts.

Now that it all is almost real
a terrible fear of success takes hold
and we grab desperately, uncontrollably, for failure.

One last chance to get off easy.

Who among us really wants to save the world,
to be born again into two thousand more years
of struggle?
How much sweeter to be the doomed generation,
floating gently on the errors and villainy of others,
towards some glorious apocalypse now…

Hallelujah!  It’s not my fault —
Bring on the end times!

We hate our enemies
to provide ourselves in advance
with excuses for possible failure

Only when we give up
the comforts of pessimism
the luxury of enemies
the sweetness of helplessness
can we see beyond our own doubts.

I am speaking today of a great possibility
a chance to return to life
a chance to create a world for our children
not worse than the one we have

How dare I be discouraged in the work
by anything so trivial
as the fear of personal failure?

Fear of success and fear of failure
must be pushed aside and replaced
with enthusiasm for the work at hand
every day a new beginning

Let’s go —

There are bridges to build
new maps of consciousness to be delivered
to every planetary address
in every planetary language

We are ironworkers, skywalkers,
stubborn messengers
of light and life.

Oh friends
don’t forget
why we’re here!

The truth is, we have the skills
and we have the courage
if we could only keep our minds
on what we really want.

When you know what you want
all things are possible.

We want many things.
Now is the time to take a look at our priorities.
I can’t believe we want security and comfort
for ourselves
more than we want good health and full lives
for our children.
But our actions don’t always express our priorities.
Not because we’re afraid to admit
that our daily choices of where to commit our energies
will make the difference.
 

We are afraid to admit 
that we could be building bridges
right now.

The truth is, we have everything to gain
and nothing to lose.
The satisfaction of knowing
you are doing your heart’s work
cannot be matched by any other pleasure on earth.
The freedom of total service to a greater good
is exactly what every seeker is searching for.
Maybe what really scares us 
is that if we stopped procrastinating
something real might happen.

What is the nature of the work?
I think the first step is to add yourself
to the vision.
Imagine that you have a specific role to play…
and don’t take no for an answer.

breathe in, breathe out

it is time to remember what I already know
it is time to gather the tools I already have
time to walk forward naked in the direction
where my heart’s voice tells me to go
confident that my tools and my knowledge 
will be at hand when I need them

breathe in, breathe out
fill my lungs with patience
exhale anxiety and greed

today I take a vow
not to love the world more than myself
not to love myself more than I love the world

I vow to build a bridge
over this gulf of imagination
that pretends to separate
my awareness of my own needs
from my awareness of the needs of the planet

we are one

that means I must serve you
if I wish to please myself

Let us serve as models.

And let us vow
to enjoy our work so much
that the hesitant and the fearful will grow jealous
and drop their chains
and run to join the fun.

How to prevent world catastrophe:

1) Admit that it could happen.
2) Decide that it will not happen
3) Commit your vision and energy to number two
without ever forgetting number one.

To choose to build a bridge
is the essential act of love.

 

Paul Williams 
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Matt Miller – “Jack Kerouac and the Satori Highway” (2002)

April 26, 2009 at 9:17 am (Jack Kerouac, Reviews & Articles, The Beats)

This article about Jack Kerouac and “On the Road” was written by freelance writer Matt Miller, Sept. 1, 2002, and comes from the Literary Traveler website…

 

 

satori – Pronunciation:
(su-tr’E, -tOr’E),
n. Zen. sudden enlightenment.

 

In 1957, Jack Kerouac, a French Canadian kid from the mill-town of Lowell, Massachusetts, published his second novel, On the Road, and became an instant celebrity. The book would become a stone thrown into a cultural lake whose ripple would grow to Tsunami proportions and wash across the American landscape.

 

Forty years after its publication, in the summer of 1997, my buddy Dave Robinson and I packed up all we knew of life in the back of a black Ford Bronco and left our hometown for the west destiny highway. We burned out of town, leaving behind the worn bar brass polish of the Gaelic Club, the grease and bacon smell of Arthur’s Diner, the glory-day field of Cawley Stadium, and the heavy worn redbrick faces of the mills that always tempt to pull the world down into the sad black Merrimack canals. We burned out of Lowell. Kerouac’s hometown. Our hometown. Bouncing between route and interstates we wound across the open roads of the continental U.S. Some weeks later, near Broadway and Columbus, in San Francisco, outside “Vesuvios” and “City Lights Books”, we stood in front of the little alley known as “Jack Kerouac Street.” Our journey had been much inspired by Kerouac’s writing. As we stood there, I felt, if for just a moment, that swelling and erupting feeling of complete arrival that Kerouac had written of

 

Behind us lay the whole of America and everything I had previously known about life…We had finally found a magic land at the end of the road and we never had dreamed the extent of the magic.

 

Kerouac was hardly the first to create a work of inspirational travel. America itself has had a long tradition of literary travel. Huck Finn, Hiawatha, and Ishmael are all testaments to such tradition. These works show that the reason behind such travel is not necessarily the prize of arrival but the experience of the journey itself. And yet, while following in such literary tradition, Kerouac broke away from previous such works in that he wrote from, and of, a setting more intimately and uniquely American than rivers and oceans and forests. This setting was the American highway.

 

Nowhere in the world is there such a criss-crossed intricate web of comings and goings than on the American highway. Nowhere else can a person drive away from an Atlantic Coast fishing town on Monday and be wading in the warm surf that rolls in just beyond the Pacific Coast Highway by Friday, and en route see the mass multicultural strangeness of the United States. No check-points and no papers of passage required. The whole country is a breathing expectant free road mother of creation. Interstates and routes, city streets and suburban avenues, they all cut across the land in long asphalt scars connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific and Canada to Mexico. And in between is the beauty of chaos and commonality inherent in the American late summer afternoon. In On the Road, Kerouac wrote of screaming across these highways in a style of writing he called “spontaneous bop prosody.” Inspired by the mad jab melee between genius and incoherency that was Neal Cassady. Kerouac used this spontaneous prosody to reflect the highway driving speed, the drug and booze blitzkrieg, and the hot bop jazz that all came together to thrust him again and again across the American highway.

 

And yet the heroes of On the Road, Sal and Dean, do not launch themselves arbitrarily into this intoxication of music and movement. Kerouac sought to show two men on a journey of the soul, a religious quest for God and reason in an age heavy with the apocalyptic fear of nuclear war and America’s quest for homogeneity. Sal (Jack Kerouac) and Dean (Neal Cassady) were trying to break loose from the military industrial culture and cold war conformity of mid-century America. A sun spawned Promethean truth was what Kerouac was seeking as Sal and Dean stung their tires on the asphalt in Dean’s “old jalopy chariot with thousands of sparkling flames shooting out from it”. As Gerald Nicosia wrote of On the Road in his critical biography of Kerouac, Memory Babe,

 

… no matter how far they travel in the external world, they (Sal and Dean) are ceaselessly penetrating deeper into their own souls. They are constantly aware their travel, by the excitement and curiosity it generates, is a means to understanding themselves. Travel to them is a conscious philosophical method by which they test the store of hand-me-down truisms.

 

The highway journey, then, metaphorically becomes the ritual path on which you test the truths you have been told against the truths you have learned. On the highway, one finds the cosmic crossroads at which you determine your destiny. On the Roads between New York and San Francisco, Denver and Texas, or Chicago and Mexico somewhere racing along those stretching highways arrives the meaning and mastery of each possible moment of a person’s life.

Kerouac sought to move so fast and to live so hard so as to burn off forever the stiff mechanical mental wings and physical fuselage that bound him to this world. Thus he could be thrust into the universe by the absolute truth of the soul:

 

And just for a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the complete slip across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiances shining in bright Mind Essence

 

So Kerouac lived to wash in the truth of experience, trying to find the people and moments that would bring him ever closer to that world-waking enlightenment. Kerouac, for his part, followed and recorded himself and his friends who were to him,

 

…the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww! ‘

 

It was in such moments of witnessed beauty when you feel the touch of the universe divine. It was this search inward for divinity that drove Kerouac to such external extremes.

 

While hardly his only work of art, On the Road, for better or worse, has become Kerouac’s most famous. It has become a catalyst for countless other restless and curious souls. The book itself spawned a cultural revolution, putting millions on new vision paths. At the same time it vaulted Kerouac to a fame that his quiet, religious soul was not prepared to deal with. The consumer culture that Kerouac sought to break with would ultimately consume him, as he fell into a flat spin of alcoholism and reactionary conservatism. Yet On the Road remains as a testament to the wandering pioneer spirit of America, a spirit that knows it is lost and attempts to be found. On the Road still sparks the piston psyches of readers everywhere. It showed people that sometimes it is just enough to point the soul and go, and keep going, not slowing down enough to stiffen up because only the dead should be stiff.

 

Kerouac wrote in On the Road that, “everybody goes home in October.” These words could not have been more prophetic, as Kerouac died on October 21, 1969, at the age of forty-seven.

 

So now, back on the East coast, in the lonely quiet of late August afternoon, looking over the antennas and satellite dishes of Boston rooftops where already the evening star has begun “drooping and shedding its sparkler dims” and already Autumn has its cool breath on the evening air, I imagine myself some twenty seven miles north pulling off Route 3 to the Lowell Connector where I take a right at the last exit. I imagine myself beyond the rundown dustiness of Ghoram Street, within the gated city of Edson cemetery, on Lincoln Avenue between 7th and 8th Streets, where a small marble tablet reads “Ti Jean – John L. Kerouac – March 12, 1922-October 21, 1969 – He honored Life.”

 

And for all the sadness and bitterness that crept into Kerouac’s later years, there was a time, before the “hero-hungry” world dragged him down, that Jack Kerouac did “Honor Life.” More so than many of us could do in several lifetimes. Whether or not he ever completed his own vision quest is irrelevant in that he gave us a starting point and the first corner edge of a map to our own often lonely-road-search for soul and self.  

 

What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too huge world vaulting us, and it’s goodbye. But we lean toward to the next crazy adventure beneath the skies.

 

Matt Miller 

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Prince – “Crimson and Clover” (Video – 2009)

April 26, 2009 at 8:49 am (Music, Prince)

The extremely psychadelic new video from Prince….a cover of the old Tommy James classic (incorporating a bit of “Wild Thing” by The Troggs, by way of Jimi Hendrix)…from his new collection LotusFlow3r

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U2 – “The Unforgettable Fire” (Video – 1984)

April 26, 2009 at 8:10 am (Music, U2)

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Bill Flanagan – “Interview with Bob Dylan – Part 6” (2009)

April 26, 2009 at 1:46 am (Bob Dylan, Music, Reviews & Articles)

The final part of Bill Flanagan’s recent interview with Bob Dylan, about his new album, songwriting, politics, history, etc. Dylan’s new album Together Through Life comes out this month…

 

LIFE IS HARD comes from a tradition that got pretty much wiped out by the popularity of swing and blues and rock n roll. I remember Leon Redbone said once that the big break in 20th century music was not in the 50’s when rock camein; it was when swing and jazz knocked off parlor piano ballads in the late 20’s and early 30’s. Do you ever wish that old style had stuck around a little longer?

Today, the mad rush of the world would trample over delicate music like that. Even if it had survived swing and jazz it would never make it past Dr. Dre. Things changed economically and socially. Two world wars, the stock market crash, the depression, the sexual revolution, huge sound systems, techno-pop. How could anything survive that? You can’t imagine parlor ballads drifting out of hi rise multi-towered buildings. That kind of music existed in a more timeless state of life. I love those old piano ballads. In my hometown walking down dark streets on quiet summer nights you would sometimes hear parlor tunes coming out of doorways and open windows. Somebody’s mother or sister playing A BIRD IN A GILDED CAGE off of sheet music. I actually tried to conjure up that feeling once in a song I did called IN THE SUMMERTIME.

 

No one was expecting a new album from you right now. I heard even the
record company was surprised. How do you know it’s time to go in and make a new one?

You never do know. You just think sometimes if not now I’ll never do it. This particular album was supposed to come out next Fall sometime; September, October; when the movie’s released. We made it last year and it was supposed to be put away for a year. But then the guys from the record company heard it, and decided that they would like to put it out in early spring and not wait for the movie.

 

You don’t use elevated language on these songs – it’s mostly every-day speech and imagery. Did you decide to keep a lid on the poetry this time out – was it what the musical style demanded?

I’m not sure I agree. It’s not easy to define poetry. Hank Williams used simple language too.

 

IT’S ALL GOOD is a terrific song. You use that common catch phrase as a hook and describe a world that gets darker and more miserable with every verse – it’s kind of funny and kind of scary. How did that song get started?

Probably from hearing the phrase one too many times.

 

Every girl named Roxanne feels a connection to Sting. Every Alison
thinks Elvis Costello was singing about her. You expecting to meet a lot of Jolenes?

Oh gosh, I hope not.

 

Any chance your Jolene is the same woman who got Dolly Parton so worked up?

You mean that woman with the flaming locks of auburn hair?

 

Yeah! Whose smile is like a breath of Spring.

Oh yeah, I remember her.

 

Is it the same one?

It’s a different lady.

 

At the end of JOLENE I noticed that those riffs start happening. I’ve seen you do that live, but I’ve never heard that on any of your records. I assume that’s Donnie playing with you.

Yeah, it is. The organ sound and steel guitar combined make those riffs.

 

Tony, your bass player has been with you now for. . . what?

Gee, I don’t know, probably for a while. Fifteen, twenty years.

 

How about your drummer, George?

Not as long as Tony but longer than my last drummer.

 

Where does George come from to play like that?

George is from Louisiana. He’s from New Orleans.

 

There’s no characters on this record like the ones in DESOLATION ROW, except maybe Judge Simpson in SHAKE, SHAKE MAMA. Would he be one of these archetypal figures like Cinderella or Shakespeare in the alley?

Oh, most definitely. He’s a possum huntin’ judge.

 

Certain singers show up in IT’S ALL GOOD. Neil Young and Alicia Keys
have popped up on your recent albums. Do you think all your musician
friends are going to be looking for shout-outs now? Once you start down
that road how do you get out of it?

Well these people are archetypes, too. They might not think of themselves like that, but they are. They represent an idea.

 

Could you write a song about anybody?

Well I bet you could, yeah.

 

How would you get Stevie Wonder into a song?

When Stevie Wonder recorded BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND/ I was playin’ cards/ I was drinkin’ gin.

 

Could you write a song LIKE Stevie wonder?

I could write one like SUPERSTITION but I couldn’t write one like SIR DUKE.

 

Could you write a song about George Bush?

Well sure. George’s name would be easy to rhyme.

 

In the song I FEEL A CHANGE COMING ON the character says. . .

Wait a minute Bill. I’m not a playwright. The people in my songs are all me.
I thought we talked about that?

 

What exactly makes it you?

It’s in the way you say things. It’s not necessarily the things you say that make you who you are.

 

Okay, I think the line is, “I see my baby coming, she’s walking with the village priest/I feel a change coming on.”

Yeah, but you’re leaving a lot out.

 

Okay, but that’s the part I remember. I assume the guy, or YOU, are talking about being hooked up with somebody and feeling pretty good about it. Given what a hard time women have given the men, or YOU, in the other songs on the album, we can read this as a happy ending or a sign of trouble ahead. What are the chances that the guy in FEEL A CHANGE is likely to live happily ever after?

You might be reading too much into it. It’s not a fairy tale type song. There are degrees of happiness. You go from one to the other and then back again. It’s hard to be completely happy when those around us are suffering and groaning from hunger. But I know what you mean. You are talking about riding off into the sunset hoping that whatever you’ve done will outlive you.

 

Isn’t that the Hindu point of view?

Maybe it is.

 

A lot of performers give God credit for their music. How do you suppose
God feels about that?

I’m not the one to ask. It sounds like people just giving credit where credit is due.

 

How do you think this new record will be received?

I know my fans will like it. Other than that, I have no idea.

 

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