Thursday, December 12, 2013 3:30 PM
“For old Ralph, former top quick draw artist,
lousy guitar player, tossed in the ground yesterday[…]”
— (c) Dec. 12th, 2013 by Dean J. Baker http://deanjbaker.wordpress.com/
I highly recommend Dean Baker’s blog “Dean J. Baker – Poetry, and prose poems”. I read this today, from his poetry-blog, and it struck me how my take on these words would differ from that of others’. You see, I’ve been playing lousy piano for most of my life, and I’m proud of it.
We bad musicians are an elite few—we cannot restrain ourselves from playing badly, figuring lousy music is better than none—we don’t concern ourselves with bad reviews because we’ve never gotten a good one. (O, sure, you get those fake good reviews from people who love you—but they only highlight the lack of enthusiasm amongst strangers.)
It doesn’t surprise me that Old Ralph was homeless—we lousy musicians are easy prey amongst the people that face reality, that have black and white judgments on things—we need our dreams and we don’t see any great value in tearing them down. We dislike the smart-alecks who insist that hungry is hungry and cold is cold—as if we have never been hungry and cold (or, as if they ever had been).
It is the voice of fear. Yes, fear has its place—but I’m convinced that we’ve taken ‘fear’ into a strange, new place. We’re not concerned so much about climate change, but we fight like dogs over water rights. We’re not concerned so much for fundamentalists who endorse ignorance over curiosity, but we argue late into the night about why God created us 10% homosexual and how we should treat that 10%.
We witness politicians legitimize fear with legislation. We see capitalists use our fears against us. We see major faiths enshrine age-old fears. And more and more we see the powerful super-wealthy advertising their most cherished fears as if they were common sense—actually spending money to form puppet NPOs and buying airtime to spread their solipsisms from coast to coast.
We can never go back, either. When society makes a technological advance these days it is pre-formatted to fit in with the existing tech (think USB ports). To fail to use the new, next thing is to be instantly mired in obsolescence. High-finance types and legislators use this to their advantage—if they can put in a fix, the world goes by too fast for anyone else to undo their treachery (think the ‘derivatives market’). And the truly gigantic egos that struggle to keep their hands on that tiller—well, their interests aren’t exactly congruent with the 99%.
But I digress. Shying away from advanced tech, or circumventing tech altogether, as the Amish sometimes do, is only protected by the massive civilization that surrounds them—this is a dead end, as it would put us even further under the sway of the top of the pyramid. See ‘hippy communes’ for more information regarding the abuse of power in a small community—and how it makes just as much trouble as the super-wealthy do in their element, i.e. world domination.
Thus we are disabused of the fantasy of idyllic retreat. Pollution, de-forestation, and gorging on non-renewable resources are all in fast-forward mode. We can’t turn our backs on the entrenched powers-that-be, because they are rushing pell-mell towards the destruction of the planet. And speaking of speed, this situation isn’t static—the human race has jumped onto a speeding, out-of-control train—we have to fix things with one hand as we hang on for dear life with the other.
Which brings up another problem—we already have a lot of problems, many of them involving hunger or hatred, and we can interrupt any effort to alleviate one of those problems simply by pointing out that some other problem is being neglected—the politicians keep us running in circles while little change is realized. We now have a full panel of distractions (other problems) the number of which is so large that conversations may go on for days without reaching any clear point.
So, yes, I say that maintaining our dreams is invaluable—and this applies to easily disproved fantasies as well—because modern problems surround us, threaten us, every damn day. We must do what we can, try as we might—in spite of our society appearing to head full-speed towards its own destruction—and in that struggle for change and the struggle to survive, to care for our families and their futures, we need a little rest stop now and again. If I pretend to be a piano player, where’s the harm? If I was trying to interrupt a concert at Carnegie Hall so I could play for the audience myself—well, that’s just plain crazy—and I am by no means endorsing crazy (another time, perhaps). But if I just play to myself there’s no reason to cure me of that delusion other than cruelty or spite.
And so I mourn old Ralph, the lousy guitar player—and I mourn the loss of his brave example, playing guitar to soothe his soul — even when others didn’t applaud.