Wednesday, June 10, 2020. I’m crushed that the Nick Cave tour is cancelled. Blast this virus silliness. I had tickets for the pit area in front of the stage at the Masonic Temple in Detroit this fall and I expected the type of on-your-feet, shoulder-to-shoulder experience – rock show as ritual – that is entirely apt within the man’s keen abilities to advance mythology. That is to say, I consider him a leading interpreter of myth and mythology, someone who taps mythography (the historiography, or history of ideas of mythology) astutely and with a kind of intuitive, passionate erudition. He gets the original stories right and then, like all great artist-craftsmen, allows them to emerge from his biology transformed – recognizable but transformed – so that the myths are revitalized, refreshed, made new.
Rock shows for some of us, perhaps many of us, at least since Elvis, have replaced the church, replaced the more or less stale and dysfunctional (in mythological terms) traditional theologies and liturgies with the liturgy, the ritual of a rock show. Specific interpretations of divinity aside, our intuitive requirement for a fully functioning cultural and personal mythology includes, inevitably, a component of ritual. Some of the more moronic academics have attempted to make an argument out of which comes first, the ritual or the myth? What a silly mistake to make. As J.C. suggested, an authentic ritual is participation in the myth, it’s myth made real in terms of both the physical senses and the psychological sense – it’s our expression of the four functions of mythology, namely, as I’ve often iterated: awe, cosmology, sociology, pedagogical/supporting psychology. The best rock shows express the entire mythological package. The show and even many aspects of one’s day prior to heading out to the venue involve ritual and a pervasive, restorative, variously invigorating and unsettling sense of special-ness.
It’s indeed a form of worship. Sunday for a Christian, for instance, is a special day. Or it ought to be. Not merely the church service but the whole day expresses a sensitivity or devotion to what may be termed Otherness or the Mystery. The images of one’s faith, if it is indeed a mythologically fully functional one, are foremost for a day. It is the worship of images, yes, but images as metaphors, as symbols – J.C. termed them “affecting symbols.” And the rock show is no exception. What is rock music, after all, if not a presentation and celebration of images, sonic and visual? Well, someone may argue, we ought not to worship rock stars because they’re just people. Get a clue. We aren’t worshiping Nick Cave when we’re crammed together and grooving to the music, the visuals, to the experience; rather, on a good day, we’re transported and what we’re worshiping is life. Our life. Everyone’s life together. Nick’s life. Elvis’s life. “With his black jelly hair he crashed onto a stage in Vegas….” – a great lyric from “Spinning Song” off the magnificent Ghosteen. We don’t identify with Nick Cave or Elvis or John Lennon, rather, we identify with the symbol of them; that window they are providing, more or less successfully on any given night on stage, unto transcendence, unto the divinity within and without. We are transported. Where? All the way in and all the way out, so to say.
If you’re dubious about all this then, staying on theme, it so happens that Nick Cave contributed a song, “Cosmic Dancer” (of course, go Shiva!) to a forthcoming T. Rex tribute album, AngelHeaded Hipster – heavy hitters like Lucinda Williams and even U2 are present. The vintage Marc Bolan shots in Cave’s video alone are worth watching. Cave, for his part, performs a dreamy, almost wistful, obliquely playful rendition of the song, setting aside Bolan’s playful, self-aware raunchiness on behalf of a kind of mild reverence. Cave begins to smile near the end of what amounts his mythologization of the already potent mythology of T. Rex and it’s there that one gets a glimpse into the acutely intuitive nature of art-craft expression. One proceeds carefully or with abandon or with something in between, whatever works.
And Marc Bolan and his music was, in a word, funny. Ironic, too, which reflected his intelligence. But always fun. Irony absent of humor is merely critical and mean-spirited. All the best, most vital and otherwise classical myths contain humor, after all, this is another thing J.C. makes clear. Rock and roll is nothing if not a euphemism for sex and if you don’t find hilarity in sex then, well, I don’t know what to say.
Anyway, pay special attention to the clips of Bolan on stage, arms upraised, sweaty, possessed by the music, intensely within himself yet clearly swept away, too, outside of himself, at one with the experience that involves everyone else present, the audience and the energy. What else is ritual? I’m convinced Cave himself, in his own live performances, identifies exactly with the transportive, enrapturing nature of a rock show, something beyond mere workaday showmanship or, on behalf of an audience, being merely entertained.
We go to a rock show, then, some of us at least, to get outside of ourselves and participate in a group experience of a meaningful or vital or dangerous or comforting or disturbing or centering or grounding or unnerving or unsettling experience. We go with expectations, one of the most significant of which is the expectation of experiencing the unexpected. Some of us expect to be indulged – play the hits! – and others, like me for instance, find a show memorable only when I’m challenged by the interpretation of things, of a band investigating something versus merely playing by rote or simply jamming. I get that a touring musician is, like any of us, working a job but on the best nights, the art-craft transcends its workaday aspect and the magic, the divinity, the Mystery is engaged.
The experience is larger, of course, more complex, than mere enjoyment just as bliss within Campbell’s mythological context is not to be understood as happiness or contentment. Or even the wishy-washy idea of “meaning.” People are not searching for meaning, suggests J.C. somewhere, as much as they are seeking the experience of being properly alive. This is what we are seeking when we go to church, attend a séance, participate in a rock concert or even, if it’s key to our personal mythology – if there is a contemplative quality, a spirituality to one’s ritual – spending a day knee-deep in a stream fishing for trout.
And, inevitably, the experience and expression of myth, be it in a church service or personal prayer, also makes or remakes myth, it transforms it by way of using it, in subtle or dramatic ways, depending upon the zeal of the participant(s), the integrity of the myth – its aptness and condition of relevance or vitality; whether the myth can be said to be keeping up with the times.
A ritual, then, re-dramatizes a myth. A ritual revitalizes and enlivens a myth. A ritual re-energizes a myth and presents the opportunity, sans an otherwise adjudicating environment, to remake or reinvent it. Or not. Sometimes a ritual – church service or rock show – can’t get out of its own way, as it were, and expresses nothing but the mechanics of praxis. Alternatively, myth, fully functional myth, is of the mind, the heart, the gut and the gonads all at once. Including dream, be it waking or sleeping. Nick C. and the Bad Seeds, then. Oh, what could’ve been….
DOP1 (2012) VINTAGE POST:
Senate Bean soup , 3439 bread and a shot-glass of zinfandel:
Thursday, November 08, 2012. Another visit to the financial folks last night, this time with a lawyer for estate planning. We’re most concerned with power-of-attorney for end-of-life shit, if one of us were to be incapacitated, we want control over pulling plugs and stuff like that – it’s irresponsible to leave it hanging so to say and then cause a bunch of chaos and agony among those left behind. Also, we want to have a method to distribute whatever assets are left when we go without having anything go to probate court. A trust, which is the most comprehensive method of taking care of this shit (versus just a will, which can be contained within a trust anyway) is costs about $2200. It sounds like a lot, but we’ve already dropped the $300 for the poa stuff, so minus that, it’s really not unreasonable given the efficiency and usefulness of it when the time comes – two grand over maybe thirty years isn’t anything. I think you can get a little too concerned about the details of your passing – you’re dead after all – but to leave a mess behind when you don’t have to isn’t cool. It’s just acknowledging that there’s going to be a process that plays out when you die and there’s decisions that have to be made either in advance or after the fact; you can’t get around the logistics and some paperwork, so you may as well keep it as tidy as possible and try to minimize the bureaucracy involved in your passing.
Which brings me to the topic of money again. The lawyer of course had to ask about my income and it’s an uncomfortable, clumsy, but thankfully brief exchange where the guys with jobs are a little taken aback by my lack of employment and maybe the way I don’t describe myself as “unemployed” which would imply that I’m down on my luck but looking for work. Blah, blah, nobody’s being an asshole and nobody really cares of course and if I “act as if” I know what I’m doing, it works out. But I still wish I could make some fucking money. A lot of it. My $500K/year is what I want. I fantasize about doing my thing – engaging my vocations – and, like a rich rock star or successful writer, business owner, whatever, I could be sitting here typing and making loads of money. Versus sitting here typing with no plan or opportunity to ever make another dime, ever. Ugh. It’s just a fucking continuous psychological challenge to stick with the plan, even given my progress from yesterday. My work doesn’t pay. Imagining it might pay in the future doesn’t do any good for plans today or tomorrow. It doesn’t allow us to plan for anything besides what we can do with Angie’s money. I’m not happy with that; I’m not satisfied with that. But I need to stick with the plan – I need to give this life the year I promised it. Then we’ll see. But I’m perplexed nonetheless; I’d like to be able to explain to myself at least how I’m going to go about getting back into the world, because I’d like to. But if it’s going to be on my terms, then I have to accept the possibly for never getting back, never finding a way. I might run out of time to get this life “right.” Is it good enough as it is? To paraphrase Thoreau, does it have enough elasticity, starriness, fragrance and immortality for me? The money is missing and it bothers me. But I know that a forty-seven-year habit of living with money as king will take more than a few months to shake. I want to begin again without that habit and see if I can see what needs to be seen about it, about money and what it means to me.
I finished my beef stock and it smells good and looks good, as usual. I used plenty of meat this time and I’ve learned that as much as making a stock from bones alone, even meaty bones sounds great from an economical standpoint – it’s cheaper than adding meat – the result isn’t really worth the effort. Beef stock made only from shank bones just doesn’t have the flavor that justifies making it. For eight pounds of bones, you need to include at least one big beef shank and if your bones are clean, then two or even three. I used three small to medium shanks this time and the stock is great, I’m very happy with it. Here’s the fat seal covering the stock:
Removing the fat, showing how thick the layer is using eight pounds of bones and three meaty beef shanks, and giving some indication of the good, gloppy, gelatinous body:
Friday, November 09, 2012. Having spent some years now reading the words of many writers, all dedicated to the work of the self, I’m not surprised to find their thoughts arriving at the same destinations and otherwise meshing and merging into one another. (You can tell I’ve just been reading Thoreau versus say, Neil Young, because my writing voice changes to mimic whomever I’ve last read. I’m not impressed that I’ve yet to discover my own writing voice, one that is uninfluenced by the affectations of my last author. Oh well, it may come to me or not; I write on regardless.) The reader will recognize a common theme in more words from Thoreau:
So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us, like grass which confesses the influence of the slightest dew that falls on it; and did not spend our time in atoning for the neglect of past opportunities, which we call doing our duty. We loiter in winter while it is already spring.
 Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 239-40.