Friday, July 06, 2007

Watching the Wheels

I've acknowledged in the past year or so that I'm not as young as I used to be. I've noticed, to no small consternation, the obligatory thinning hair and specks of gray on my temples that signify that I am getting closer to thirty and farther away from my riotous, selfish twenties.

Thus, I'm less inclined to play the same hipper-than-thou games that characterized my time at college and my late teens. It just doesn't matter anymore. Granted, I always had enough of a sense of irony to never plunge headlong into the Games Hipsters Play With Each Other. Yet, I did cling to my own sense of unique individualism as a shield against what I perceived at the time to be a cold, unforgiving world. An acquaintance of mine used to dispense the brutal truth whilst intoxicated and one memorable evening he mentioned we all know that you're different, but you wear your eccentricities like a badge. It upset me at the time, the way only the truth can inflame the tempers.

If you wanted to whittle down the reasons for this attitude it could be summarized in one word: insecurity. All of us who played this admittedly puerile game with one another were wretchedly unhappy with ourselves. Though we would never admit it to ourselves, the core of resentment we had built up over time was at not being mainstream and normal, whatever normal meant.

So, in response, I clung to this idea of ultimate purity in a futile effort to prevent what I perceived as the evil corrupting influences of mainstream society. It's the same pursuit that killed Kurt Cobain, if the suicide note rings true. Nothing to me was more abhorrent than to have MY music, MY literature, MY fashion sense subjugated by popular culture and misappropriated by those I perceived as utterly unqualified to appreciate or take it as seriously as I felt it deserved. To have my personal passions defiled by an army of bandwagon-jumpers and dilettantes appeared to my ears as fingernails on a chalkboard and to my eyes as the defilement of some sacred religious relic.

My anthem of those days was the Nirvana song "In Bloom", with its sardonic lyrics directed towards a clueless fan: he's the one who likes all our pretty songs/and he likes to sing along/and he likes to shoot his gun/but he don't know what it means.

One needs only consult Frank Zappa's album We're Only in it for the Money to confront the reality behind the sugar-coated feel good myth that has been perpetuated for the sake of nostalgia. The whole album skewers hippies and squares both as victims of the same slavish conformity. The hordes who descended on Haight and Ashbury streets were in search of free sex, free drugs, and irresponsibility. The cause meant nothing to them. Zappa sings, sneeringly I'm really just a phony/ but forgive me 'cause I'm stoned.

Anyone who really remembers the sixties can tell you that before long, you could buy your own "Hippie Kit" in stores and how J.C. Penny and modern retailers quickly used this new fashion craze as a means to sell product. I'm young enough to remember that within a year of Nirvana-mania, department stores were selling pre-ripped jeans and flannel shirts.

Now that I'm older, I've come to accept these are inevitabilities of humanity . Fighting against the inevitable is an impossible task which can crush spirit, break hearts, and cause mental collapses but the world keeps on spinning nevertheless. Might as well just learn to stop worrying and learn to love the bomb.

As for me, personally, these days, it just doesn't matter. It's tough for any idealist to choke down the idea that capitalism, just by its very nature, take someone's novel idea and whittles it down for dispersal to the lowest common denominator all in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Fighting against it, in effect, cloistering someone's ingenuity is an impossibility. I may not like it, but such is life.

Furthermore, a new side of me has emerged. Why deny everyone the right to enjoy what I may personally find sacrosanct? Imagine if this mentality had been applied to the teachings of great religious inspirations like Jesus of Nazareth, the Buddha, Muhammad, Moses, et al. Before I became a Christian, I used to delight at all the methods by which the teachings of that radical prophet had become perverted over time. It's easy for we closet Puritans to cluck our tongues in righteous condemnation, but no one has ever had to teach me that humans are hypocritical beings. We are all sinners. We lie, cheat, steal, we take advantage of our fellow beings to pad our own nests.

Yet the message and virtue of love, rather than selfishness remains. Though we may need to be reminded from time to time of what really matters, at least these words of wisdom have been dispersed. Some may take it seriously, some may not understand it all in full, and some may disregard it but the word is out. I'm glad someone bothered to preserve the words. I'm glad my favorite songs were committed to tape. I'm glad there was film in the camera of my favorite movies.

Who am I to judge someone else's visceral, emotional, auditory, and spiritual experience as somehow lesser than my own? We all want to be heard. We all want to belong. And we all want to be loved as we are.

The world has enough hyper-critics and though I at times find myself falling into old patterns of thought where my insecurities tumble out of my mouth in the form of scathing condemnation, I've made more of an attempt to let people just be, as they are.

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