Thursday, May 04, 2006

Vindicating the Sixties: Throwing Out the Babies With the Bong Water

Nothing happened in the sixties except that we all dressed up. --John Lennon

When I write my posts in the morning, I just start writing--or typing, anyway. When I begin, I have no idea whether the topic that has chosen me will actually sustain an entire post, much less round itself out with a nice beginning, middle and end. But somehow, it usually does. I’m starting to realize that by working in this more spontaneous way I come up with better things than I could have if I had relied upon my conscious mind to think things out in advance.

Today is a case in point. I have just the germ of an idea that popped into my head yesterday, but I have no idea if I will be able to flesh it out into an entire post. It’s as if I picked up the end of a thread. If I follow it, will it lead anywhere? Or is it just a worthless piece of string? I guess we’ll find out. Petey will let us know.

The idea occurred to me while writing about the “seven deadly sins,” and associating these with a lot of the nonsense that was unleashed in the 1960’s: “Ideas have consequences, bad ideas as much as good ones. And toxic ideas that are hatched in the high country of the mind have a way of flowing downhill, trickling into the rivers, streams and creeks below.... One of the central psycho-spiritual ‘mind parasites’ that infected all of the water in the 1960’s was the idea that our outward, civilized personalities are inauthentic. Rather, the ‘real you’ is that repressed id, your undisguised animal drives and passions.... You can see just how pervasive this attitude has become. It gets to the heart of the ‘culture war,’ one side celebrating ‘authenticity’ and its close cousin, ‘attitude,’ the other side wishing to preserve traditional standards of excellence and decency.”

The problem here is that I consider myself a full-blooded “child of the sixties,” and I did not take away the above lesson. For just as there was an obvious shadow side of the 1960’s, the very presence of the shadow must indicate that there was light somewhere. In my case, I believe I absorbed a lot of the light, but instinctively rejected the darkness.

I think a lot of it has to do with my age. Most people would situate the “long 1960’s” between the date of JFK’s assassination in November of 1963, when I was just eight years old, and Nixon’s resignation in August of 1974, when I was still nineteen. Interestingly, Rudolf Steiner says that we do not become completely “ensouled” until around the age of nine, from which point on we have a more or less continuous recollection of our past. Before that, our memories are usually somewhat spotty.

That’s certainly how it was for me. My conscious mind started coming “on line” at exactly the same time that the 1960’s really got underway. I was still eight years old when I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in 1964, which for me was that “Wizard of Oz” moment when the world suddenly turned from black and white to color. I was just 11 during the “Summer of Love” (way too young to do anything about it but enjoy the spectacle), 12 when King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, 13 for Woodstock (thus greatly enjoying drugs without ever having actually tried any at that point), 14 for Kent State, and 17 when the draft ended, making for a particularly carefree senior year of high school. I was really not aware of the ugly politics of the era, except as a sort of dramatic backdrop. From my vantage point, it just looked like a lot of people trying to have fun vs. a lot of people trying to stop them from having it.

It is impossible to convey to someone who wasn’t there the importance of the Beatles. For me and for all of my friends, they were so far beyond music--they were like magicians or religious figures. There was simply no way that anything else in life could compete with them--not school and certainly not religion. By comparison--with the exception of sports--everything else in the adult world seemed comparatively “dead.” They seemed to be the only grown-ups who “got it” and were having fun. It’s as if they had seen through the cosmic joke.

You see this in the early press conferences, with the stiff, unhip, and clueless reporters--just like today--asking their inane questions. But instead of taking them seriously, the Beatles just made fun of them--not in the obnoxious, angry, profane, or self-righteous way that celebrities do today, but with wit and charm. The Beatles ran circles around them, but the reporters didn’t even know what was happening. It is obvious by their condescending attitude that they thought themselves superior to the Beatles, but the Beatles never responded in kind. They simply toyed with them and used them as props.

I suppose what bothers me is that the Left considers itself the heir to the 1960’s, when they are the actually the same clueless and tedious people who didn’t get it then and don’t get it now. We saw it just the other day with their reaction to the Stephen Colbert routine at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Bush, in the best irreverent Beatles-Monty Python tradition, ran circles around the clueless establishment press, but was followed by the scolding and sanctimonious Colbert, who threw water on the proceedings by being even more establishment than the conformist establishment press: the angry head sheep of leftist flockthink.

I suppose that’s the central issue: who is the repressive establishment, and who are the liberating revolutionaries? Who are the fun-loving, life-affirming bob vivants, and who are the sour, dogmatic, angry, no-fun-allowed crowd? Put it this way: have you ever read anything the least bit witty on dailykurse or huffingtonpissed? Of course not. Again, these are the same people I have objected to since 1964. One of the reasons I enjoy National Review so much is that it is so funny. But leftists, as usual, never get the joke. I subscribed to The Nation back in the 1980's, and I don't remember a single witty or lighthearted comment. It was like Katrina van der Heuvel with PMS, if that's not redundant.

I am not one of those people who believe that political labels mean nothing, but they can be quite confusing. For example, in my lifetime, the word “liberal” has gone from meaning “liberal” to now meaning “illiberal.” In point of fact--with the exception of a relatively brief flirtation with true leftism while in graduate school in the 1980’s--I am the same liberal I’ve always been. It’s just that now classical liberalism is called “conservatism.” Don’t get me wrong--don’t confuse “conservatism” with “Republicanism.” Furthermore, there are certain annoying strands of conservatism that I don’t relate to at all. It’s just that if you are a classical liberal, there is no longer a place for you in the Democratic party, which is now a leftist, not liberal, party.

One of the great insights of psychoanalysis is that the surface structure---the conscious mind--might change, but the deeper structure of the unconscious endures and “calls the shots.” Now, one result of the 1960’s is that we do in fact have much more freedom in terms of lifestyle--sexual freedom, educational freedom, occupational freedom. There really is no limit to one’s lifestyle choices today, especially as compared to previous generations of Americans.

But this outward freedom can be deceptive, for if we are not inwardly free, then we will simply have a greater range of options with which to express our unconscious enslavement. What’s that, Petey? Yes, Petey says that the rest of this post is probably worthless, but that this is a key point, so I’ll say it again in a different way: the left confuses license with liberty, and resents any effort to link freedom and transcendence. In short, they want only more horizontal freedom with which to act out their mind parasites in good conscience.

Take the case of that all-purpose lowlife, Madonna, who, if you major in “Women’s Studies,” you will learn was a great liberator of female sexuality. But in reality, she’s just a pathetically sick soul, acting out her psychopathology for all the world to see. However, 100 years ago, she wouldn’t have had the freedom to act out her pathology in this way--much less be celebrated for it. Instead, she would have undoubtedly been a frustrated housewife or garden variety hysteric with strange physical symptoms as a result of “sexual repression.”

Today, unlike 100 years ago, psychotherapy is available to help such individuals resolve these issues. But at the same time, people are much more free to simply act out their conflicts and fixations in a multitude of unhealthy ways. Thus, nothing has changed for such a person. Although they do indeed have more “freedom,” the freedom is simply squandered, for freedom that does not converge on something higher is meaningless. People were also much thinner in the past, but that is only because less food was available. Calling Madonna sexaully “free” is like calling an obese person “healthy,” just because there are so many more ways to be fat today.

(By the way, it is the same way with religion. In the past, religious a-holes only had religion through which to express their repressive religiosity. Now they have so many other means available--atheism, materialim, leftism, scientism, feminism, Marxism, existentialism, etc.)

Obviously, freedom itself cannot be the goal of freedom, for that is a nonsensical tautology. But for the left, it is. This is why most leftist “liberation” movements quickly devolve into the liberation of one’s own inner slave master to further enslave them. Thus, the feminist movement has nothing to do with truly valuing femininity or allowing a woman to truly become herself in the deepest sense. In order to do that, you must specifically rebel against feminist dogma. Likewise, “sexual liberation” hardly leads to anything beyond self-indulgence. The civil rights movement which began with such noble ideals quickly became nothing more than an entrenched establishment platform for venal ethnic lobbying and special consideration. This reached another new low last week, with the massive criminal marches all over the U.S. Why does the left relate to these entitled narcissists? Oh, that’s why.

This comes back to Polanyi’s vital distinction between the open and the free society, which I discussed a couple of days ago. As a result of the 1960’s, we have much more freedom--which is all to the good--but also much more openness--which is bad. For the free society uses its freedom to aim at something higher. Paradoxically, freedom actually binds us in the same way that truth does. That is, since we live in a free society, we are free to discover truth. But if truth actually exists, isn’t that a contradiction in terms? In other words, while we may freely discover truth, we are, at the same time, bound by the truth so discovered.

We are also radically free to discover lies and even to live them. But what kind of freedom is that? Doesn’t real freedom imply acquiescence to reality, whatever reality is?

Because we live in freedom, we are free to discover the truth of ourselves. But for the left, our freedom is confused with relativism, and that is again the key point. For once you place freedom above truth, you have converted freedom itself to a massive lie and to another form of enslavement.

Let’s bookend this post with another quote from John Lennon, who said, “Reality leaves a lot to the imagination." This is exactly right, but it all depends on what you mean by the term “imagination.” For as applied to spirituality, imagination is a term of art, not to be confused with the lower, dreamlike imagination. This lower form of imagination is somnolent, passive, and present in beasts. Much spiritual warfare specifically involves the struggle against this hypnotic state in which most human beings will spend their entire lives. The noetic use of imagination is oriented in a direction diametrically opposed to this, and involves actively gathering and assimilating forces and influences emanating from a higher world, not the lower one. Dwelling in religious symbolism is specifically a way to imaginatively engage in pure intellection of higher realites.

So reality does leave a lot to the imagination, if by reality you mean the mere horizontal wasteland where we are enslaved by our meaningless freedom. “Imagine there’s no heaven, it isn’t hard to do.” Indeed. Nothing above and no one below--except for those who believe there is something above. They're the lowest, because they remind the rebellious ego of the illusory, shadow side of freedom.


Who am I? One hand on my entitlement, the other hand hammering away at the foundations.


CatoRenasci said...

Intersting post. I, too, am pretty much a child of the '60s - I was in high school when JFK was assassinated and spent the Summer of 1967 in San Francisco. I was also always fairly conservative politically, with a libertarian - or rather classical liberal - bent. I didn't think during the '60s - and don't think now - there was any necessary connection between dabbling in the counterculture and the political left. Indeed, the old left had little use for the hippies, but that's another story.

Your point about liberty being conflated with license is well taken , it's a point I've made for over 30 years. There is a related point about language that's curious. English has both the words 'liberty' and 'freedom' and (at least in the days of prescriptive dictionaries before the Merriam-Webster's Third International Dictionary in the mid-60s') distinguishes between the two, with liberty having a sense of absence of external restraint upon behavior (closer to a mild reading of license) and freedom having a more ideational or spiritual thrust.

The French, on the other hand, have only liberte meaning "liberty" and the Germans have only Freiheit, meaning "freedom." In the German, freiheit has a distinctly inner orientation -- hence Hegel's notion that freedom is encapsulated in the Prussian state and the German folk-song popularlized by Pete Seeger (of all people): Die Gedanken Sind Frei - thoughts are free.

The heady intellectual stuff of the 18th and 19th centuries is actually very hard work; it takes a very strong mind and character to be able to psychologically accomodate the kind of freedom and liberty brought forth in the Anglo-Scottish and German Enlightenments with the sorts of ordinary common sense and sense of duty that holds society and families together. Most people either don't want to or cannot do such work.

It's easier by far, unfortunately, to find a replacement path to certainty such as Marxism-Leninism, fascism or radical religious fundamentalism. And, for those who reject fixed belief altogether (even the paradoxical fixed belief in the relativity of truth - but I digress), there is hedonism and narcissism, as you so well describe.

jwm said...

I am really not much of a political animal, but I got my awakening to leftism in the first post-grad level classes that I took when I was working toward my teaching credential. I was a diligent student. I took every class as a heart attack serious matter, and busted my butt to master every one whether I needed to or not.
That changed in the "School of Education". In addition to the all but worthless methodology classes I found myself coerced into a couple of 500 level "Ethnic Studies" type surveys. These were taught by folks with PHD's in Women's Studies, Black Studies, Chicano Studies... We're talking some serious boneheads, here. I began doing something that I had never done before in college. I started slinging bullshit. I read enough of the texts to get the gist of what was they were about: white man bad. brown man good. When it came to discussion time I'd walk in with a bunch of bookmarks stuffed at random into the texts. I'd open the book, grab whatever sentence first caught my eye, and then just ramble on, making a point of throwing in the right keywords: (oppression, social justice, relative, diversity, etc.) The first time I did it I was sure the prof was going to stop me and say, "ummm John- did you read the text?" I never got busted for it. I got A's in all that stuff.
But the real awakening came much later, and it came from cigarettes, and motorcycle helmets.
In '90 I bought a Harley Davidson. At first I wore a helmet when I rode, but one day I took off for a ride without one. I won't waste bandwith describing the experience. But when the legislation started going down to pass and enforce a mandatory helmet law I got political. I listened to the arguments the pro-law folks were putting forth, and what became apparent was this was less about any real concern for safety, or cost to the public and the insurance companies, but it was really about control. I don't remember the name of the Dem who was behind the bill, but I do remember reading what he wrote. He was intoxicated with the idea that he could force a bunch of dirty bikers to do something against their will.

The anti-smoking hysteria was the next one. (I will insert here that I am a former smoker. I hate cigarettes.) But again, it was less about smoking then it was about control. People who never went into dive bars were suddenly passionately concerned for the health of the patrons of such places? I doubt it. But what really disturbs me about the anti-smoking hysteria is the flagrant lying about second hand smoke. Like the lying about heterosexual AIDS, like the lying about racism as the cause of every inequalty... You see, if your cause is riteous then any amount of deceit, and coercion is permissible so long as you acheive your goal: imposing your will on the unwilling. Yaarrgghh. Enough. I have stuff to do.


Hoarhey said...

Couldn't it be said that the Beatles were also a casualty of the sixties and that their freedom ultimately turned to license? It seemed to me that their carefree innocent banter at press conferences came fairly early in their career when they were still basically children. It then devolved into a sort of in your face street theater, especially in the case of John Lennon, designed to instruct "the man" in how to live in a less "uptight" way, similar to what we see in the antics of todays entertainers. From my vantage point the "evolution" of themselves and their music (though prolific) seemed nothing more than a shallow and frenzied pursuit of the next fad from drugs to sex to the next Indian guru. A few universal truths were reflected along the way but did any of it really take hold and go deep? ( It may well have, I'm just not aware that it did.) Or was it more like Maddonna and her Kabbalah studies?
I feel the Beatles (along with a little help from their friends) led a few million lemming followers over the cliff from freedom (early Beatles) to license (later Beatles), included in the stampede, a recent president who embodies the slavery and bondage not to mention the moral blindness, that comes as a result. Once in that trap, many people won’t find their way out and spend the rest of their lives as a type of shadow warrior fighting the demons they project onto the rest of the world (leftist activists and the mainstream media being the pinnacle of the heap). Though many of the ideals of the 60's were noble, the human tendency of selfishness leading to hedonism produced more shadows than light from that decade I’m afraid. My hat is off to those who see that and are doing the hard work of digging out from under the rubble.

will said...

Well, like PJ O'Rourke said, people do tend to forget how uptight things were before the 60's. I always marvel at those old film clips of JFK walking around with his advisors and various heads of state. Certainly JFK had one foot and maybe half of the other in the past, what with his Machiavellian father and the Mafia links, etc., but he seemed to have some sense of the cultural change afoot. In the film clips he looks like the only human moving in a galley of cardboard cutouts with crewcuts. Kind of eerie, actually.

But, you know, as Camille Paglia points out, the so-called sexual revolution of the 60's ultimately resulted in AIDS; and those who champion the 60's aren't honest if they don't acknowledge that. That was one large Shadow Side, indeed.

The conservatives I really trust today aren't the country club republican-types but the ones who once were leftists, people like O'Rourke, Paglia, David Horowitz, folks who got swept up in the 60's fever dream, got to know its spiritually corrosive factor from the inside out, and who phoenixed themselves into the light.

Don't trust anyone under 30.

Hoarhey said...

Thanks for the insight Will.
Those conservatives you pointed out are among those doing the heaviest digging.
I would caution you not to underestimate the insights and big picture vision contained within, not to mention the contributions made by what appears to be a cardboard cutout with a crewcut.

CatoRenasci said...

will: Just as research by the '70s and '80s (and even in the '60s if you knew where to look) showed that there was a whole lot more (and more 'authentic') to the Victorians than the outward decorum that was held as an ideal, you should realize that most people were not so 'prim and proper' and repressed before the '60s as the outward decorum might well suggest. Many who were young in the '60s and beyond, drinking from the well of the Frankfurt School (e.g. Marcuse, Reich) and people like Norman O. Brown, have some sort of caricature of people who came of age before the boomers that is only tangentially based in reality. I was in the same place then, but I was also lucky enough to have older parents (my dad was at UC Berkeley in the 1920s during those wild years) and grandparents (who grew up in the last quarter of the 19th century, who did not fit the stereotypes.

Gagdad Bob said...


Yes, you are correct about the Beatles, in particular, Lennon. But I am one of the apparent minority who enjoys the early Beatles much more than the later Beatles. Plus, being so young, I never took the political stuff seriously. I just liked the music.


You're so right about the academic left--they just substitute jargon for thought. If you string the following words together in any combination, you can pass most any humanities class. Here, I'll say something by just using them in alphabetical order

The Agency of Canononized Discourse of Decentered Eurocentric Feminisms as developed by Foucault casts its Gaze on the Gendered, Gynocentric Hegemonic Heteronormativity of the Marginalized Other, through a Post-colonial Praxis of Queering of Sexualities by the Subaltern, Transgendered Voice of oppressed Womyn.

Gagdad Bob said...


You might appreciate this post:

Technically you are correct--it's just that the freedom you describe was mostly confined to elites. Largely due to economic constraints, it couldn't become more widespread until the 1960's. People were too busy just trying to survive.

CatoRenasci said...

Bob - Your preference for the early Beatles actually reflects the way they became such a fad in 1964: their primary initial audience were the younger teens ('teeny-boppers') and pre-teens (whom we called 'bubblegum chewers'). Many older teens were fairly indifferent to the early work. The first albums that really got serious attention among my circle of high school and college musicians were Rubber Soul and Revolver. Of course, then they started getting stoned and headed to the gurus and their act changed dramatically, morphing into what most of us would recognize from Yellow Submarine, St. Pepper and the Magical Mystery Tour.

Gagdad Bob said...

I'm actually reading the new massive 1,000 page biography of the Beatles by Bob Spitz. An epic story, no matter how you slice it.

Hey, to tell you the truth, I'm still a big fan of power pop, sunshine pop, and "bubblegum" psychedelia. It's so innocent and "out there" at the same time, like Smile-era Brian Wilson.

You should see my Sunshine Pop collection... I'm almost embarassed to name names....

will said...

hoarhey, catorenasci -

Nah, will never slight the crewcut contribution.

And yeah, the Victorian veneer (hey, this is the day for alliteration!) was just that - a veneer, in many respects. Before penicillin, 3/4 of the hospital beds in the USA were taken up by syphllitics, so, gee, I guess people were having out-of-wedlock sex before the 60's. But veneers can be somewhat repressive, hypocritical, and give rise to a rather stilted form of expression, even a form of cultural neurosis, I think. One thing the 60's did do was free up that kind of repressiveness.

I basically look at the 60's as being a window of opportunity for genuine spiritual awakening. People took a flying leap at the window and for the most part, missed.

CatoRenasci said...

Bob - Thanks for the reference, it was an interesting post. I think I agree that increasing affluence had a significant role in the increasingly widespread narcissism, but so, too, did the percolation down to the level of the general climate of opinion of what might be called curbside Freudianism, and the confluence of the rise of philosophical nihilism and the ennui that emerged from the blood letting of the First World War and - to a lesser extent - WWII.
And, of course, affluence aside, the sexual revolution made possible by cheap and reliable contraception and , equally important, antibiotics that treated sexually transmitted diseases. Certainly, syphillis was as dread in its day (and more widespread) as AIDS is today.

When one thinks about behavior historically, of course you are right that the vast majority of people struggled merely to survive and had essentially no leisure for the pursuits of the often libertine aristocracy - think the English Restoration or the court of Louis XIV.

An important historical point that I think should have psychological significance is that most of what we call Victorian or Puritan morality arose from the emerging middle classes, not the aristocracy (who always mocked it, at least privately) as a model of (Godly) behavior that enabled workers to better their lots, accumulate some capital, and orient themselves to the future and their progeny rather than to simply exist in a world in which a little drink or sex only helped relieve the monotony of their lives. I recall reading in grad school in history that the average French peasant on the eve of the Revolution had never been more than 5 miles from his place of birth and had a vocabulary of only a couple of hundred words.

Hoarhey said...


You said:
“The problem here is that I consider myself a full-blooded “child of the sixties,” and I did not take away the above lesson. For, just as there was an obvious shadow side of the 1960’s, the very presence of the shadow must indicate that there was light somewhere. In my case, I believe I absorbed a lot of the light, but instinctively rejected the darkness.”

Would you say that what good a person absorbs during his travels through life has something to do with his souls predilection towards innocence? And if so, any theories as to why the dichotomy among souls?

Gagdad Bob said...

That's an excellent question--and is innocence unrecoverable after a certain point?

Rorschach said...

Bob: I think part of the irony of Brain Wilson finishing the SMILE project in 2003 is that it's much more likely to be understood by his audience now than if he'd finished it in 1970.

Remember how all the stuff he salvaged from it for the Beach Boys (Good Vibrations etc.) sounded completely stoned? It's more about learning to be happy than toking yourself into some sort of artificial euphoria - and I'm not sure that's the message his audience wanted to hear in 1970; they'd just seen Woodstock (high point) and Altamont (last gasp), and they were still hoping that the end of the Sixties meant that they wouldn't have to get down to the business of actually PURSUING happiness instead of just getting together and BEING happy.

Rorschach said...

Bob and Hoarhey:

I have not had much experience with absorbing the light. My life seems to have been spent in the darkness, but struggling against it rather than taking it in.

jwm said...

Oh!, Oh!, Oh!,
If any of you have not yet done so, click on Bob's link to Lileks, and read today's Bleat. It is Lileks at his finest- truly a beautiful and thoughtful piece of writing.


Anonymous said...

And God looked upon the light, and saw that it was good.

And R. looked upon the light, and saw that it was not good.

Rorschach said...

That's not it at all. I looked on the DARKNESS and saw that it was not good.

And how could I, if I have never seen the light? That's what worries me.

Sal said...

Two things -
I spent a number of years attending the local Mass celebrated according to the '62 Missal. The young people attached to that Mass are at a loss as to how things could have changed so radically during the sixties in the Church. The easy culprit is Vatican II - but those of us who were alive back then know that it was more complicated than that - it was a combination of secular societal change reacting with a neccesary religious shake-up that had been in the works for a century or so. They just had the bad luck to collide at the same time.
The former exacerbated the latter, and the latter was too discombobulated to help stem the tide of change at that moment.
But young Trads get very frustrated when you say "You had to have been there..."

As a young woman in the late '60's and early '70's (born in '52), I was blessed to have escaped the ideals of radical feminism by a modicum of common sense, and exposure to classical Christian systematic theology. To me, the idea that humankind was fallen made more sense than that men sucked and everything was their fault, including the actions of all the less-than-sterling women I'd run into, who would not have been heinous B's, if it hadn't been for men, who suck, btw.

Ditto communism, and most of the other -ism's out there.

(Off to Austin to watch the kid's drama competition at UIL State. 8 plays to watch on Saturday - but by this level, you're seeing some really good yout'ful thespians. So it's not quite the beating it might sound like.

Three days of Bobservations and comments to catch up on - that'll be my reward for devoted parenting.)

Hoarhey said...

This country for some unknown reason always comes up with few good crew cutted men to stand in the breach giving the rest of us time to get a clue and catch up.


You don't happen to wear your hair in a crew cut do you? :)

Kahntheroad said...


Check out this out:

If only I had that back in college.

will said...

Innocence recoverable? Not pure innocence, I would think.

The age of arboreal enchantment - whether in Edenic pre-history or in the life of human being - seems to me designed to come to an end. What is gained, hopefully, after an exile in the wilderness, is wisdom, innocence + self-awareness.

Lisa said...

Sometimes if you look too hard for something you will never find it. Most times it just seems to find me, whether I want it or not! The key is to be open to the possibility and allow yourself to actually see it.

Life can't be that dark all the time, Rorschach, can it? Maybe you just need to literally "lighten up"!

Hoarhey said...

Innocence as a discernment filter for goodness and Truth.

Gagdad Bob said...

Be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves, as somebody once cracked.

will said...

hoars -

Definitely. It's just that a child is innocent and isn't fully self-aware of his or her own state of innocence. Is what I'm saying.

will said...

Lisa -

>>Sometimes if you look too hard for something you will never find it.<<

There's a truth. Makes me think of all the lovelorn desperation that helped create all these zillions of singles clubs. I think finding true love is akin to finding a 50 cent piece on the sidewalk. You're just as likely to find it by not looking for it as you are by actively looking. Plus you save yourself a lot of aggravation and anxiety. Plus your senses are freed up to notice things other than the sidewalk. I could go on but mercifully, I won't.

Lisa said...

That is exactly the example that popped into my head too, Will!

Is innocence the same thing as naivete?

will said...

Lisa, I think one can be naive and not at all innocent.

Heh, like some of these guys who go into "gentlemen's clubs" and keep ordering drinks at the lap-dancer's request, and then are stunned to find themselves facing a $2500.00 bar tab.

Kahntheroad said...


When I started becoming a musician myself I was fascinated by my sudden inclination towards the early Beatles. As a pure listener I had always accepted by default that the early stuff was just a lot of fluff. But these days I'm much more fascinated by what I can only classify as spiritual energy that explodes from a song like 'Love Me Do.'

Not that the later stuff isn't great - hell, beyond great, I don't know of any other artist/group that has come close to creating songs that concentrate such perfection and soul in equal balance. And to do it in such a way that you don't realize that so many of the lyrics are, while beautiful, complete nonsense.

But the raw, yet harnessed, passion of the early Beatles is just astounding (same with Elvis - before I 'got' music I used to self righteously bloviate on how Elvis was overrated, etc).

I know I can't even begin to appreciate it from the perspective of the times, but just hearing the sound for myself and witnessing the fevered reaction begs a thousand questions. How can you explain away the fact that a couple of nobody kids with little formal musical education could meet up in some blue collar English town, pick up instruments and shake the world with a few 3 chord ditties that, in substance, were not all that much different than what other excellent, energetic, and even commercially successful musicians (Buddy Holly, Little Richard, etc) had been doing for several years. AND, where did these kids get the super-human strength of character to survive that unprecedented attention and mass-media deification that destroyed countless talents of lesser fame that followed?

Dylan, of course, is another example - although it almost destroyed him.

In a way, the Beatles represent the highest ideal of 60s liberation (or what it should have been) - freedom within the guidelines of form and structure. I still find it amazing that so many of the followers of The Beatles and Dylan completely missed the point. Despite being the icons of the counter-culture, Beatles songs generally weren't revolutionary beyond their artistic originality. 'Revolution' is the only overly blunt song I can think of off-hand, and even that one urges restraint (A still timely message to moonbat fans of The Little Red Book).

Okay, speaking of focus and restraint, I should know better than to start on this topic when I've got work to do. Might as well stop before I veer off into a thousand more directions.

Hoarhey said...

>>Is innocence the same thing as naivete?<<

I think in its youthful stage it is but as it develops and matures as a perspective on and an understanding of life it can become quite wise and crafty.

As Bob pointed out:
>>Be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves, as somebody once cracked.<<

Gagdad Bob said...


Oh my yes. The power of John Lennon singing Twist & Shout, Money, You Can't Do That, Bad Boy, Dizzy Miss Lizzy... Absolutely unsurpassed. I don't believe a white man had ever sang with that kind raw soulful abandon up to that point. Amazing intensity-but controlled, unlike so many inferior shouters that followed.

As an audiophile, I was skeptical of the Capitol Albums box set, as the Capitol execs thought that the British mix was too tame, so they remixed the early tracks, giving them more echo, compression and rhythm... But they sound great--they jump right out of the speakers and grab you by the throat.

Hoarhey said...

>>One hand on my entitlement, the other hand hammering away at the foundations.<<

Bob, perfect definition.

Kahntheroad said...

Hey Bob,

Speaking of The Beatles, the 60s and forlorn searching; Will and Lisa touch on, I think, one crucial topic I don't recall you specifically addressing in any depth.

So, perhaps you could submit a request to Petey to follow the series on deadly sin with something on romantic love - in particular, the necessary spiritual conditions for a healthy relationship.

For myself, especially as I've become more spiritually conscious, I find a reluctance to get serious with someone when I'm uncertain how much the attraction might be driven by projection or mind parasites.

And - not pry or anything - but something tells me there's quite an inspiring story behind the union of the Gag-Dad and Mom. ;)

will said...

Bob, I dunno, Lennon was great, but, for a white guy, the early Elvis could really bring it. That's the *early*, pre Col Tom Parker, pre-Army, Elvis.

Lennon was obviously a much more interesting, self-aware guy.

Kahntheroad said...

will -

One thing I think is amazing about Lennon is the fact that - unlike Elvis - he didn't have an extraordinary singing voice. I don't get the impression that Elvis was the sharpest tool in the shed, but he had amazing natural ability. Lennon, I think, brought a then unprecedented intellect to that type of music, and that, combined with his passion and confidence, allowed him to pull off those songs.

Gagdad Bob said...


Actually, I underwent a major Elvis reassessment after reading Peter Guralnick's magisterial biography last summer. I too had always thought that Elvis "died" when he entered the army.

However, many people feel he reached his artistic peak in the period between the '68 comeback special and around 1971, when the drugs really took hold. So I checked it out, and they were right. For example, the "Memphis Sessions" of early 1969 are fantastic, backed by the best southern soul session guys of the time. If you forget its Elvis--admittedly difficult to do, since he was bigger than life--you would have to say that he was the best contemporary "blue-eyed soul" singer of that time.

By the way, the biography goes into considerable detail about Elvis' spiritual quest, and it is quite fascinating. If Lisa Marie would give me access to the archives, that's a book I'd actually like to write. He had a huge library of spiritual books--I'd love to read which passages he underlined, margin notes, etc.

Elvis was an avatar, no doubt about it. Something beyond him came through him, and fried his circuits like a fried Snickers bar.

will said...

Speaking of raw, soulful-singing white rockers, let me put in a good word for a guy who never quite got the accolades I think he deserved: Ricky Nelson.

Overshadowed by Elvis and acquiring a neutered image via his TV identity, Ricky nonetheless could rock. He understood the music, knew and could ride the dionysian wave. Died in a plane crash, too.

Gagdad Bob said...

Rick Nelson is fantastic. I have the 4 CD box set. His guitarist, James Buron, practically invented rockabilly guitar.

There are two ways to sing soulfully. One way is like Aretha Franklin or Ray Charles. But another way is like Rick Nelson--so transparent and vulnerable. He never strained, always stayed within himself. He did some wonderful countryish things with the Stone Canyon Band as well.

Speaking of country, the other day on my bike ride I was listening to Marty Robbins. Can I get a shout for Marty Robbins? AWESOME musical talent. He's right up there with the immortals--Cash, Buck Owens, Haggard, Charlie Rich, Waylon, Jerry Lee Lewis (whose country forays far surpass his rock & roll), et al.

Kahntheroad said...


Looks like you've done your research here - as always.

Would you be so kind as to draw up a list of recommended music bios that give a healthy spiritual angle (as opposed to the glut of "sex, drugs and fame!!!" variety)?

Also, have you read Dylan's recent autobiography yet?

will said...

Bob -

Yes, I remember the Elvis "Comeback" TV special in '68, and how galvanizing it was.

I did know about Elvis's interest in meta-matters. Wasn't sure how deep it really ran, if it went beyond newspaper astro and the like.

For what it's worth, Elvis was a sun-sign Capricorn . . . with Scorpio rising, I believe.

If you get a chance, rent a film titled "Bubba Ho-Tep", a very funny, very touching depiction of Elvis as he might have been had he indeed assumed another identity and not really died in '77. The film also deals with El's interest in metaphysics.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes! The Dylan autobiography is outstanding. In fact, the writing is so good, it's hard to believe he wrote it (given his taciturn image), but at the same time impossible to believe that anyone else wrote it--the style is so distinctive and idiosyncratic. It's very surreal, and makes you realize that that's how he seems to live his life--as if it's one long dream.

will said...

Kahn -

Yes, Lennon didn't like his own voice, thought it wasn't really expression enough for the really wild rock material he tackled.

But sheesh, the way he brought out the innate bitterness, even the sinister/cut-throat quality, in a song like Money . . .

And those opening chords to the Beatle's version of Money! Never heard anything like it in any other version,or really any other rock song, come to think of it. They just set the table for the dark, brooding heart of what is to come.

Heh, I'm starting to sound like a Rolling Stone music critic - next I'll be using words like "redemption" and "salvation".

Gagdad Bob said...


I've read so many musical bios, most of them not that memorable. I'm enjoying this current one on the Beatles.... "Divided Soul," the Marvin Gaye bio by David Ritz, was extremely memorable, well worth reading... In fact, most of his books are supposed to be good--he specializes in various soul luminaries such as Etta James and Smokey Robinson... Recent Johnny Cash bio by Steve Turner was okay... The guy who wrote the Billy Strayhorn bio recently wrote one on Sam Cooke that is supposed to be good.... I've read several Coltrane bios, all bad....

will said...

Bob -

You know that part in the Dylan autobio where he writes of the way he changed his approach to guitar rhythm in performance? He claims it's a way of going on automatic but is a guaranteed way of inducing certain levels of emotion both in himself and his audience.

There is something almost "sufi" about it; I feel that I almost understand what he's talking about. In any event, I came across several musicologists online talking about it and *they* couldn't quite grok it, though it intrigued them greatly.

Gagdad Bob said...


Yes--I agree. I also had no idea what he was talking about, but I was certainly intrigued. Howeever, I would have been much more apt to believe it if he said that he had applied those mysterious principles to a song such as "Like a Rolling Stone." Have you ever wondered what is going on when you can hear a song over and over, and never get tired of it? That cannon shot drum, followed by the band coming in, is just perfect. None of his recent work seems to have that same staying power.

will said...

Bob -

Yeah, know what you mean. I sometimes wonder if he simply tired a bit of his own genius, the way Orson Welles tired of his. And so Dylan continues to sing into his chest . . .

Re Rolling Stone and other of D's classics: Dylan could construct an archetypal melody like no other, I think. For all the praise he deservedly gets for his wordsmiting, he was a real tunesmith back in the day. As D once said, "I've only written 4 songs in my life." So there really was, I think, something archetypal about his song construction, something we never can tire of.

Off to Pilates.

Kahntheroad said...

Bob and Will -

Speaking of Ricky Nelson, I was intrigued when Dylan gave him his due in the book.

Ugh...Terrible topic right now - as I actually have work to do. But I'll be back later. ;)

One music book I highly recommend, though, is Mayor of MacDougal Street by Dave Van Ronk (an unfinished auto biography compiled after he died).

Van Ronk was a folk/blues singer who was buddies with Dylan in the village (Dylan's stories about him in Chronicles are great). A real character, gruff, no-nonsense and a self-assured, yet humble, self-made musician. He was pretty much a regular guy who took a workman's approach to music, and also has a interesting perspective on the counter-culture scene. A blue-collar union type leftist (although not really politically active) with no love for hippies or Stalinists.

Kahntheroad said...

Will -

Oh, you're dead on. How else can you explain that some of his most rabid fans are in places like Japan and Scandinavia and don't even understand the words.

dilys said...

The Creation Myth of the Gagdad'n'mom'n'boy household would be great, though I propose we obtain both the permission and the perspective of Mrs. G. What she remembers would have to be very educational for us bbl-heads.

Incidentally, today's photo is very Kabbalistic, the right pole of mercy and the left pole of force. The Watcher in the middle. Deliver us from the captivity to if-I-had-a-hammers or baby's bottle of entitlement.

And I would say to Kahn, that one of the best ways to air out one's mind viruses and projections is with a reasonably mature and virtuous partner. When the relationship starts to rattle, someone's projecting. Rich material. The Work of Byron Katie is a pickaxe for the jewels in projection. Please don't wait until you'll be a perfect partner, or find one. Cross-ref. The Beast in the Jungle.

A little more on the subject of Elvis and spiritual connections and pursuits here.
I was 11 when he hit the provincial Florida airwaves. Until then it was
Patti Page and Rosemary Clooney. Made us look up and wonder, it did.

And yes, Marty Robbins. It dawned on me one day the El Paso protagonist is the Soul, the Guardian Angel, what have you. SomeOne loves us so much that he cannot be discouraged, will die on the pursuit if necessary, we will be followed, hounded, badgered, until we really see and hear and feel and taste what Love's got to do with it.

Lisa said...

Hey Will-Has anyone ever told you that you have a similar tonal quality to Tom Waits? I bet Fergus will agree.

Oh, and another interesting side note to the MBTs is that I have seen them have an effect on the voice. My partner has a client who wore them to a singing lesson and sang 3 octaves or notes (not quite sure the technical term.) above her usual. Anyway, it impressed the hell out of her teacher. It seems the vocal chords can vibrate to a higher frequency and range when the whole body is in better alignment.

jwm said...

Holy cow! I'm going to stick my neck out for a minor player in the Haight-Ashbury psychedelic acid rock scene: Country Joe McDonald. Unfortunately he's associated only with the execrable Vietnam song, sung to Muscat Ramble, which he didn't write, but there are some really beautiful little gems amongst the weeds of his first two albums. I can still listen to Thursday, Eastern Jam, and Section 43.
Oh, Khan- thanks for that link that was hillarious. Here's one that's a nod to one of my favorites: scientific explanations ala 1950's giant bug movies.

(could this be jwm trying to work in a sneaky plug for his ridiculous cartoon?)
by the way, did anyone check out Lileks today?


dilys said...

Lileks, mais naturellement!

Good as always, but maybe you could riff on it from your point of view. I got sidetracked with the characterization of the vivid and exotic Byzantines and the one-Man show quip. What grabbed you in that wonderful grab-bag?

will said...

Lisa -

Tom Waits? He who sounds like he gargles with Janitor In A Drum? No, Lisa, haven't heard that before but I will take it as a compliment, so thanks.

Actually I like Waits - his whole growling delivery perfectly suits the image and the songs. I'm sort of aiming at a different target . . .

And remember, Lisa - Tom Waits for no man.

jwm said...

re Lileks

His mention of the siren evoked a memory. I am a little older than Lileks, and I lived in a suburb of Detroit when I was a kid. We were always told that if the war should come that Detroit would be a first target because of the steel and automotive industries. We had H-bomb drills in school where we were all herded into a warren of concrete tunnels beneath the building. Then they'd turn out the lights while the teachers patrolled the tunnels with flashlights. Scary. This was the late fifties, and early sixties. They would sound the siren every Saturday around noon. But it was an air-raid siren, not a storm warning.
I liked his comparison of the dog's reaction to the inexplicable noise with the possible human reaction to a hypothetical voice of God. When he mused on what might happen if that hypothetical voice went inexplicably silent it just kind of gave me a chill.


CGHill said...

It's always seemed pretty clear to me that John Lennon's ambition, at least at first, was to be the First British Singer of American R&B; his take on Arthur Alexander's "Anna" is not only soulful, but it hints at the lyricism he'd apply to later stuff like "In My Life."

It didn't hurt that McCartney had Little Richard tendencies, either.

Gagdad Bob said...

If Captain Beefheart is Howlin' Wolf on acid, and Tom Waits is Captain Beefheart on Ripple, what is Will?

Gagdad Bob said...

Oh yes, and if Leonard Cohen is Neil Diamond on Quaaludes and camel unfiltered Cigarettes....

Gagdad Bob said...

And if Lou Reed is Will on heroin....

Gagdad Bob said...

And if Serge Gainsbourg is the French Leonard Cohen...

Gagdad Bob said...

And if Charleton Heston could do the Lou Reed songbook....

jwm said...

And if Charleton Heston could do the Lou Reed songbook....

...then he'd take a walk on the Red Sea side.


Lisa said...


Of course, I only meant it as a compliment! I happen to enjoy the deep gurgling soulful quality! I heard it in particular in one song at some parts but maybe it was just the recording quality. Didn't you mention that you record in your hamper in the bathroom? I also heard some Cat Stevens (before the yicky Islam crap, of course)

I thought Will was already Captain Jerk?! Can we really let another thread go on without a Star Trek reference?

Lisa said...

Let me also just add that bongs are so passé. It's all about vaporizers now! Ha ha ha!

will said...

No, Lisa -

I'm only (though stalwartly) the deputy jerk. The Captain (aka The World's Most Obnoxious Man) is on your side of the country.

Say, you know Bob is kind of like Ken Wilber on sunflower seeds.

will said...

No, maybe Bob is more like Catherine of Sienna on cough syrup . . .

JohnR said...

Beatles Bio by Spitz*

My favorite part is when the 'boys' run for their lives to escape TM and Maharishi.

*His Dylan bio is good too.

Lisa said...

I just assumed we were all really Bob, anyway. You know like that LA Times clown Hiltzik...

Lisa said...

I would feel really bad if we commented on white rockers and left out Stevie Ray Vaughan. His version of Little Wing is one of the most beautiful pieces ever recorded.

Helene said...

Really, it is such a relief that you are all out there.
Just about everything you write, Bob,rings true as well authentic and it is so clear the baby didn't go out with the bong water as far as you are concerned. I don't know how you do it, but I sure am thirsty for your words.
When I first heard the Beatles I was twenty two and in London and from that day on it seemed like everything changed. There was a magic with theose early Beatles.
Bobblehead blessings to you all. Off to Pilates in the AM to watch the breath.

Helene said...

I notice you've explored Steiner and Goethe among others. Do you think you will send the enlightened little being to a Waldorf School? Just askin' ...

Lisa said...

Go Helene! Be the breath!

will said...

I'll get the lights.


Hoarhey said...

Hey, I'm reading over here!

Kahntheroad said...

Oh, I forgot one absolutely essential book - Will, you'd especially love this one - Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo. It's a collection of interviews with almost every major songwriter you can think of - from broadway, rock, country, pop, etc. - and it's all substance; they talk craft, inspiration, some get into the spiritual aspect. A great read for any music fan. For me it's a bible - if I'm stumped I flip it open to any page and find some insight or inspiration.

Bob, looking up some of the books you mentioned on Amazon.

Looks like the Elvis one is essential. And now I've got to read the Beatles one too. Argh! Damn this blog and it's homework!

This one by David Ritz looks great:

"Messengers : Portraits of African American Ministers, Evangelists, Gospel Singers and Other Messengers of the Word."

In the course of preparing this book, Ritz, a secular Jew, became a Christian. Having spent his career chronicling the lives of singers from Marvin Gaye to Aretha Franklin, Ritz felt drawn to the faith through their voices. His personal transformation informs this powerful collection of profiles of an assortment of messengers, men and women who preach or convey the gospel through their music. They recall their own transformations, that moment when they came to believe in Jesus and made themselves available to evoke the spirit portrayed in Jesus.

micrdick said...

"since we live in a free society, we are free to discover truth. But if truth actually exists, isn’t that a contradiction in terms? In other words, while we may freely discover truth, we are, at the same time, bound by the truth so discovered. "

Pilate saith unto him, what is truth? John 18:38 The first time I heard this passage I thought I was going to finally get it straight from the Master's mouth, but no such luck.

JWM's comments on motorcycle helmets goes to the core of the problems with this human experience: The lust to control others, based IMHO on fear of freedom.

I was drawn to the Libertarian Party by their core belief in the Non Agression Principle, but found that apart from a few elevated types the party actually consisted of other control freaks using its structure to act out their own pathologies on unwary seekers.

The Non Agression Principle still seems to me to be the belief that can right the world and bring about the most good possible. My favorate statement of it says: "In order to have the best possible human society, all human interaction must be voluntary. No one has the right to initiate force against someone else, or to deceive them so that they do something they would not otherwise do. The only proper role of government is to prevent force and fraud."

To those who have realized the vertical aspect to this human experience, it seems the biggest lesson is that we are involved in a process, and our job is to make the process as beneficial as possible, seeing that none render evil for evil, but ever following that which is good.

Thanks for a great read.

Sal said...

77 posts? Where are we,LGF?

On innocence -
can't regain it re: knowlege & memories.
But - and this may be where we need a definition - I believe you can regain, if not innocence, then purity of soul. This involves repentance, confession, in most traditions, and turning one's life around by action in the future.
Not time enough to explore how you work the knowlege/memory in with one's cleansed spirit.

Got to hit the road. Say a prayer/ good thought, please for the mom who was feeding the kids - she got food poisoning.
Have a great weekend, everyone!

Rorschach said...


I think the closest I have ever come to having a genuine spiritual experience was seven Julys ago in Vail, Colorado. I'm looking out the big back window of the condo we rented, staring at the fog rolling in off the mountains and listening to the rain, and my dad comes in and puts on SRV's "Little Wing" on the boombox.

There's something that the combination of green mountains, grey clouds, rain pounding on a window, and Stevie Ray Vaughan on the stereo does to me - I didn't see God, but I will swear till my dying day that I felt him.

Lisa said...

See, I knew it couldn't be all that dark, Ror.

On Conan last night, this band called Wolfmother played check it out here
They totally rock! It reminded us of Led Sabbath. My husband downloaded the album and it is great. Very trippy and cool! Haven't studied the lyrics but the overall sound is awesome! Sometimes you have to forget about the ole glory days and appreciate and support the present!