Music can help soothe your troubled mind
from that which cannot be named
And we were worried about sharks.
And despite the shark-attack over-hype of this last summer, I am still convinced that our sharks are our biggest national asset, defense-wise. Why don’t we put all remaining terrorists on a beach near a shark-feeding excursion off the coast of Florida?
"It’s called American tourism. Enjoy."
Max Burbank has recently written a very moving essay describing the odd sort of disconnect and disorientation many of us have been feeling this week. I can’t say it any better than Max has, but I’ve been noticing other minor phenomenon of human behavior lately. One being that folks are so disturbed about that thing that happened September 11, 2001 – they cannot name it. People are saying things like:
The most crass of TV hacks, eloquent junk-mail monologists, co-workers and pundits all over are making these similar statements, so vague and yet no one needs to ask "What crisis? Forget what? I’ve been studying dung beetles in Zaire for the last month…what the hell are you talking about?"
This thing, this massacre of almost 3,000 people and the infinite waves of sub-chaos and sub-tragedy and sub-agony that ensued, that continue to ensue even as we speak, can’t be named. I can’t do it myself…I’ve been talking to people like this: "ever since…. (pause)….Tuesday…I’m having trouble getting out of bed" or "since that thing happened last week, Britney Spears seems to have completely lost her relevance for me as a spokesperson for body glitter" or "since that unspeakable thing happened last week, I’ve been chastising myself mercilessly for picking on Britney Spears for absolutely no reason." It catches in my throat. And they said all those action movies desensitized us to violence. I best be not hearin’ that anymore. Because I have yet to meet a desensitized soul all week.
Another small phenomenon: I’ve lost, for the moment, my love for Halloween, horror movies, ghost stories, and cheap thrills. Today I feel nothing for those poor ghosts and "monsters who will not die," scare tactics today’s radio ads have used to try to temp me to this seasons local Halloween amusements. So...what are you gonna do? Scare me?
As long as I’ve been cognizant of how the rest of the globe views Americans, it has been drilled into my head how exasperating and frustrating Americans can be. We're like the Bugs Bunny of the world: annoying, so annoying it’s literally impossible for the Wile E. Coyotes and the Daffy Ducks of this world not to try to take us down a few pegs with their ACME schemes. We sit in our damn rabbit holes all day, watching TV, playing video games, navel-gazing, blind to the rest of the world and fat with our own wealth and ignorance. No, nobody likes us very much; we pollute, we consume, we make bad movies and we laugh too loud. We win too many Olympic games. We do something good here and there but then we brag about it! And we’re no hapless, harmless bunny-wabbit either. Consider our vanity, our culpability, our Manifest Destiny. At some sad point in history, we stopped being the under bunny. Impossible to root for.
And we can be mighty clueless. You can take the Puritan out of the Massachusetts backwoods…but you can’t take the backwoods out of the Puritan. We’ve lived a Brady Bunch existence, happily diverted by our entertainments. And now that we’ve all received the severe cliff notes on terror, distilled, without the luxury of a juicy build up or comprehensive back-story, the material practically every other country in the world knows by heart, we must take stock to move ahead. No hero moves forward without a moment of self-reckoning. Even Superman has his issues to work on.
But if I may be melodramatic for a moment, we quite possibly could have been the last bastion of national innocence and foolish optimism on earth. And you're gonna miss it! You’re gonna miss our big-rabbit-footed joie de vivre! And I’ll tell ya, we can be just as annoying as depressed and morose Americans as we were annoying as happy-go-lucky ones. Which is assuming we will stay depressed and morose. Okay, rah rah, whatever. I’m not feeling it right now, but maybe we’ll be annoyingly happy-go-lucky again one day.
But at the end of the day, this thing that cannot be named has everything to do with being an American and yet nothing to do with being an American. It’s the red herring of terrorism. That said, there’s one lesson Americans must learn from here on out: we have no unbreakable super-hero who can survive any evil calamity. Sure, we have grim resilience. Yeah, grim resilience. (That’s grim resilience talking).
We have mortal, imperfect heroes and we have a hero’s script: Clint Eastwood has taught us how to be grim. Bruce Willis has taught us how to walk on glass with our bare feet. Woody Allen has taught us how to obsess over our plights and Julie Roberts has taught us how to be plucky.
Just like about everybody else in this little house of fear, I have been feeling hopeless and helpless and more hopeless again. So I did what I do when I’m trying to muddle through. Some people smoke, some people drink. I’m not opposed to those things but I happen to make mix tapes.
I’d like to share this one with you in an effort to ease the pain and fear out there. Ape Culture will send you a copy, free of charge if you’d like it. Just send us your mailing address. You don’t even have to pay postage. All I ask is that you take only one and make copies for your friends.
I realize this sort of pop culture wallowing has, itself, contributed to our general complacency, actively distracting us from the world’s chaos in the first place, but as everything has no end, everything is also a contradiction, and this very coin has two sides. Music knows the way in, so to speak. It works so well because it works so well. What did the Whos down in Whoville do after their materialistic existence had been ripped asunder? They sang.
I’ve picked this particular assortment of pop and gospel, trying to create a balance between hope (specifically, the hope that the world isn’t about to end) and introspection (how can we be better citizens of this world). I’ve included gospel specifically because it is more hopeful than the blues (which is what everyone has been singing these days). Gospel offers us strength. It is the music of overcoming; is not resigned. I generally tend to like gospel songs that are not overtly Christian-specific. I am, after all, a peacenik, in this holy war, (which is quite a different thing than a pacifist or atheist). I feel these songs offer value through our various interpretations of them. For instance, U2’s "Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of" wasn’t written for the living victims of a Trade Tower bombing, but the words clearly mean something for us today. Likewise, your redeemer can be a different redeemer than Nicole C. Mullen’s; it can be your own spiritual guide, or something within yourself. Praise You/Praise Life…do your own search and replace.
On one hopeful note, I’ve been noticing more and more people coming back from the void, little by little, every day. I feel I’m getting my own sense of humor back, which is a small godsend, but hallelujah because I felt like a ghost myself without it.
How to get the tape: email me your mailing address. No easy installments required.
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