OK so over on the OJ Board there was this little comment by Major Matt addressed to Barry Bliss. Attached as you see was a little cartoon about a guy with an "end is near" sign and two down and out folks living in garbage can saying "well this calls for a celebration." This called to mind some reflections I had written a while ago for Urban/Folk/Boog City, but I don't think it ever got published. It was looking for these reflections that I came upon the Lach exegesis. But here it for what it is worth:
Debe Dalton was performing a song in which she describes a conversation with a Jesus freak in the park. At one point Debe sings that she thought the young woman would probably "go home and re-read Revelations." This struck me as funny since it was only the night before that I, myself, was, in fact, rereading Revelations.
I of course distrust most statements which claim to understand the almost 2000 year old book called the Apocalypse of John, expecially when it is all based on English translations, and I have only the vaguest knowledge of ancient Greek. You should similarly distrust any apparent attempt on my part at explanation.
Still there is this one passage that intrigues me. It occurs when the lamb breaks the fifth seal on the scroll and there appear the psyches of all these people who have basically lived and been killed in the most lonely of circumstances-- saying what they they intuitively thought they was true about the world. Please note that despite all the wrath that pours down on the world in the book it appears that none of the human beings who the book considers the good guys actually participate in dishing out the wrath. They just basically refuse to cooperate with the Beast and suffer for the refusal.
But the psyches who are gathered in what reminds one of the Well of Souls beneath the altar, sound really on the edge of exhaustion. They seem tired that despite the fact they held on and would rather have died for their perception of the truth than kill for it, they are basically pretty much ignored by the world at large, who basically kills them and moves on. They cry out for vindication. They want Truth itself who after all is what they followed into this lonely situation to finally and unambiguously let the world know that they were right. The answer they receive is to wait a little longer until more people end up in their situation. In the mean time they are given some sort of symbolic white garment representing maybe joy.
Now I tend to have a critical-rational-scientific perspective on the world, which means of course, that I do not dismiss such visions, since I have no one else's eyes. But I do believe that there are times when we intuitively see something about the world which others may not see. Our job I think is to neither assert that everyone else is wrong, nor to accept that we are screwed up for seeing the world that way. Our job is to test and criticize such perceptions as experience and life unfold and see how these intuitions stand up. If after long years of attack from ourselves and the prevailing wisdom of the world, it still seems that these initial instantaneous perceptions still persist and no one has offered a really solidly grounded argument, other than simply telling us its not the way the world works, then it seems pretty solid scientifically to hold on to that notion. You want vindication, but that may never come in this life. Maybe you shouldn't want vindication, but what human can sustain that kind of loneliness in the their daily lives for long. Maybe that's why we find ourselves here-- if we don't agree with, in fact aren't even quite certain what the other people on the Scene actually think about the world, at least we get the sense that they have an understanding of the peculiar struggles of having an insight like for instance, "I have a calling to make music and write songs" and having to live with that particular truth that just won't seem to go away.
This brings us, of course, to the music of Barry Bliss, Dan Penta and John Houx. People familiar with Barry Bliss's music which has always involved asevere look at the values which people just go along with, and an especially harsh judgment on those who kill and torture those who are merely trying to tell the truth, may have been surprised somewhat at the almost conciliatory development some of his new songs espouse. They are certainly very introspective, and "It's Nice" the song in which he sees Peter Dougherty on video in an airplane and he comes to the realization that its good not be jealous of another's success and "that everyone has a right to live their dream" is wonderful in its peaceful humanity. It seems to me, with absolutely no evidence other than my own particular filters on the world, that this is an instance of someone coming to the realization that certain conclusions they had drawn from their initial heartfelt insights into the world are not necessarily good, true or productive.
I tend to think that Bliss in his old stuff is still right-- the machine has taken over, there are people out there who will kill and torture the bearers of good news and bad, and the hypocricy of those seeking power and success is so rank that any normal human reaction untempered by reflection and self-criticism is that they should if not burn in a lake of fire, for all the napalm they've dropped on human flesh, at least be denied entry in final happiness for the poor that they have turned away.
But maybe that's not our judgment to make. Still there's a big difference between seeing that people do horrible things and not judging them, and not judging because we are too lazy and/or too busy or too afraid to look at clearly at the evidence before us. In this we are like Carmella Soprano, we know our life stems from from bullets in the head and torture on meat hooks but we choose not to divorce ourselves from the benefits that we get however indirectly from the perpetrators.
So although Bliss is a little less judgmental on the individuals caught up in this machine, he still has not surrendered to some relativistic notion of this is just his opinion. The intellectual honesty of still holding and living these insights of his remains as evidenced by his song wherein he asserts that he has tried to be lame, has tried to go along with the prevailing notion of accepting the comforts offered by the society and just shutting up, but that it hasn't worked. He knows that there is something alive inside him that is just not going to rest until its free. That is a truth the singer seems to perceive, has tested and he has been offered no good arguments other than just give up, which he refuses to do.
That me fellow travellers is a hard and lonely road.
If one artist has sketched out in searing and evocative poetic detail the psychological and perhaps spiritual arc of the loneliness of the human refusing to so easily accept what is being offered by the world it is Dan Penta. There is little space to elucidate the full complexity of Penta's work in this regard-- it permeates his entire catalog but his most recent show closer "Dreams of Running" has a refrain that to me captures the constant struggle and temptation of the human, who escaping from inner oppression caused by these structures and humans in the world therefore also relinquishes the security and comfort of never having to really decide what is the right or wrong way to go.
I long to see my overseer
Wicked hand watch over me
Keep me safe from my dreams
Of chasing fire and ice
I'll chase nothing at all...
You can feel this in artists like Bliss and Penta and in any number of humans trying to honestly fight the good fight-- it would be so easy to return to a life where we could do what we are told to do, and maybe even get fed well if only because others don't want us to weak to their work. Sometimes I swear there is an almost conscious escape valve in heavy metal and punk in this world, whereby the young who actually see that previous generations are full of shit, that the Emperor has no clothes, get to blow off that angry steam, and then as the poverty exhaustion drugs and struggle finally take there toll are willing to accept what is being offered and shut up about the damned Emperor. Thus we look back fondly on our rebel days, those days of chasing fire and ice. We end up chasing nothing at all. Which I suspect is just how the overseers like it. Eventually we end up trying to convince the next generation that the Emperor is not in fact naked.
It is to continue to shout like Bliss for years that the emperor is not only naked but a friggin EMPEROR a wielder of death and destruction in the interests of conquest and power, that is really difficult for the martyrdom which a society like ours has developed for its own preservation may not be the bullet in the dark, the torture and drowning of Rasputin, or the burning of Joan of Arc. It may be a long life of being totally ignored. The ever imperious claim that oh yeah we all went through the rebel phase, why don't you just grow up and give up. It is like the state of those psyches just longing for someone who really knows what its all about to vouch for them, to point out after all that they were not out of their minds.
So how do we go on? Is there anything, anyone that will vindicate us? I don't know but how does one proceed. Well certainly the deeply felt intuitions, that seem to have more of a reality than simple emotional reactions and lack of medication, and which have not, when looked at honestly, yet turned out to be wrong, are certainly not going to be vindicated if we ourselves decide to give up on them.
It interests me that Bliss's music has receded from the overt in your face stance of earlier works ,while still refusing to give up on reality that the singer has a truth to put into rhyme that he will not compromise. On the other side Penta whose work embodies at different times internal retreat and a more aggressive side, seems to be more hopeful and happy than previously, and yet he does not shy from what is really going on. Reality actually contains tons of joyful things. So one can without compromise or deception move in that direction. Maybe we all need to meet at that place of which John Houx sings:
I will fight no more forever
Nor will I surrender
We will go through the emotional ups and downs which Penta describes in Tag You're Hollow. But hey what the heck life's a struggle. Why not struggle to neither fight nor surrender?
As I said I am too scientific a person to assume that there will be no final vindication. So we might as well put on a white robe of joy and keep testifying each in our own way to or search for the truth..