Truth is a pathless land. So sayeth Krishnamurti. Two roads may not diverge in the woods this time around. Suddenly there are no roads. Life isn’t what happens to you, but how you react to what happens. The journey home after we’ve lost our maps or honing devices. Time to re-tool personal philosophies. All gospels become Gnostic.
One month ago I was recovering from an eye operation in a hospital in a medieval Swiss City. Helicopters landed on the roof all night. Sirens wailed in the streets after the bars closed. A roundup of the wounded, broken and half dead. Humanity speaking in tongues of blood, pain, mortality, and sorrow. Maybe hope. When the next breath is all there is, it’s enough. Outside in the hallways nurses were murmuring in Swiss German. I was waking up in a Hemingway war novel set in WW1. One eyed and sedated. I remembered almost dying of dysentery in Nigeria, forty years ago, and every time I’d moan or retch in agony, the Yoruba girls out in the courtyard would wail in primitive harmony with my pain. The healing song. Cante hondo. Their chanting pulled me through. When the land becomes pathless it’s time to reach for the heart within the heart. The place to go when all the trouble starts. When your world spins upside down and falls apart. That song.
Every Tom Russell record should harbor at least one song of hope or simple love. Redemption. Internal rummage sales. A rest stop on a road marked with darker songs about people who’ve been somewhere and left their mark on the cave wall. We’re all climbing our crooked mountains, reimagining our art and philosophies, one song at a time. Touchstones have eroded. We live in a world polluted and broken down by divisive politics, tribal hatreds, religious wars and a corrupt media hacking into personal pain - to display it all on the evening news. We’re revolted by fanatical Muslims chopping off the nose and ears of a woman, and yet have tolerated the silence of the Vatican, covering up priest/predator damage to a half million abused children. Under the banner of God. We have politically corrected our lingo, while our baser instincts grow deadlier. We’ve invented a new mask of false innocence, with a clown’s smiling face. Our arts are phony. The news is tainted. Our children are one dimensional. Their songs are merely soundscapes. Lyrical abstract expressionism, lacking the guts and color of a DeKooning print. Novels are arch. Nobody’s home. Conceptual art devoid of content and wild-hearted thrust. Passion is a dirty word. The lions and elephants have disappeared from the circus and helicopters are landing on the roof. St. Jude has surrendered.
The direction out is into the pathless land where each individual must change their interior being. Good luck on your journey. Carry water, and a belief that there’s a heart within your heart.
(Song #9 coming…on Mesabi) (Rest in peace Bill Morrissey and Amy Winehouse)