Thursday, October 30, 2008

back in the saddle

Some three and a half weeks since the break and today, officially, I'm back on the bike. Ninety minutes of blowing two loaded barrels of snot around the roads south and east of Shippensburg. It felt really, really good.


Listened to last week's This American Life, about the election and campaigning in Pennsylvania. Recommended.

Two thoughts.

First, there's a story in there about the energy, emotion, and exhaustion of State College democrats in their voter registration drive.

Sarah Koenig tells us about Jonathan Berkhart (sp?), sent by the Service Employees International Union to register 2500 voters on his own. He's sick. He's had an eye infection. His eye infection got so bad it had to be operated on.

SK: Right now taking a break is out of the question. He's still less than halfway to his goal. He's got what you might call "The Shindler's List Syndrome."

JB: I mean, there's an infinite amount of work I could be doing all the time. You can never, like, overdo it.

SK: Right, so you could look out over all of these people and just start asking them, like, are you registered? Are you registered? Are you registered?

JB: Exactly, you know, the sort of...ok, so you registered half the student body, why didn't you register all of the student body? You register all the student body, why didn't you convince ever single one of them to vote for your candidate. You convince every single one of them to vote for your candidate, why weren't you in other areas where you could have been convincing other people? Like, you just keeps on going.

I found myself listening to this today and it sounded eerily familiar. Really familiar. Familiar in a way that left me with little empathy for Jonathan because his guilt-motivated campaign for the good seemed, in a way I can't quite explain, like a reminder of an almost daily personal emotion. And then I realized why. He was talking like a missionary. A Mormon missionary. I know that feeling because I've lived that feeling. I'd go so far as to say I've lived that feeling to a degree about a thousand times as intense as what Jonathan's describing. So what Jonathan's describing doesn't seem particularly unique. In fact, it sounds like the hand-wrining of a greenie, a novice, someone who hasn't yet developed the complicated (and often conviluted) psychological coping strategies that allow you to deal with the mountains of guilt you take on whenever you allow yourself to get swept up in a cause that you believe is much bigger than you.

"Give him another 23 months," I found myself thinking. He'll get over himself.

Second, the TAL episoid closed with an unfamiliar rendition of a familiar song.

I very much remember this song when it and I were both young, how it was played and replayed on the radio. I must have been only nine and ten. To me, it was just a tired pop song. I was young, but my musical tastes were already firmly planted in the "classic rock" of the 60s and 70s. But of course I couldn't understand the song.

I understand it now. And it's a moving song. It's upbeat tune belies the depth of the message.

Too much powerful prose is lost in the trivialities of its musical packaging. For instance:

A modern-day warrior
Mean mean stride,
Todays Tom Sawyer
Mean mean pride.

Though his mind is not for rent,
Dont put him down as arrogant.
His reserve, a quiet defense,
Riding out the days events.
The river

And what you say about his company
Is what you say about society.
Catch the mist, catch the myth
Catch the mystery, catch the drift.

The world is, the world is,
Love and life are deep,
Maybe as his eyes are wide.

Today's Tom Sawyer,
He gets high on you,
And the space he invades
He gets by on you.

No, his mind is not for rent
To any god or government.
Always hopeful, yet discontent,
He knows changes aren't permanent,
But change is.

And what you say about his company
Is what you say about society.
Catch the witness, catch the wit,
Catch the spirit, catch the spit.

The world is, the world is,
Love and life are deep,
Maybe as his skies are wide.

Exit the warrior,
Todays Tom Sawyer,
He gets high on you,
And the energy you trade,
He gets right on to the friction of the day.

If I taught poetry, I'd teach pop music. (I'm sure I'm not the first to say that.)

No comments: