Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Phishing for a Miracle

Here I am in the NYC subway, facing my greatest foe: Sameness. Sanity. The Same-Sane Vanessa. I'm wearing a Star Wars: Episode I backpack and a sweatshirt with horses running on the front, a pair of sequined jeans I bought in the Rio hotel in Las Vegas for $15. I'm on the road.

I've seen four Phish shows live. I've listened to another all the way through with the tribe in the car. Tomorrow we head out to Bonnaroo for Phish, Bruce, Wilco, David Byrne, Oh GOD IT'S TOO GOOD.

What's been happening is transformation. How it's been happening is the same way humans have been doing it forever: ritual. It's just that our ritual is rock n' roll, our priests are the rock stars, our temple is the shakedown, the amphitheater, the arena, the Lawn. We gather. We raise our hands up, we get taken far away. We think about everything with wider perspective. We dance like dervishes and run like antelopes out of control. And, like most rituals, many people snap out of it the instant they perceive it's "over." But that hasn't happened to me this time. It's not over. It will never be over. The point of achieving some higher level of awareness is to stay there, not just to dip in once a year when you need to stop being stressed.

Before the second show, the four of us who were there: Max, Aaron, Karine, me--sat in a circle and I reminded us all of how very, very lucky we are. That we are able to make/have enough money to live, to tour, to wear matching shirts. That most people in the world live much more dangerous lives and often don't have their needs met. We dashed into the Shakedown with smiles and tears and gratitude.

Really really good art contains a blueprint for how to understand it. Great art, like Nabokov's Lolita or a Phish show, has a blueprint for how to Understand. Here’s how to listen to this music. Here’s how to listen to all music. Here’s how to listen. Here’s how to read this book. Here’s how to read all books. Here’s how to read. And all activities of engagement are determined cross-purposely, so that Phish teaches you to read and Lolita teaches you to listen, and they both teach you how to see and smell and touch too.

It’s not just how to make art that we learn, not only technique to be replicated. It’s how to be ARTIST PEOPLE, super fine-tuned sensitivity vessels. How do you Jibboo in the backseat? How do you Jibboo when you don’t get in? When you are overwhelmed? How do you Jibboo half asleep? Too high? (need to learn about Jibboo?)

I also realized that we all already know everything we need to know to have the kind of lives we want, to make the kind of art we want. I'm not saying we're masters at everything. I'm saying we have access to the information we need, and the philosophy that guides is at our fingertips all the time. The most important thing we can remember is that we have to stay humble, relearning lessons all the time instead of always running desperately after the next thing that seems brand new.

Humility is saying to those you trust:
Tell me again--how to do it.
Tell me again.

The Christian myth of the body—that it is a heavy coat the soul must wear for some kind of pre-paradise slog through earthly temptations and trials—never seemed right to me. But neither did the body-as-authority bondage of so many New Age systems. A new way, made loud and large on this trip, is integration. It's a revelation to stay unresentful of the body’s simple machinations—hydration, excretion—because even those can be eroticized and holy. Peeing against the wall at the back of the Show, feeling the pleasure of relief as part of the jam Phish is in, the moment of vulnerability when my pants are down in public is beautiful. Drinking water is holy--when I'm thirsty, the water is delicious, and it's borne to me by love--friends, careful engineering, etc. But neither does the body dictate everything. Exhaustion can actually be ignored when necessary, without destroying oneself. There is a way to be a great self-lover, someone who is healthy and excitable, without also getting stuck in hyper-active physical maintenance.

Two days ago the front left tire exploded while I was driving because Max overfilled it. We spent nearly three hours in a truck stop roadside McDonalds in Virginia, off I95 South. It did not stress me out. According to Anth I made a panicked face during the catastrophe. According to Aaron I handled everything perfectly. I know that I was shocked and then got us off the freeway. Laughing laughing fall apart, while we tell each other the stories of what we thought when the tire turned into a bomb and pieces of shrapnel started flying off the car, over soft serve and coffee. The van was truly a sight to behold:
All day I’ve been thinking—what part of the jam is this? What would be happening in the music right now to describe our lives?

1 comment:

  1. You have expertly described The Jam. The Jam is the blueprint for life-as-continuity, as opposed to life as phases (psychology), life as departments and compartments (capitalist organization of space) and life as 3-minute radio songs (the people who think of events as having a concrete beginning and end, as you describe)