Archive for music

Will Ferrell does a mock music video of gangster rap – and it’s a scathingly hilarious critique of the genre

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2015 by jtoddring

A musical commentary, followed by social and political analysis, followed by hilarious spoof rap videos, and more

This is scathingly funny. Will Ferrell does a mock music video of macho gangster rap.

Man, how I despise that music. As Rage Against the Machine said, “So-called rap’s a fraud.” Worse, most of it is disgustingly offensive, as well as hollow and noxious.

The majority of it is macho, sexist, hate-filled, poser pablum that screams insecure, status-seeking, pre-teen angst and a desire to be “big” – in all the wrong ways, and with nothing to say and nowhere to go but down.

Bob Marley would roll in his grave. Angry and misguided, emotionally disturbed twelve-year-olds with an attitude problem could be forgiven for liking this music, but that’s about all. Only new country and death metal can compete with such sleazy, aggressive, pretentious garbage for the “first into the sewer” rankings.

At least new country is simply vacant, vacuous and vapid, overly commercialized twaddle and wallpaper music, worthy only of playing in elevators, and for a maximum of fifteen seconds, but as unoffensive as it is bland and banal, like a harmless old shoe – death metal and gangster rap are psychologically disturbed and disturbing, and morally bankrupt.

Give me old-school R&B, jazz, blues, soul, reggae, classic rock or classic country, gospel, classical, funk, punk, scat, ska, swing, big band, folk, Latin, electronica, chant or even opera, but spare me that macho rap crap shite!

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And for the more serious-minded, here is some social commentary to accompany the musical commentary.

Musical tastes aside, there is something to be said about the influence of music – and particularly, music that expresses and generates a violent, aggressive attitude – and how such messages are likely to affect human behaviour, with the result of increasing violence in society.

Violent crime has been declining for decades, but fear and hysteria are at record levels. The media has a great deal to do with this. But in any case, violence in society is still, of course, a very serious concern; and violence in the United States, in particular, is far above the level of other major nations, and needs to be addressed. And violent music, media and video games are likely to have far more to do with this than guns.

In the US there is great hew and cry about gun control, but the obvious facts, or what should be obvious facts, are either overlooked or simply ignored. The fact is that Switzerland and the US have the highest rates of gun ownership in the world, along with Yemen; but while the US has one of the highest rates of violent crime and murder, Switzerland, with similar levels of gun ownership, has one of the lowest rates of violent crime and murder. Clearly guns are not the cause of violence. Something in the culture of the United States is causing high levels of violence.

Getting rid of guns, even if that was possible, would not end the violence. The US government tried to ban and prohibit alcohol, but that did not stop the flow of alcohol – it simply caused organized crime explode, and caused violent crime to explode as a result.

The US government has tried for decades to eliminate drugs, with its infamous, “War On Drugs”. But that has not stopped the flow of drugs. All it has done is to repeat the patterns of prohibition, causing gang activity and organized crime to soar, and with it, the violence that comes in its wake.

A war on guns would be as utterly ineffective as the prohibition of alcohol or the war on drugs, in terms of stopping the flow of guns. And aside from that most critical point, guns are not the cause of the violence – a culture of violence is the cause of the violence.

Evidence links the decline in exposure to lead poisoning with the decline in violent crime in the United States, and this should give us a major clue: when people’s brains, bodies, hormonal systems and nervous systems are being disrupted and poisoned by toxic chemicals in our food, air, water and environment, serious psychological problems, from mild depression to violent, homicidal impulses, are one part of the result. So a war on pollution would be far more effective, more rational and more sane, from all the available evidence, than a war on guns.

More people are murdered with kitchen knives, blunt objects or bare hands than by guns – people will find ways to harm or to kill, whether or not guns are available. What must be addressed are the causes of violent impulses, not the manner or form of their expression. This should be obvious, but the obvious is routinely being missed at present.

What is causing violence in society, and high levels of violence in American society? Could soaring poverty and inequality, frustration, desperation, and a resulting and very understandable and predictable rage, be a large part of the answer? Of course it is.

“We are sitting on a powder keg of inequality, injustice and insecurity,
and it is about to explode.”

– Amnesty International

The problems are sociological, and cannot be fixed through technocratic means. The “law and order” ideology will not solve it. In fact, it is making things worse, as prison populations soar, repression and militarization of the culture becomes normalized, brutality becomes accepted as necessary, and the cycle of a culture of violence perpetuating itself, continues. The culture is severely out of balance, and it is causing a small minority of people to do desperate and terrible things. Repeating and intensifying the same failed methods and responses is a recipe for continued failure, and escalating social disaster.

But people are only now beginning to be willing to look at the underlying, deeper issues; and most are still focused on the mere surface of things, and are utterly distracted, beguiled and bewildered, propagandized and deeply indoctrinated. This has to change. Inequality must be addressed, or violence will rise beyond its already high levels. Band-aid solutions will not work, and will not do.

As Bob Marley said,

“Everyone is crying out for peace,
None are crying out for justice.
But there will be no peace,
‘Till there is equal rights, and justice.”

Senator Bernie Sanders and many others understand this. If we want peace, then we must sow justice and equality. And if we are to succeed in that effort, then we must make war on Wall Street; and peacefully, but boldly and firmly, transform the system which benefits the richest few, at the expense and tremendous suffering of the great majority; end the reign of the corporate oligarchy of the billionaire class, and restore and reclaim democracy, and return the power to the people.

And maybe while we are making war on poverty and inequality, we should also look at music, television, film and media which make it seem cool to be violently aggressive, narcissistic, egotistical and machismo.

I’m not saying censorship is the answer. Freedom of speech is essential to a free society. Censorship, like prohibition, is not only useless and ineffective, but also dangerous, and produces far more harm than good. But we do need to look at what kind of messages the media, and the music and film industries, are pushing out in mass production into the culture of modern society. And a great deal of it is simply toxic sludge.

We need to create a culture of peace, to replace the culture of violence which, to a large extent, exists now. Courage and strength are shown and measured by compassion: not selfish and narcissistic, puerile pretension, self-inflation, aggression, hate, and egotistical parading of infantile grandiosity – be it from Donald Trump or gangster rappers.

Who shows real strength, who deserves the greatest respect? Certainly not thugs or wanna-be thugs threatening to “cap your ass”, or baring their asses in some other adolescent show of macho bravado. It is people like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Rosa Parks and others, and musicians like Bob Marley, who show the courage of compassion and love, who deserve our greatest respect, and who show the greatest strength.

There is a time for ferocity, but if it does not come from compassion, and is not guided or channeled wisely, then it is hollow posturing at best, or worse, and far more common, a self-destructive flame that is blinding,  burns all it touches.

Music is powerful, as are films, TV, video games, the internet, and the media in general. We should think about what we subject our minds to, and our children’s minds as well.

And artists and media workers should think about what they are producing. Their role should be to inform, inspire, unite, uplift and empower; or if it is simply entertainment that is being produced, then it should at least not be mental poison. We would be infinitely better with silence, than with that.

But music is one thing – systemic injustice, violence, extreme and growing inequality, and clearly fascist tendencies among the presently ruling corporate elite, are quite another. And it is this second set of concerns that should trouble us. The music is more a symptom than a cause of the real problems we face, although it is sometimes a little of both. It may be of some concern, but the latter, second set of patterns, is simply disastrous and intolerable.

We can change the station, change the music. But far more importantly, we should be willing to change the system – because the system is broken, and it is corrupt, as everybody knows.

J. Todd Ring,
October 28, 2015

Warning: The following videos are not for little ears.

Will Ferrell: Step Brothers – Boats ‘N Hoes

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post/async/embed/dialog/?source=6&url=%2FWillFerrelll%2Fvideos%2Fvb.169242926568179%2F250702351755569%2F%3Ftype%3D3

And of course, Everyday Normal Crew – from the Live As Fuck Tour

And on a more serious note, here is some rap with a message – and a soul:

Wake Up – Rage Against the Machine: Lyrics

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/rageagainstthemachine/wakeup.html

And the de-classified documents quoted in the song, Wake Up:

“Through counter-intelligence it should be possible to pin-point potential trouble-makers, and neutralize them” – National Security Archives

https://nsarchive.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/mlk-document-friday-through-counter-intelligence-it-should-be-possible-to-pinpoint-potential-trouble-makers-and-neutralize-them/

The new epidemic: Death cults and the culture of despair

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2013 by jtoddring

An article in The Atlantic speaks to the growing death-fetish that is gripping more and more youth. It is a bad omen for the state of modern industrial civilization as a whole, I would contend, and it indicates a broader trend toward anxiety, hopeless and despair, which must be confronted and overcome – if, that is, we are not going to collectively groan our way into self-annihilation.

There are sociological, political, economic, psychological and ecological reasons for the rapidly emerging death-cult that is now sweeping the world, and I think it is important that we address them head on.

theatlantic:

Why Does Pop Romanticize Dying Young?

Bieber with his swag, Miley with her tongue, Skrillex’s stupid haircut … There are tons of reasons to tune out modern pop music that don’t have a thing to do with the music itself.

But if you do listen—really pay attention—you might find something in today’s pop that’s a lot more bothersome. There’s an apocalyptic, we’re-all-gonna-die-anyway theme that keeps popping up—a YOLO-style message to do whatever you want right now because tomorrow you might be in a box. 

Icona Pop’s song “I Love It” is an ode to crashing cars, throwing someone else’s stuff down the stairs and essentially doing whatever the hell they want, all the while proclaiming “I don’t care, I love it.” In “Die Young,” the always-prolific Ke$ha tells someone she just met to “make the most of the night like we’re gonna die young.”

I keep seeing this: there is a death-cult sweeping the Western world, and it is growing. This is not surprising, but it is disturbing.

When we are actively destroying our future, by poisoning the air, water, soil, the oceans, rivers, lakes and groundwater, and even the food we eat, when we are racing toward self-annihilation and collective suicide, it is not surprising that anxiety and despair grow and become the unspoken, and sometimes the openly expressed norm. And when a civilization is in decay, then death cults will invariably emerge. The problem is not pop culture, but mainstream culture more broadly, which is narcissistic, quietly despairing, escapist, voyeuristic, materialistic, deeply lost and deeply alienated.

What we need is not more reckless hedonism and despair, not more of a “fuck it all, because it’s all hopeless, so let’s go out with a big bang” attitude of collective suicidal tendencies, but instead, a reconnection with one another, with our deeper selves, with nature, with our hearts and our own common sense.

What we need is to reconnect, and rediscover our hope, our courage, our determination, our inspiration, and our empowerment as thinking, feeling human beings who consciously choose to live with love and courage, and not a quiet despair – much less a loud and moaning despair.

We need not go out with either a bang or a whimper. (Does anyone now even know where such lines of prescience come from, in this hyper-distracted age of obsession with mindless drivel?) We can live, and live well, and heal this world. But only if we have the courage and the heart to do so. Telling ourselves and one another that it’s all futile and we’re all doomed, is both cowardly and irresponsible. We need hope, courage and empowerment, not more whining and foolish self-destruction.

Find your courage, and get your warrior on. We need warriors now, not whiners.

There is a great fascination now, and there has been for some time, with disaster movies and TV shows like “Survivor” – and the reason is not hard to figure out, as others have noted. We all know by now, consciously or at least subconsciously, that we are racing toward disaster, environmentally speaking, if not also in other ways. The fascination with such pop culture fluff as portrayed in these genres is a way for us to unconsciously begin to prepare ourselves psychologically for possible disaster.

As an aside, it should be noted that TV shows like Survivor give terrible life lessons and darkly negative social conditioning, basically upholding the game theory of social relations, which is a disproven theory, as studies in evolutionary biology have shown – but nevertheless they continue with it, essentially telling people in every show that deceitful narcissism and ruthless self-centredness win out in the end over honesty, loyalty, compassion and cooperation. Such messages are deeply antisocial and darkly cynical, and the message they give is not only callous and cut-throat, alienating and dividing as well as morally bankrupting, but also leads people into ultimately self-defeating behaviours.

Selfishness and deceit do pay in the short term, but in the longer term, as the scientific studies confirm, the person who behaves this way ends up alienated and alone – and alone, we are far, far weaker than we are together, working jointly in solidarity and mutual aid. Empathy, compassion, solidarity, cooperation and mutual aid are basic human instincts, as evolutionary biology has now shown, and there is a reason for this: it simply works. Compassion and cooperation makes us all stronger, and are a matter of enlightened self-interest, and not simply a matter of being “nice.” It is a matter of being intelligent.

But to return to the central point, the rising death cult is a phenomenon that is arising out of a quiet desperation, as Thoreau observed over one hundred and fifty years ago. Not only has modern society produced deep alienation, loneliness and a pervasive sense of meaninglessness and malaise, in our mindless automaton culture (sic); but we are also witnessing our civilization self-destruct, and we are living in a state of on-going slow-motion disaster. In such a situation, the best and the worst of people comes out, and also, their addiction to escapism and flights into fantasy. But what scientific studies have also shown, once again confirming the obvious, is that in a crisis situation – and we are living in a perpetual state of protracted crisis now (despite the denial portrayed on the brilliant Supertramp album cover, “Crisis, What Crisis?”) – the people who cope the best are those who stay active, those who find something to do that may have even the slight possibility of being some help.

If a plane crashes on an island and a few people survive, the ones who go and gather food and water and firewood, or comfort the wounded and the mad, tend to cope far better than the ones who sit around moaning about their terrible lot. Action matters – and not just in terms of its results, but also in terms of the positive impact it has on our minds. It is far better to do something that just might be of some small help, even if it is a long-shot and all seems hopeless, than to give up, in conscious or unconscious despair.

*

I agree completely with what Thomas Merton said, “If you are afraid of writing something that might offend someone, why write anything at all.” Sometimes painful truths must be spoken.

For example, in the 1800’s, people had to say loudly and clearly that slavery is wrong and utterly intolerable, an abomination that cannot be accepted under any circumstances. In the 19th century, women and men had to say loudly and clearly, and boldly, that voting is a universal right. In the 20th century, Martin Luther King Jr. and the millions of people who participated in the Civil Rights movement had to loudly and clearly state that racism and segregation are obscene, supremely unethical, and utterly unacceptable. And today, we must say, that reckless hedonism and moping despair, are both unintelligent and also irresponsible, shameless and cowardly.

If you “emo” kids, goths, punks and others who parade your pain like it is a badge, and whine endlessly while doing little, are all so sensitive, then put your hearts into action, and do something that helps in some small way to bring about a better world – don’t just sit there moaning, waiting for someone to fix it for you.

You are young adults now, or soon to be – stop behaving like four year olds throwing a temper tantrum or a sulking fit. Keep your sensitivity, yes, but embrace your power as well. You are far more powerful than you imagine. Stop whimpering and do something.

The youth have traditionally, in every generation, been the questioners of the status quo and the norm, and the drivers of change. While this is still the case to some degree, many youth are now lost in a pool of their own spittle, blathering about how much they hate their lives, while watching the world burn. They should be out in the streets, not sitting idly in self-pity. Where is the fight in them? We certainly do not need any more violence in the world, but we do need action, and for that, there must be the heart of a warrior. Find your brave hearts, lads and lasses. This is your time to shine, not to whine.

Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, The World Wildlife Fund, Friends of the Earth, countless local environmental groups, the Occupy and Solidarity movements, Idle No More, the David Suzuki Foundation and the myriad groups working for social justice, peace and real social change, need your help. Pick one, and let’s see some action. Whining about how much you hate your life is not cool – it’s just whining.

It must also be acknowledged, that a lot of youth, and a lot of children and adults, are not only quietly or openly despairing, but are clinically depressed. Depression, anxiety and despair are all at epidemic proportions now, and rising fast – for obvious sociological reasons, and not, emphatically, for reasons of brain chemistry, generally speaking. And taking a pill will only be a band-aid, temporary measure, and not a real solution. But having lived through depression and survived it, and coming out the other side, I can say this with certainty: the best antidote for depression, is action. Do something that gives you joy, and even better, do something that is truly meaningful, and the depression will subside, if not completely disappear. Sitting around and contemplating how much your life sucks, won’t help you.

But to be sympathetic and also fully real, we must also say this. What do youth – or any of us, for that matter – have to be hopeful about today? The economic outlook is grim. More and more, we can expect, as George Carlin has said, “Increasingly shittier jobs with increasingly shittier pay, and vanishing pensions that disappear the moment you go to collect them.”

What do youth have to look forward to economically? Working as a Wal-Mart greeter for minimum wage, a wage that is below subsistence level, with no benefits and no future – and that is while being saddled with crippling student debt and laden with an education that may get them a job driving cab or flipping burgers, if they’re lucky.

The middle aged and elderly have few better options, and the middle class is sinking into the underclass and being systematically destroyed. Hopelessness and despair are very understandable, given the state of our global corporate-dominated, rape and pillage economy, which benefits the top 1% while screwing the other 99 out of a hundred of us.

Ecologically, youth and also all of us, are staring down the most severe crisis human beings have ever faced: an ecological crisis which is only gathering speed, and which threatens to wipe out our civilization, if not the entire human species on earth. And we are not doing remotely enough about it for anyone to be truly hopeful at this time. That could change in a heart-beat, if the people decide to act with boldness and stop hesitating, but for the moment, despair is an understandable response.

What about politics? The youth, as well as the overwhelming majority of the people, of all ages, have lost all faith, trust and confidence in the political system, as poll after poll reveals. The youth, and people in general, have come to view the major political parties, their governments, and the great majority of the politicians, as simply corrupt, or at best, inept. They see no hope in any serious positive change coming from this morass, this garbage heap which is contemporary political life. And they are right. The major political parties, along with most governments in the world, are bought and owned by big business and the corporate elite, just as the media is, and increasingly, the schools, colleges and universities as well. What is there to be hopeful about? Again, despair is an understandable response.

But while despair may be understandable, it is not conscionable, and nor is it intelligent. To surrender to despair is to actively sow one’s own misery, as well as sowing misery for others. This is not only unacceptable, it is also stupid, and deeply unwise.

We must be brave, if for no other reason, than because we care about others and about life on this earth. If we are heartless, then we can throw in the towel, give up, and go and moan in the corner. If we have a brave heart, which is to say, if compassion and caring mean more to us than our own petty self-interest or personal comfort, then we will not only carry on: we will give it all we’ve got, and never surrender.

And if we are not motivated by love, then we should at least be motivated to seek happiness for ourselves – and that requires boldness and determination, courage and heart, and a refusal to give in to the temptations of despair.

Life is for living. And life is precious. If we have forgotten that, then we really have temporarily lost our minds, and we should sit down with a cup of tea or a quiet moment, and remember that we are alive, or watch the stars at night, or the sunset or sunrise, or the wind swaying through the trees, and remember that there is beauty and preciousness to this life. At the very least, we should not let our own personal despair turn us into assholes who care about nothing and no one. That would be about the worst thing we could possibly do.

Real change will come from the streets – as it always has – not from some elected demagogue in Washington who makes pretty speeches, then betrays every principle and every promise made, while selling out the people to the corporate elite who now rule the world. If we want change, real change, then we will have to make it for ourselves.

The people always have the power. If they choose to lie to themselves, and to pretend they are powerless, then that is their great misfortune, and their great error. If they choose to embrace their power, then anything and everything is possible.

Stay strong. As a great line from a favourite movie put it, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Don’t be wishy-washy, whiny or vapid. If you’re going to live, then really live. Give all you can, love to the fullest extent of your power, and respect yourself, always.

The power to shape our own future is still in our hands. If we want to make of this world, a better place for all, then that is in our power. We will have to come together and unite in order to accomplish this admittedly large and challenging task, but it is entirely within our power, and within our reach.

Despair is for cowards. Have some self-respect. We cannot afford to be cowardly if our hearts are still alive. We may have moments of despair, but we can never completely surrender to despair. Life is simply far too precious for such ordinary madness.

Live while you live.

As Yogi Beara said – and he was right – “It ain’t over ’till it’s over.” 

J. Todd Ring,
November 1, 2013

 

Here’s a little music for the revolution. Enjoy, and let’s see action.

 

A Little Less Conversation
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zx1_6F-nCaw

Let’s See Action
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPuCsosr9jM

Let’s Go
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExYsh1W22Wo

Let’s Get It Started
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKqV7DB8Iwg

 

 

Simple pleasures and the greatest of treasures

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2013 by jtoddring

Ok, it’s that time. Time to put down the pen, or in this case, the keyboard; start cooking dinner – very slowly, for maximum flavour – and cut the grass in the golden sun of the late afternoon… And, crank up the rock and roll on the wireless headphones! Whoo-hoo! After a satisfying and truly joyful day of research and writing, there is little better, to my mind. Then it’s off to yoga to make my body, as well as my mind and heart, feel even more amazing.

Man: a half-decent stereo, wireless headphones, and some books – I could happily live in a grass hut and a loin cloth, so long as I have these three things.

And I guess a solar panel or two to power the stereo would be handy. If I were to get really elaborate and lavish, I’d throw in a laptop and satellite dish for internet connections, but that’s really sheer luxury, and a luxury I could easily do without. Pen and paper work just fine.

Materialism is hollow and unsatisfying, but I must admit, I would be saddened to lose my music and my books. These are truly great treasures.

You can take all the glitz and glitter, the bells and whistles and baubles and trinkets and toys. Just leave me my music, my books, and my peace of mind, and I will be more than happy. Happier, I would contend, than most who live in great sprawling homes, palaces and mansions, for they are owned and enslaved by their possessions and their fear, more often than not.

I am blessed with abundance at present, but I realize the truth of impermanence, and I also know where the true treasures lie, and the greatest of these lie within.

JTR

A great anti-war song – turn it loud!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2013 by jtoddring

When the war drums are pounding, as Gerald Celente and other intelligent observers have been saying for months and years, and only now can the masses begin to hear it; and on the anniversary of that most famous and inspiring speech by Martin Luther King Jr. – who, it should be remembered, had a dream not only of freedom, justice, an end to racism and gross economic inequality, but also, a dream of peace and an end to violence, empire and war – I would like to ask that this song be shared as widely as possible, and played often – and loud.

http://youtu.be/1XYFJUP84lE

War is not the answer. War is a racket, as General Smedley Butler said – the elite profit from it, at the great expense and terrible danger to everyone else. Stop the madness. Stop the war. No war on Syria.

J. Todd Ring, August 28, 2013

Word to the bland, blasé and banal – apathy is living death

Posted in activism, consciousness, empowerment, philosophy, political philosophy, political theory, psychology, Thoreau, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2011 by jtoddring


A song came on the radio today that I have loved all my life – except this time, it was a cover, and it spoke something to me that I would like to share. It was a jazz cover of “Ode to Billy Joe.” That might be fine, and might work well, but the singer was trying to make the song sexy, and it struck me as bizarre as well as unfitting. Ode to Billy Joe is about a man who commits suicide by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge, and the woman who clearly loved him, and grieves for him still. It is a very sad and moving song. The jazz artist covering it had no emotion in her voice, other than the delight in her admittedly fine voice, and an air of sultry sexiness in her vocals. I have nothing against sultry, sexy music, especially when done well, by a vocalist with a melodic or soulful or sensuous voice – such as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday or even Janis Joplin. But you don’t turn a funeral dirge into a sensuous romp. You don’t try to make a funeral dirge sexy, and Ode to Billy Joe is a funeral dirge, a lament. It seemed bizarre, and it was mildly annoying to hear. It’s like trying to make Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata into a hip hop tune. Some things just don’t go together – like ice cream and beer, or ketchup and cheesecake… Bert Bacharach singing Rage Against the Machine’s Take the Power Back, O.J. Simpson in a tutu… or funereal laments with light and fluffy sensuous vocals. But this is not what really annoyed me about the song. What was really striking was its self-contradiction. It is a heart-breaking song, and it was sung with a disturbing indifference.

“Because you are neither hot nor cold, but only luke warm,
I spit you out of my mouth.”
– St. John of Patmos

Listening to the cover artist croon in light, swaying tones, more interested in the sound of her voice than the lyrics and the story they told, she sang, “And Papa said to Mama as he passed around the black-eyed peas….”Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense – pass the biscuits, please.” And it struck me – this is why this cover bothers me: the cover artist is showing no feeling for the tragedy that this song speaks of – and the cover artist is as blasé and indifferent as the family members at the table in the song.

And Brother said he recollected when he and Tom and Billie Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn’t I talkin’ to him after church last Sunday night?
“I’ll have another piece of apple pie, you know it don’t seem right”

It made me shudder, in fact, to hear the indifference in the artist’s voice, the lack of feeling and concern; and the contrast in the song – between the family’s largely uncaring reaction to this tragedy, and the heart-break of the young woman who loved Billy Joe and that of the song itself – was drawn out in a clarity that I have never before heard or appreciated. It is a stark and poignant, painful contrast, between love and compassion on the one hand, and unfeeling indifference on the other. Juxtaposed, it makes the song all that much more moving. And to hear the contrast heightened by a cover of the song that was sung with glorious indifference and banal, blasé self-involvement, made me realize that there is a great deal of this in the world: unfeeling apathy and uncaring indifference – as if there is nothing worth getting concerned about other than football, sit-coms and shopping, or what the weather might be like for the barbeque this weekend, and whether or not we have enough relish. Relish becomes significant only when it is a verb, and when we actively engage in the celebration of life and virtue in this world, and not when it is a hot dog topping.

“The world is a dangerous place.
Not because of those who do terrible things.
But because of those who let them do it.”
– Einstein

Apathy is living death. Indifference is cowardice. Let us be real, and truly live. To live is to feel. It is to have a heart, and to let that heart be tender. If we treat the world or others, social issues or environmental issues or human suffering with indifference or apathy, it says a lot about the state of our hearts. It says we are cloistered and closed into a prison cell of our own making. If we wish to truly live, or if we wish to embrace the fullness of our humanity, then we shall have to open our heart to both the joy and pain of life, and allow ourselves to both think and feel – deeply and authentically, with courage and inner strength which allows us to do just that.

When we allow ourselves to both feel and think more freely and deeply, with openness, sensitivity and thoughtfulness, then our lives will be rich, and not before – and then too, will the world be reborn and justice shall rain down in blessings for all. A renaissance of humanity, as with a renaissance or rebirth in our personal lives, requires the courage to think and to feel. If we are not up for that, then we are among the living dead.

Allowing ourselves to think and to feel doesn’t mean that we all have to be extroverts, or start swinging from chandeliers or barking at the moon, or making a big show of emotion or bawling before Opra on a global broadcast. If we are naturally quiet or reserved, that is fine – it is openness of the heart and mind that matter, and not openness of mouth. Everyone has their own distinct style or way, and all of us have depth of mind and heart – it is just a matter of what degree we are open to our own depths. To shun them is to barely live. To open to our depth of heart is to find life’s treasure, and our own true riches and power. With these we will live more fully, and with these, we can heal the world.

Let us be real. Life is too short and too precious for us to live in any other way. Let us think, let us feel, let us truly live: and we and all of humanity, and all living beings, will be the richer for it.

“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.”
– Henry David Thoreau

If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”
– Emma Goldman

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
– Helen Keller

JTR,
September 12, 2011

Bobbie Gentry, Ode to Billie Joe Lyrics

Bobbie Gentry – Ode To Billie Joe (Original Stereo) – YouTube