THE MADNESS EXPLODES: ROUND ONE

Image result for jim morrison

We love it—who doesn’t?—when a few words express a great deal.  Who has time for novels?  Let’s extract wisdom from words in a minute, and live.

In Scarriet March Madness Round One in the Song bracket, we have this great piece of work from the Doors:

Send my credentials to the house of detention.

Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the band, who passed away at 27 in Paris, is no doubt their author, though the group often gave “The Doors” songwriting credits.

But how perfect is this!

“Send…”  I’m too lazy to do it myself.

“Credentials.” The key to societal advancement.

“House of detention.”  Send my credentials there.

No wonder Morrison died early.  The work the Doors produced in their brief life made Jim Morrison immortal.  He is still as popular fifty years later. He knew it.  There was nothing left to do.  Credentials were no longer needed.  There was no longer any need to be detained.

The Doors lived in an age of increasing license, where being loose and dirty was not yet completely acceptable—the truly thrilling vector they were on was the breaking open of everything.  Morrison couldn’t turn back and simply delight in the joys of Alabama, for instance.  The Alabama Song by Brecht/Weil, yes.  The Doors covered that song.  (“O show me the way to the next whiskey bar/pretty girl”)

But not this one.

We kissed in a field of white. And stars fell on Alabama. Last night.

In 2002, “Stars fell on Alabama” was put on Alabama license plates.  There was an actual meteor shower in 1833 which inspired the lyrics.

“Last night” is a concept beyond Morrison.  For him, and the Baudelaire 60s, everything was now.

Last night someone sent my credentials to the house of detention.

That doesn’t work.  This does:

Send my credentials to the house of detention.

The Doors advance.

A smattering of stoned applause.

SENTIMENTALITY IS FOR MEN

Image result for killed her children in painting

“How you must think and wonder how I must feel out on the meadow while you were on the field. I’m alone for you and I cry.” Shaman’s Blues—The Doors

There is a great confusion about the genders these days; this is natural, since they mingle now more than ever; but the confusion does a great deal of harm, since romantic thoughts oppress us constantly, even if we revel in crude jokes.

One of the great misperceptions is that the female is more tender, more affectionate, more sentimental than the male. This is not true, and has never been true. Men are the sentimental ones. Women are pragmatic. Why?

The reason is simple. Throughout human history, women have borne children. In the 19th century, roughly half of children survived childhood—your own dear child drawing its last little breath in your arms: this was the one constant of motherhood—a task not for the weak; the human race would not exist if sentimental feelings rebelled against motherhood. For the most part, they did not. Women are tough. Sorrow would have made them insane had mothers been sentimental.

From simple, Darwinian reasoning we arrive at the secret. Women may wear pink frills and men blue stripes, but inside it is the opposite.

Women may doll themselves up, but the-tiger-that-feeds-on-the-lamb is the true nature of the womanly soul.

How could it be otherwise? How could the woman live through the historic sorrow of watching her own children die? Nature, the breeder, would not breed unfit, sentimental mothers. Woman is the ultimate pragmatist, while men walk the meadows and sail the sentimental seas of pretty dreams.

This is why romance is so problematic. Men want it. Women do not. Romance is sentimental and men constantly seek it as an end in itself. Women see it as a means to an end.

Take the lovely, romantic phrase, “I’d love you to want me.” It happens to come from a 1972 song, from an era when deeply sentimental, romantic songwriting was very popular, and expressed the highest genius.  The post-war boom in the west was an era in which hardships in life, including high infant mortality, were fading, and all sorts of factors were contributing to an explosion of romantic sentiment—and it is surely no accident that during this time, with the phenomenal baby boom popularity of the Beatles, that men in general were overtly taking on sentimental, or “womanly” attributes, such as long hair and deeply sentimental, romantic personas.

What are “womanly” attributes?  Such a discussion would be an interesting one, but let’s see what we can do with just a narrow piece of the whole debate.

For the man, “I’d love you to want me,” means “I get a tremendous thrill out of the fact that you love me—for the man, love is nothing more than this: I love that you love me; and here we have an infinite loop of mutual love; love for the sake of love; love loving itself with the aid of two people who are meant to love each other, etc.  Love is all.  The ultimate sentimental expression.

For the woman, “I’d love you to want me,” means “I am glad you want me to love you—because this means you are in the proper state to be highly loyal to me, and I can use this loyalty to produce children and a stable family.”  Or, more cynically, if you like, “I can use this loyalty for all sorts of things, not necessarily for children”—sure, with modernity there’s an increasing number of women who choose not to have children; yet these women will still retain the same impulses towards men; it just plays out differently in a variety of social ways—impulses which converge on the confused and increased state of gender-mingling itself.

Gender roles will elude their true identity: we see this in our example of the woman truly being the gender which is less sentimental—despite the general culture seeing it the other way.

What makes things even more confusing is that oppressed cultures will flip—women will take on male attributes, and visa versa.  A culture which is dominated and conquered, so that its men “do not feel like men,” will see this occur most radically.  Men, for instance, will become more “macho” the more their society, their country, their community, is crushed and destroyed—but the gender-wheel is such that “more male” will turn into “more female” and “more female” will turn into “more male.”  For example, in oppressed cultures, women will tend to become sentimental fools who rely on the authority of misbehaving men; we know the true nature of women is to not be sentimental; but here we see they are. Loyalty is what sentimental men should have to prove to the pragmatic woman—who requires loyalty in a father. In oppressed cultures, the man seeks and gets loyalty from the woman—which is not ideal.  This is not to say that a certain amount of loyalty is not a good trait in both sexes, but it is the sentimental gender, not the pragmatic one, who should prove loyalty.

One could respond: what’s wrong with gender identity becoming blurred?

Nothing.

Whether blurring should occur or not, is not the point of our essay.

Here’s the point: if men and women have been hard-wired in natural, Darwinian necessity to feel and behave in a certain way, this is sure to be a source of social confusion and pain for the individual, if unconscious shifts occur, to say nothing of the impact on society in general.

The complexity of the whole issue is self-evident; cross-gender prohibition is not the aim here—only an understanding of the larger issue.  To lament sentimentality or to censor pragmatism is not our purpose—and it should be added that any analysis of this subject should be made in the largest possible context, and with an understanding that the pieces are not as important as how the pieces fit.

A further example will help, and we’ll reference another popular song from the recent historical period in question: The Doors’ 1966 song, “The End,” the eleven minute, theatrical piece on their first album, which rode the charts in the Summer of Love, in 1967. The Beatles and Stones are the better showmen, but Jim Morrison’s shaman may finally exceed the showmen when it comes to lasting, historically significant, recorded music.

1967 is roughly the same window of time in American culture as the 1972 song mentioned above, “I’d Love You To Want Me” by the artist Lobo—a passionate song of romance, not critically acclaimed, but effective, nonetheless.  In “The End,” Morrison, the singer, evokes explicit oedipal rage and lust—and if we examine what “killing the father and loving the mother” entails, we see it is nothing more than an extreme example of the impulse of the romantic male we are attempting to illuminate: killing the father and loving the mother is the ultimate expression of that loop of love (and yes, it’s loopy, too, of course) which is love endlessly loved in a purely unconditional manner: the love of the child for its mother. The oedipal impulse is the example par excellence of sentimentality, or romance, crushing, in heightened passion, pragmatism.

 

 

“GIRL, YOU GOT TO LOVE YOUR MAN”—WHEN HE’S ALMOST DEAD

Happy Birthday, Lizard King. Jim Morrison turns 71 this week.

We’ve come to realize that there’s nothing a woman hates more than an arrogant know-it-all. Guys can banter back and forth about ‘expert’ opinion, no matter what the subject, and even bond with each other while doing so.

Women, however, immediately grow suspicious of “experts” in the flesh. Women tend to be defensive about their intellectual clout to start with, and when ‘expert opinion’ is thrust upon them by their friends, they grow impatient very quickly.

To make up for this, however, women tend to grovel before “experts” validated by other “experts;” women, no matter how brash and cynical they are to their friends, cannot resist authority speaking from the pulpit of social acceptance: Mainstream Entertainment, Media, Publishing, Politics, and Institutions toy effortlessly with their souls and minds.

If they’ve seen it in a mainstream, well-reviewed movie with a major star, or two, or have read it in a mainstream book, or seen it in any sort of widely desseminated context, a woman is certain it is true, and whoever attempts to contradict it in person is simply an asshole.

There will always be these two levels of human life: the personal one, in which non-experts make decisions and choices about everything under the sun: how to perform every imaginable task, how much credence to give absolutely everything, the proper way to speak, to hate, to love, to laugh, to judge, and do dishes, and then the public one, in which every area is owned and contained by experts and professionals: no decisions here; this is where existence plays out in its inevitable manner.

Both realms, it is understood, are complicated and ephemeral and ever-changing, but for many, especially the constantly irritated woman, these realms are enormously different.

One, the private realm without expert-police, where you and I live our daily lives, is where the know-it-all wriggles free of all higher authority, sometimes in triumph, sometimes in humiliation, censorship, rebuke, and shame, as the humble and obedient watch either indifferently, or in pain, or in shame, or in horror.

The other, the public realm, is where the mainstream expert-police prosper, passing judgment smoothly and from on high. This is where the obedient sagely nod their heads, buying into the higher expert-wisdom—even if it makes as much sense as a homeless person rant on the back of a bus.

Some feel that all opinion, all knowledge, all wisdom, should come to us from the public expert-realm, and that mere private citizens, people in our orbit, our family and friends, may cite expert-sources, but they may not produce, intuit, or proffer any original ideas of their own; nor may friends cite experts too thoroughly—in such a way that makes them appear to be a “know-it-all.”

The key word here is “appear,” for all opinion lives in the world of appearances, and ‘being smart,’ when it comes to words—and opinions formed by words—is purely a matter of appearance—and this is true whether the opinion is offered by a non-expert friend speaking to us privately, or a “true” expert in the field speaking to millions.

The annoyance with a ‘know-it-all’ friend stems not from doubting the opinion itself, but from the work necessary to determine whether the opinion is true, or not. The far-away expert cannot help us during the private conversation and we are no help to ourselves—and this is why we grow annoyed; our own inability to discern the true worth of the opinion (without an expert’s help) is the true source of our annoyance.

Private annoyance with our friends’ private opinions occurs all the time, and is considered normal, and is even thought to be a good thing: that know-it-all got what they deserved!

But the annoyance felt is actually a terrible thing.

It hurts people, hurts the nation, harms social relations, interferes with happiness, promotes incivility, hurts democracy, and tramples free thought and intelligent conversation.

All of us are aware of this fact: Experts in the same field hold opposite views of the same thing.

A private (non-expert) opinion, precisely because it is private and immediate and non-expert, precisely because it lives in the realm of practical, tangible, personal experience, and precisely because it is forced to discern between two or more conflicting expert opinions, should be regarded as important and sacred, for such an opinion, no matter how clumsily conveyed, is finally more valuable, and more deserving of respect, than one expert’s frozen, recorded, subsidized, and removed opinion, no matter how mainstream and publicly embraced that expert’s opinion appears to be.

The feminist woman—because naturally and justifiably alive to fears of being thought inferior to men, and being taken advantage of by men—unfortunately takes a strong role in perpetuating this evil, never missing a chance to challenge and crush every private opinion a man has; and so baffling, attenuated, ethereal, removed, and impractical expert-ism, the kind which divides and silences and provides extreme power to insanity and hate, reigns over our republic with the help of throngs of otherwise good and intelligent women.

Jim Morrison, at 27 years of age, was such an alcoholic and drug-infused mess, that, despite his phenomenal success as a rock star, couldn’t perform at concerts, had no social standing, had no home, no family, no friends; the only girl he loved, Pam Courson, was shacked up with someone else (a Frenchman in Paris—where Jim hurried off to, to die) wrote in his last song lyrics, “Girl, you got to love your man. Take him by the hand. Make him understand.”

In his final agony of fashionable decadence, decay and helplessness, Morrison (d. 1971) expressed the social ill that afflicts so many today in the wake of the feminist, 1960s pied-piper, revolution: The woman is expected to make the man understand, to take him by the hand, and love him.

But women don’t love helpless men, men without self-respect, men without any ideas or will of their own; or if they do, they regret it.

The process, going on for generations now, becomes a vicious, self-fulfilling prophecy: those who think for themselves in private are punished by expert-ism (which feeds an increasingly ugly, crass public arena) which, despite the glory of its expert-ism, is just as false and misguided as that harsh rebuke in private by those who should support, not punish and harm, the attempt by private citizens to express their own thoughts earnestly, and freely.

We need to really listen to each other—and doubt the experts—as we pay attention to all opinion.

 

ANOTHER DOOR BREAKS THROUGH: RAY MANZAREK

It might be safe to say that the most popular debate in American literature over the last 50 years has been this one:

Were the lyrics of Jim Morrison and The Doors good poetry?  Or crap?

Is inspired crap, crap, or inspired?

Inspired.

Good news for Doors fans.

The Doors produced real poetry.

It is common for twenty-somethings to reject feelings they had as adolescents, but when it comes to the Doors, the 16 year old is correct and the 26 year old is wrong. 

The Doors made truly good music tinged with real poetry.

Jim Morrison’s sex god, drug-addled, drunken, reputation, the Doors’ predilection for producing hard rock ‘hits,’ the relative simplicity of their music, all conspire to make one ashamed, as one ages, to hold onto one’s early impression that Doors music was good poetry.  But it was. 

Sometimes we are “shamed” in the wrong direction.

The Doors understood what all poets must understand: less is more.   Okay, lots of people understand this, but few really understand this most important principle, and further, carry it out in practice.  Here’s an example:

You’re Lost Little Girl, from Strange Days

You’re lost little girl,
You’re lost little girl,
You’re lost, tell me who are you

Think that you know what to do,
Impossible yes, but it’s true
I think that you know what to do, yeah,
Sure that you know what to do

You’re lost little girl,
You’re lost little girl,
You’re lost, tell me who are you

These are exquisite lyrics; they are highly suggestive, saying as little as possible. 

“You’re lost little girl” packs an emotional punch, and it does so neatly and swiftly with the assonance of “lost, little” and “little, girl.” 

A “lost little girl” has deep ramifications, like Poe’s “the death of a beautiful woman;” what could be more haunting than a “lost little girl?” 

Now look what this brief lyric does: it takes the overt meaning of the phrase in its sexist, blues context: the woman, or sex object, needs to be ‘saved’ or ‘taught’ by the man: Hey, little girl, you’re lost, and flips it: it’s the girl who teaches the man: “I think that you know what to do, impossible yes, but it’s true…”

Since the music of the song is soft, melodic, and haunting, and not bluesy or raunchy at all, a broader and more interesting scenario is invoked: a girl, maybe an actual “little girl,” wise beyond her years, not a sex object, who is lost, and yet, knows “what to do.”  And so “lost” does not mean helpless, but miraculously knowing. It is the singer/narrator/lover who is “lost,” not the “little girl.”  Yet this is only suggested to the listener.  The song is an understated, swooning, and subtle epiphany of psychological reversal.  There is no clumsy over-explaining.  The song tells us very little—and yet emotionally this song is subtle and powerful.

Here’s another example: Not seeing (less) is better than seeing (more).

I Can’t See Your Face In My Mind, from Strange Days

I can’t see your face in my mind,
I can’t see your face in my mind,
Carnival dogs consume the lines,
Can’t see your face in my mind

Don’t you cry, baby, please don’t cry,
And don’t look at me with your eyes.
I can’t seem to find the right lie,
I can’t seem to find the right lie

Insanity’s horse adorns the sky,
Can’t seem to find the right lie,
I won’t need your picture
until we say good-bye

Does this song reek of morbid, staring-at-the-ground adolescence?  A little, yes.  But there’s also a delicate and haunting quality that partakes of the universal: who hasn’t tried to see one’s beloved in one’s mind—and failed?  The beautiful aspect that we really love always seems mysteriously just out of reach—like the very reason we passionately love someone in the first place.  “I won’t need your picture until we say goodbye” wittily sums up the trope of the poem.  There’s just the right amount of desperate longing, frozen by paradox, expressed throughout: a lie, the “right lie,” is sought, but cannot be found. Not only can’t we see, but we can’t find the right way to lie about what we see (or feel?) either.  And what would “insanity’s horse” do but “adorn the sky,” anyway?  Hinted at in this somewhat hackneyed image is the genitalia hanging over us like the moon or the sun, the overt sexuality which is “insane” due to the inability to “see your face in my mind,” which is spiritual, “face” and “mind” belonging to a place above mere sexuality, and yet, the failure of the lover to see the beloved’s face in his mind provokes a frustration with his mind—or is it with the face? 

Contrast the Doors ‘not seeing’ to the chest-beating, working-class Who: “I can see for miles and miles,” or Dylan, who tends to rhyme just to rhyme, and practices a “eveything but the kitchen sink” brand of poetry. Rhyming to excess can be effective emotionally, and the assertiveness of the crass, unromantic, ‘you, bitch!,’ “I can see for miles and miles” may work due to its fanciful excess (“miles and miles”) for the same reason: excess will travel past “more” and return to “less,” if it’s done well.  But the Doors are simply working in a more poetic element.

The Beatles’ “All you need is love” is preachy, but “She loves you” is poetic, since “she loves you” is a second-hand, lessening of the more direct “I love you.” 

Poetry always triumphs as “less over more” (or second-hand over first-hand) and the Doors are poetic in this important sense.

The tree reflected in the lake is more poetic than the tree.

Ray Manzarek first heard a Morrison song recited, he says, by Morrison when the two of them were sitting on Venice Beach, before the band was formed.  Manzarek heard Morrison’s talent and Manzarek was smart enough (or perhaps it was something of an accident) to fit the Doors sound—hauntingly simple, catchy, direct, moody but not formless or bloated—to the lyrics; the Doors music was, even in its dramatic and Wagnerian guise, less rather than more—the musical solos brief, the instrumentation, simple.

The song Morrison introduced to Manzarek almost 50 years ago was “Moonlight Drive,” whose title says a lot: “moonlight,” impressionistic, haunting atmosphere, plus “drive,” its opposite, providing an aesthetic counter-tension.

Anyone, 16 years old, or 26, or 86, can hear the poetry of

Let’s swim to the moon,
Let’s climb to the tide,
You reach your hand to hold me
But I can’t be your guide,
Even though I love you
As I watch you glide…

The pairing of ‘swim’ with ‘moon’ and ‘climb’ with ‘tide’—one would expect ‘climb’ to match up with ‘moon’ and ‘swim’ with ‘tide’—is nice, not only for a more interesting meaning, but the pairs ‘swim’ and ‘moon’ and ‘climb’ and ‘tide’ are both bound by a closer sound relationship.  It’s just lovely. 

Add the helpless, desperate, letting-go quality (“I can’t be your guide”) to the mood invoked by “moon” and “tide” and “let’s swim,” and one almost has a genuine poetic quality that belongs very strongly to the Doors and makes them unique, because they do it the best.  Sure, this might belong to impressionistic, decadent, modern poetry, and not to strong Homeric poetry, and it may not be as sublime as the great Romantics and it’s not great literature, no; but for its type, it’s very strong, and for rock musicians, it is probably the best around.

Like most figures from the 60s, Manzarek faded into the light of common day as he grew away from that era; defending Jim as a poet and an intellectual and a sensitive soul (which Morrison must have been to a certain degree) was in Ray’s best interest, but it felt genuine when he did so. Manzarek, without a Morrison to play behind, became a preachy, avant-garde, hipster, pedant.  Morrison may have looked old at 27 when the Doors were almost done, but Manzarek had that bespectacled, older look right from the start.

The Doors don’t need pedantic professors to tell anyone they were good.

And the “wise” twenty/thirty-somethings usually get them wrong, too.

So long, Ray.

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