Wednesday, December 16, 2015

On Anger Is An Energy: My Life Uncensored by John Lydon

I enjoyed P.I.L./Sex Pistols front man John Lydon's second memoir Anger Is An Energy: My Life Uncensored, but boy, does he need an editor. There's this hilarious statement in the front of the book from the publisher that pretty much gave a warning that John refused to let us edit him, and yeah yeah yeah, we know sometimes it sounds janky but he refused to budge and so on. Sure, this book isn't going to win a Pulitzer, but it is definitely entertaining. I will say it sounds kind of weird when he talks about himself in the third person, like he's saying what other people saying about him "Johnny this, Johnny that" and it sounds a little bit like Bob Dole or Rickey Henderson. But anyway, in spite of the fact that he needed some more eyes on this, I still found it very interesting. Three particular quotes stand out:

page 213: "Education is not necessarily what the schools teach you. It's about acquiring the way of having an insight, and being able to gather information correctly."

Amen! It's about learning how to think. I'd add in learning how to think you're learning how to problem solve.

page 297: "I'm a nurse by nature, and I'm nursing you into the future."

Amen also! That's what really good artists do. And I suppose, good magazines, lit journals, blogs, anthologies, music sites or or any sort of THING that presents new things that we haven't encountered.

And finally, on page 427, he talks about the arguments he gets into with his wife, and this one struck me as preposterous, but I sort of loved it. He's referring to his relationship with her and how when you love someone but argue you can do it with love...or something.: "When you really love someone, you can practice hate in an enjoyable kind of a way!"

Is this what lots of celebrity memoirs sound like when they don't collab with a ghost writer? Occasional gems but mostly rambling? ...Because see how long it takes to get to the nub of the quotes I put above when they're put in the context of the actual full paragraphs they're from. They're entertaining but they read like a first draft:

page 213, the quote about education:

page 297, the quote about nursing into the future:

page 427, the quote about arguing with his wife:

OK, so maybe the quote about his wife actually makes more context of the full paragraph is sort of nice. 

But! He still needs an editor.

Or to do another draft.

A solid B effort with occasional polished gems of A moments.

Friday, December 4, 2015

On Be Here Now As Opposed to Being There Then

Recently I went back and reread Be Here Now (the book by Ram Dass, not the cocaine-fueled Oasis third album). Many years ago one of my brothers gave me his copy, and who the hell knows if I really got anything from it when I read it then. At the time I was young and dumb and probably thought Be Here Now was groovy in some sort of inexplicable way that jived with my amorphous, slightly new age-y, slightly agnostic, totally undefined flakey spiritual beliefs that changed depending on what book I was reading at the moment. P.S. Those "beliefs" have not changed much. That is to say, I don't really know what I believe exactly but whenever I read something convincing I'll pursue learning about that until I either a) lose interest of b) encounter something else that's phrased even more articulately and convincingly. Then that new thing will provide me guidance. This cycle goes on and on ad infinitum while simultaneously in the back of my mind I'm in a constant state of foreclosure on the whole spirituality bag at all. This is where the doubt sets in. Some of it depends on my mood, some of it depends on how much the music is swelling, and some of it depends on how shitty things are.

Anyway, even though there's a lot of "Hey-man-far-ouuuuut"ness to Be Here Now that feels cheesy, there are still some really insightful moments in it that speak to me in a way that didn't speak to me when I read this book when I was younger.

One thing that really stood out for me is the part where he talked about how when someone engages in a practice that of losing one's ego (by meditating or whatever), they get a certain energy from it because they're inspired by it. But where they go wrong is when they use that energy for accomplishing things that are still rooted in the world of ego, and then any progress one has made in losing their ego is lost. What would those things be? I have no idea. Bragging about how enlightened one is? Staying up all night on a caffeine bender and writing on their blog about how great they thought this book about meditating is? I don't know. But on an intuitive level I feel like I know what he means when he talks about using that energy keeps one on a "grosser plane" (pg 40):

Something else that really stuck with me was about how, no matter what your goals look like to others (or to yourself) everything that we do can be traced back to just wanting to get to some good. Maybe it's a perverse way of getting there, like doing bad to other people so that one can feel better, but the idea is to feel better (page 41):

And every desire, no matter how perverse it may seem, is an attempt to get to the light.  (The Devil knows not for whom he works.)

Yessssssss. I try to keep this in mind when I'm mad at somebody. I try to get to a point where I can remember that whatever it is that this person is doing, even if it's unreasonable, annoying, inconsiderate, condescending, shitty, stupid or downright evil, they're just trying to get to a place of comfort and light. And really, that's all anybody really wants; people just want to be comfortable. It's like a tired dad on a vacation yelling, "Shut up everybody! Can't I just sit here in this lawn chair for one god damn day and enjoy myself and be comfortable and relaxed?!" That's what our hearts want, just to be comfortable -- whatever comfortable is for us. Sure, comfortable can be relaxed, but it can also be stimulated, engaged or blissed out, or just sated or satisfied. What I'm not saying is that deep down people are good. What I'm saying is deep down people are just trying to move to a place of comfort and light. It's a subtle difference.

I also love this passage where he talks about having strong will is really just "your desire to get on with it" (pg 42):

Hell yeah, will power = one's desire just to "get on with it." That's kind of how I feel when I'm cleaning the cat box. It's like, I just want to have the thing done, and I just want to get started on it so I can be done with it, and that makes me want to do it. To just get on with the fucking thing. I guess that's what will power is.

But the other thing I like about this quote is the part about how if you don't have will power, just stay away from temptation. In other words, paraphrasing Weight Watchers, Don't bring the junk food in the house. Then you don't have to say no to it more than once.

And then finally, I love this poetic piece about love (pg 73):

Though the "vehicles differ from role to role, the essence -- the love -- is the same stuff.  In each instance what one is loving in the object of one's love is love itself ... the inner light in everyone and everything.

When we speak of falling in love, we might find that a slight restatement of the experience would help clarify our direction.  For when you say "I fell in love" with him or her you are saying that he or she was the key that unlocked your heart -- the place within yourself where you are love.  When the experience is mutual, you can see that the psychic chemistry of the situation allows both partners to "fall in love" or to "awake into love" or to "come into the Spirit."  Since love is a state of being -- and the Divine state at that -- the state to which we all yearn to return, we wish to possess love.  At best we can try to possess the key to our hearts -- our beloved -- but sooner or later we find that even that is impossible.  To possess the key is to lose it.

I love the part about falling in love is unlocking the place in your heart where we are love, though the "vehicles differ" of what you love, which I took to mean any person or cat or book or thing you love. The more I thought about love being a "divine state" as he calls it, the more I understand what he means. The feeling of the affection I feel for certain people in my life or my cat, really is exquisite, that there really is nothing like it. I wish I could carry it around with me all the time, say the way I feel when the cat is laying its head on me. It really is a feeling of love that is unlocked that I wish I could feel that way all the time, but it is easier said than done. I suppose that's probably what he meant by being here now.