Lenny Bruce is not afraid
March 19, 2020
The imagery in this still is breathtaking, but you almost have to be a still yourself see it. To bear witness we can't bring ourselves into the space. Therefore, be a tree, or in this case be bit of cracking wallpaper or a branch on that tree through the window.
A woman wrote about wanting to watch a non-domesticated animal as it approached the parameters of her household. If she so much as twitched, the animal would hit the 'you never saw me I'm not real' eject button. ~finis~
She wrote, 'be a tree'.
A tree is benign; a known entity, a nearly inseparable part of the acceptable world. A tree is benign by the fact of it not being you.
Maybe I didn't really need to spell that out, but about 80% of us are literal as shit and that first paragraph just won't fly without some sort of explanation.
Be a tree.
Anyway, maybe you recognize the still. I grabbed it from a video that was posted on YouTube, March 16, 2009 but the track was recorded and released in 1987 on an album titled Document. Lately it's had a bit of a resurgence. Two days ago it was at #26 on the iTunes chart. That's some bit of history.
At the end of this post are two videos, the first is a 4:38 message from Michael Stipe and the second is the 4:03 video. To this day I find I'm still singing when the music stops. Something to think about, the music stopping.
The message from Mr. Stipe is worth watching (or I wouldn't have posted it) and it is a conversation with the viewer, not speech, mandate, or reprimand. A conversation.
But watch his body language which is most telling; he is scared. Really, really scared.
As are we all, conscious or otherwise.
But but but but there is always going to be a but, no?
How we handle our fear dictates our fate. It always has; I think that must be some physics law. Has to be.
One of my favorite stories, which has become a metaphor for many things, is about a part of learning to drive with which I had a terrifying struggle. I am also aware that of all things terrifying, this is what took ten years off my father's life.
My driving was fine for the most part. I stayed on the road, kissing the curb maybe only once or twice. I learned to avoid potholes because my mother had rightful concerns about the overall condition of her vehicle. I can't say I mastered the 5 speed transmission prior to my test but it was good enough to go and not strip the gears.
I did have a bit of a lead foot. Topic for another day.
The problem was oncoming traffic. I'd see it coming at me and suddenly the car would be on or near the yellow line and sometimes a bit over which is probably when my father's first yet undetected stroke occurred. Cars coming at me turned into me driving directly into oncoming traffic.
I never once hit anyone or thing during that time but there were a couple of close calls and I just couldn't figure out why.
In the back of the school smoking corral on a Monday morning I discuss this particular issue from my seat on the pavement. I'm sitting on the asphalt and everyone else is carefully standing upwind. On Monday mornings I light the soles of my earth shoes on fire which results in magnificent three foot flames and noxious black smoke. I let them burn for about two minutes and then stand up and walk to the curb. The size nine rubber footprints are probably still on the asphalt behind Glastonbury High School.
You did need to know that.
A fifteen year old suggested not looking directly at the oncoming traffic.
Isn't that where we all go? Right toward what we're looking at?
Crowd shuffles about and the consensus is, yes, yes we do, metaphorically or otherwise.
Don't the really bad things that happen to us happen because we're afraid and focused on the really bad things? Like a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Crowd shuffles and the consensus is, yes, sometimes, but we don't always see it coming at us.
Well that's not an issue of looking at it then, is it? That's an issue of a house falling on the witch.
Crowd shuffles, someone takes out a bowl, packs and lights it, and passes to the left. I stand up and walk off the fire and smoke so that I, also, can return to the circle.
Pause: I stand up and walk off the fire and smoke so that I, also, can return to the circle. Let's parse that statement.
- I stand up -- of my own volition, I stand up
- and walk off the fire and smoke -- of my own volition, I remove, cease, and desist what is harmful to self and others
- so that I, also, -- it is not just about me
- can return to the circle -- a post of its own, seriously. We can work with the obvious for now
And you thought this was a driving metaphor.
I am afraid. I am not afraid of getting sick. I am afraid of making someone else sick. I am afraid of my children getting sick. I am afraid for my daughter pulling double shifts on the psych floor of an already overcrowded hospital. I am afraid for my son who has probably stopped playing and singing in bars because the bars have closed or shut down. But I am still afraid. I am afraid for my youngest who until last week still took emergency sitting jobs, especially to allow nurses and doctors to return to work. And then she got sick. Not too sick. No fever. But sick all the same and I was sick with the same and the fear of causing harm settled in.
I am frightened for my dad and for S, and for C in the isolated village 300 miles north. I am frightened that I may not see them for a very long time. I am frightened that S will have no relief and that my dad may be significantly compromised by the time I can go. I am frightened that he may not remember me. I should be frightened for C but it's often very hard to be frightened for C because that woman is about as feisty as they come. In the back of my mind I am.
I remove, cease, and desist what is harmful to self and others.
So that I, also, can return to the circle.
I remove, cease, and desist what is harmful to self and others.
So that they, also, can return to the circle.
I am a bit freaked about about the supply chain and maybe more freaked about about the percentage of the population that is not freaked out about the supply chain. And it goes on and on.
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds many times a day but mostly before and after you have contact with anything or anyone outside of your immediate household
- Do not empty the shelves. That includes the liquor store. We walked down the street yesterday to make sure my friend Peter was still open and functioning and while Peter wasn't in that day, we were told, looking at the mostly empty shelves, that there'd been a run on the liquor store. It's repetitive, she said. We can't keep up.
- Be incredibly kind to anyone in service. Incredibly kind. Do not make the woman behind the register touch your purchases if she is ungloved and you can get the SKUs pointed at the scanner. Bring your own bag and fill it yourself.
- Do stock your shelves with non-perishables, a little bit at a time. Take stock.
- Look out for your neighbors while staying the hell away from them. Food can be left on the front porch. Or booze, if that's what you have most of.
- GET YOUR NEWS FROM THE SOURCE. I believe I'm wasting my breath but I'm going to keep saying it.
- Do not allow the words 'China Flu' or 'Kung Flu', or anything like it to fall from your lips. You know why. Clearly, the circle we wish to return to is a lot bigger than your dinky little church (metaphor, simmer down) and we are all a part of at least one dinky little church.
That's it. I'll come back and talk about other bits later. Stuff that isn't quite so incendiary.
Be a tree. Observe.
Go here first:
Play this as many times as your household will tolerate. 1987. Holy crap.
I love you.