Friday, February 8, 2013

A Message To My Favorite Musician



One of the most naturally talented people I know, able to master almost any musical instrument with a little basic knowledge and very little practice, struggles with drugs. One of the heartbreaks of my last two decades of living has been watching him struggle and unable to take his talents seriously enough that those talents become "solid skills."

I recognize me in him. No, I was never hooked on drugs, but my driving ambition to earn money blocked my ability to hone my talents into solid skills. The young fellow of whom I speak has more talent in his little finger than I do in my entire body. I would say he is like a carbon copy, but the fact is, he improvises with an ease I never possessed, he writes music - for him it is just making up little diddies, and he immediately dismisses them, as if anyone can write jazz and beautiful themes, because his mind runs to a thousand similar themes and he assumes nothing is original.

Well, Bubba, in western music there are only twelve notes, so that from the cavemen in ancient times who improvised upon the flutes made of bone to today, all Western Music is upon those twelve notes, the combination of the pentatonic and diatonic scales. Those twelve notes, stacked upon one another in octave ranges, plus the voices and color we give them are all the tools we have. Just like a visual artist has only so many colors. No line of music I could write or combination of notes could be absolutely new. I'm guessing, but I bet the musicologists would admit that all combinations of notes and themes that could be written were written by the late 1800s. All originality since has been voice and color. Just as no thought in philosophy could be absolutely new, or no painting truly original.

The poets haven't a clue. It isn't like the English Language that in Old English contained fifty to sixty thousand words, and by modern times that vocabulary has been expanded to six-hundred and fifty thousand to seven-hundred and fifty thousand words. No wonder words have less meaning, diluted in meaning by multiple choice, since all of them have multiple meanings and we've ten times too many words! What a hoot it is to muck around as a poet with a palette of seven-hundred thousand words with millions upon millions of shades of meaning. What challenge could it be to be a seemingly original poet? Even with this expansive palette they lazily make up words outside the vocabulary of English and steal from other languages. The easiest job on the planet is as a poet, writing some gibberish that sounds original. With such a fluid expression can anyone know what any sentence really means. Even in serious writing we are left with gathering only the author's emotional expression colored by our own emotions and perceptions and no definitive meaning of his thought is possible – the ultimate Tower of Babel!

Well, I digressed, taking a swipe at the poet and the purveyors of words. Here is the problem: Drugs have decimated our society making of modern America a mere shadow of who she could have been if her people were not muddled on drugs. It is getting hard to find people that are not on some physician prescribed opiate, synthetic opiate, or some other mind altering psychotropic . . . and I'm just talking about the legal stuff. Far more people are hooked on opiates, opiate substitutes and other psychotropics by doctors than by illegal drug dealers. I've witness MORE overdoses by those on legal drugs than those on illegal drugs. Illegal drugs are like moonshine; it is still just alcohol. In fact, I have now heard the story thousands of times from individuals who were first hooked on drugs by doctors, and then turn to illegal sources when the doctor tried to ween them off, like the example of Rush Limbaugh. Right now I'm counseling some people one would least expect, as they battle their own demons to free themselves of doctor induced addiction. You see, drugs ARE legal, just controlled by the medical profession. Any honest person knows that these so called "pain clinics" are not true medical establishments, but merely legal drug sources as are many other doctor's offices.

The obsession to avoid pain is the single most potent vice present in America:
No true art, no true living, no gain, no reality is devoid of pain.

I was asleep early evening this evening, awoke late night thinking (praying) about my friend's drug waste. I turned on the T.V., there was Paul Williams. I assumed that Paul Williams was dead. He was one of the most talented song writers of my times and just dropped off the face of the globe. I had wondered a few years ago “is he alive?” He was telling his story of drug hazed fame and twenty-three years of sobriety. He said, “I was on Carson (Johnny Carson's Tonight Show) fifty some odd times and remember six appearances.” That phrase said it all to me.

What reason is there for living, if the living leaves no clear memories, no true sense of self, no recognition of the ME, in that fellow who lived years ago? He actually said, “I look at those tapes and that was someone else, I do not know.” Since by measure of birth we are genetically and spiritually UNIQUE – which is a miracle of creation no atheist or evolutionist can explain – what is to be gained by absenting ourselves from ourselves, and not living life consciously and fully. You see, that is what drugs do, they remove us from not only our pain, but our REAL LIVES, our very own unique life and experience. In the drug haze we are given the illusion that we are living the good times, avoiding the pain, but in reality we are simply avoiding our REAL LIVES, our true and unique experience.

I think I mis-spoke when I said that I was never hooked on drugs. I was hooked on a chemical; it was adrenalin. I functioned on a natural high that was a little frightening. I remember on the way to a piano tuning in the 80s., a man almost ran me off the road and then crashed into a tree and house, wedging his car between the tree and the house. I was the first to get to him. The car's gas tank was ruptured, sparks were flying under the crumpled hood. It was a two door car and there was no room between the right door and the house to extricate him. (Extricate - Free - someone or something- from a constraint or difficulty – see how wonderful the English language is!) Anyway, within two minutes there were several people around trying to help. I said, “Look, we are going to have to pry this (left) door open. There is no other way.” Gasoline was running under our feet. I screamed, “does anyone have a crowbar!” In a moment a fellow handed me a tire tool. I placed the tire tool into the door jam and tried to pry the door lock free (the door was slightly crumpled). The tire tool bent in my hand under the pressure to a perfect ninety degree bend. I remember that it felt like taffy in my hand. Angered to have been given such a pitiful tool, I tossed the tool at the man's feet saying, “This is a piece of shit.” I then turned and ripped the door open with my bare hands. I removed the man, seconds before the car was engulfed in flames. In a moment the EMTs arrived and the man's life was saved. He was suffering diabetic shock.

The fellow who owned the bent tire tool asked for my business card. We exchanged cards. I was in a business suit, now covered in blood. A few miles away was a piano salesman who was giving me a hard time. I drove the distance, walked into the pristine showroom, approached the salesman, clothes dirty and bloody and said, “I understand we have a problem. Do you want to go there?” He looked at the bloody clothes and fear struck him. I created a fan for life.

The next Saturday the man who owned the tire tool showed up at my shop with the bent tire tool in hand and tried to get me to wager that I could bend it back. Of course I could not. With that tire tool in my heavy duty vice and me straining to straighten the bend I heard a phrase in my “mind's ear” that a decade later I heard my spiritual mentor say in “real time.” “If everyone on earth tried to live a richly gratifying and exciting life, the world might not long endure.” I realized at that moment that I was squeezing every moment of natural thrill I could out of the days and hours of my life AND if I was to survive it, I had to take a different tact.

“A great deal of our task in the world is shown to us in 'On-the-Job training', so to speak, while we are working and eating. We start by doing what we can do, what we are told to do, what we have to do, and what we have been doing. We learn what we ought to do by doing these things prayerfully, through which we may sometimes see what we could be doing instead - or the Lord may simply want us to keep on doing exactly what we are doing, whether we like it or not. If everyone on earth tried to live a richly gratifying and exciting life, the world might not long endure. And the patient endurance of dullness, on the other hand, may be a very useful virtue to learn.

“In addition to patience, we must learn not to judge. People are seldom as good at that as they think, and not always anxious to learn better. But the Lord may have something worldly He wants us to do, and we should always be ready to learn that or to tolerate it in others. These things cannot be explained; we must just take them as He sends them. Life is not meaningless just because we do not understand it. And our Orthodox Faith is not confused just because our reason cannot hold it together for us.”

All this to say to my friend wasted on drugs – wake up, grab hold of LIVING and come to understand, (and this is absolute fact) Drug rehab programs that are not faith based are a waste of time. ONLY those programs that teach us to reach past ourselves have a prayer of working (pun intended).








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