"A long time ago before the ice and the snow
There were giants that walked this land
And with each step they took, the mighty mountains shook
And the trees took a knee and the seas rolled in
Then one day they say the sky gave way
And death rained down, it made a terrible sound
There was fire everywhere and nothin' was spared
That walked on the land or flew through the air
And when it all was over
The slate wiped clean with a touch
There God stood and he saw it was good
And He said "ashes to ashes and dust to dust"
Back in 1989 I lived in a house on top of Phucket Thai in San Francisco. It was about the coolest group people I've ever lived with, being comprised of a bunch of members of Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth. My friend Mark was the Access Point Coordinator for TOPY NorCal, and we did a lot of very fun stuff. At one point, Genesis P-Orridge's then wife contacted us about putting on a big spoken word event for Genesis in March of 1990...without him knowing about it! The idea was to completely cover their trip expenses for a visit to the states to see people. The only issue was she needed a guarantee of a certain amount of money to be paid to them. Folks were not super comfortable with this, but some of us knew that this was Genesis, and if we did our part he could draw pretty damn well.
Anyway, some folks got irritated by those of use who actually would end up owing the P-Orridges a lot of money if things didn't work out well on the money front. Feathers were ruffled, shit was stirred, and I was not the most settled person the day before the event. These days I would do better, but I was only 23 in 1990, and green...very, very green!
So better folks than I had got us a venue, and we had made a pile of shirts to sell, and the infrastructure was in place. But man, I was crazy tense! I apologize to anyone I was rude to around that time. Seriously!
I got a call the day before the event, and it was Genesis, asking if I would come over and chat about what was up for the event. He was staying with Monte Cazazza. Monte has, or at least had, an incredibly terrible reputation. I had never met the guy. But I roll across town to Monte's place, knock on the door, and he lets me in. And is a total sweetheart to me. Made me some tea, told me Gen was in the bath and would be out in awhile. I have no memory of our conversation at all, except that it was really pleasant. And this one part (paraphrased from 25 year old memories):
"So Aidan, I guess you have started quite the shit-storm"- says Mr. Cazazza
"Oh man, I guess so! Just trying to make sure everything comes off all right tomorrow" I replied
"Well if you are doing what you know needs to be done, and people are getting pissed off at you, that is usually the sign you are doing something right". Says Monte.
Well. Given that like I said, I am having a really nice chat with someone who..well, I wouldn't expect to- and that he just totally de-stressed me with those word, I was blown away. And so I remember that to this day, and not much else. (Except watching Gen sing "Me and Mr. Jones" while waiting for my friend David Jones to come to the phone at Thelema Lodge of the O.T.O.).
But Monte was right. If you know you are doing what needs to be done, and people are getting pissed off at you, you may well be doing something right. If you are not acting out from an emotional space. If you are, you may well just be being an asshole! It can be a thin line. I'm not truly certain I didn't cross it back then, with some people. But I don't think so.
I often post a quote from Shoma Morita, a Japanese clinical psychologist and Zen Buddhist. He says:
"Accept your feelings. Know your purpose. And do what needs to be done."
This is a problem, actually, at least in the contemporary USA. We have moved to a place where our emotions have 'validity' that is beyond any kind of reason. To me, what Shoma is saying is "Yeah. You are having feelings. Your emotions are riled. You are actually experiencing this. But it isn't necessarily important. What is important is your purpose. So be aware of your feelings and emotions, you don't need to deny them or anything, but you need to get on with life. Wallowing is not allowed. Experience is. Do what needs to be done."
But here in modern North America, our feelings are more than that. Be they inspired by chemistry, the media, Facebook, marketing- it is suggested that they are, somehow, REAL. In the sense that they are passing experiences, yes, they are. But not real like food on the table, shelter, and care of our loved ones. So now we have this weird collision, between the 'necessary' and the 'comfortable', between physical reality and emotional reality. The problems occur when we cease to act, or try to stop another from acting, because of purely emotional reasons. This is where I think Robert Cochrane's "do what is necessary" and Thelema's "Love Under Will" meet Shoma's quote above.
I try to keep these things in mind when I find myself emotionally entrenched in a position that I can't really justify. It's hard to do sometimes, but it needs to be done. And sometimes when people are trying to drag you down, it is because 'you a doing something right'.
As for the opening quote from Steve Earle? Well, it's one of my favorite songs about impermanence. The rest is below.
"Then the sea gave birth and it crawled up on the dirt
And stood up and took a look around
Said "I'm the next big thing and the gift that I bring
Comes directly from God, so there ain't no holdin' me down"
So he crowned himself king
Now no one remembers his name
But the seed that he sowed took the show on the road
There was blood on their hands and a plague on the land
They drew a line in the sand and made their last stand
They said "God made us in his image
And it's in God that we trust"
When asked about the men that had died by their hands
They said "ashes to ashes and dust to dust"
ashes to ashes, dust to dust
Now, nobody lives forever
Nothin' stands the test of time
Oh, you heard 'em say "never say never"
But it's always best to keep it in mind
That every tower ever built tumbles
No matter how strong, no matter how tall
Someday even great walls will crumble
And every idol ever raised falls
And someday even man's best laid plans
Will lie twisted and covered in rust
When we've done all that we can but it slipped through our hands
And it's ashes to ashes and dust to dust
--Steve Earle, Ashes to Ashes