Both Sides Now of “Me & Now”
What Will Millennials Leave Believing?
You might notice the flashlight beam pointing up to the stars. That’s a pretty common composition for some reason. I like its symbolism of a search as well as the unselfconscious unnecessary use of the flashlight. To me it represents a reflex in searching and attention. Boomers and Gen X-ers might say it represents the meme about so many Millennials being disconnected from the actual outdoors and how the nondigital world works. (That characterization does apply to some, and probably more than it did in previous generations, yes, but that’s not the point here.)
My last group of seniors were graduating from college in 2012, the year I referred to as The Year of the Yurt in the caption, since that’s when glamping became popular, with yurts as a common lodging option. “Things might be coming together,” I would say then, meaning for society (we hadn’t started saying human flourishing so much yet). But by the end of that year, I decided nothing significant was going to change, and even the restoration projects I’d started in 2008 wouldn’t matter in a way that really mattered much.
I was talking a lot then to my fourth-grade teacher and also working with her son, Wes, on window restoration projects, the owner of The Shed where Stu’s SHEDexo Talks should start. Betty would have been around 95 then, as was my grandmother, Florence. (Lifelong friends — or rivals, some would probably say). That generation had gone from horses and mules in farm work, and no electricity on farms, to the internet, even on farms.
This was the GI or Greatest Generation, which kind of kicked off all the pop generational labeling, along with Boomers. They also saw the damage to personal peace from WWI by way of their contact with veterans (referred to as part of the Lost Generation, owing to the general disillusionment from WWI). And they saw a further disillusionment from WWII, not from the well-known large scale atrocities, but from learning what many “normal people” did or became in war. Enthralling, but why?
In a relatively free-market society, what happens with stories and themes that are enthralling? They generally become a source of profit, and therefore they propagate. It’s a weird part of the system in capitalistic economies. Our biologically-driven attention and even attraction to novelty, especially dysfunctional novelty, expands and continually replenishes the feed trough.
The various neuro-biological benefits of learning about danger, painful possibilities, empathy, sympathy, sorrow, even insanity, serve to pull more scenes into our midst, through a market and the search for profit and fame on the supply side; and familiarity, shared-knowledge, and social acceptance, love even, on the demand side. There are exceptions, but they actually work to demonstrate the general rule. Kinda weird, right?
Profit/benefit potential, within or outside of the monetized economy, drives a lot of philosophizing, formal and informal. I guess it’s the monetized economy (the only recognized economy in normal conversation) I’m referring to mostly, but it happens in our nonmonetized day-to-day interactions as well. This week I spent an afternoon at what I’ve called the headquarters of The Pie, The Black Sparrow in Lafayette, home of the Is Train painting as I call it. Maybe that’s what’s got me thinking in this vein of “What Seems to Be”, aka Is, and why.
A Preview, Then a Poem
The Stralfs’ Plan-F was generated after WWII, according to Stu, once it was clear that war would result in too much nuclear fallout for the Stralfs to be able to flourish here, even if they did succeed in luring us away to their planet. WWII gave them some other serendipitous dystopian tools, that is. Stu refers to humies who are particularly vulnerable to these tools as Dystopos. That gets complicated, and I’ll get into it in the next week or two.
Sitting at the Black Sparrow as some light early 70’s music played, the conversation with my 30-Something friend went to some other classics, like from Carol King’s Tapestry and others. But the influence of the Is Train painting, I guess, made me drift more towards Joni Mitchell afterwards, particularly “Both Sides, Now,” which connects to Counting Crows through Saul Bellow, which reminded me of their great cover of “Big Yellow Taxi,” from Joni Mitchell again, which reminded me of other weird and wonderful connections in this project, but then Stu wrote a poem, so that’s next.
Stu does have a limited life span, and sometimes he gets, I don’t know, sentimental? Do you call sadness about leaving life and people you love sentimental? It is profound, not sentimental. As a steward, and Stu is nothing if not a steward, the thought of seeing us struggle with misunderstanding, lack of attention even, to how we think and believe and persuade others and get persuaded and pass it all onto our kids as if we’re right, when we didn’t do much more than follow our herd-animal gut, is more than heartbreaking.
So this is a little melancholy, but of course it still rhymes, and it will remind you a lot of Joni Mitchell’s song, written from her perspective as an early twenty-something humie, with extentions by a 300-something coleoptera, thinking about the end of him.
Both Sides of Me & Now
I’ve looked at schemes from both sides now,
and clouds, and dreams, and still somehow
the crowds and memes they block the sun.
Delusions reign and spoil the fun.
Do you know yourselves at all?
Have Profit…eers not led the call?
Your prophets’ ears can read a crowd,
but go beyond…that is allowed.
Go beyond that knowing smile,
that condescending hungry guile,
and wonder what they’re going for.
Power? Love? Money? More?
Are they looking…down the road,
when plants emerge from what they sowed,
when Me & Now have blocked the sun?
Their seeds dispersed as Everyone.
I’ve looked at lives from both sides now.
I’ve seen how lies survive somehow.
Allusions to repressive states,
illusions of new golden gates.
But Me & Now will fail somehow.
The Profit…eers will not endow
the kids with what they need to know.
New seeds are what you need to sow.
Though first, the Soil. Start thinking small.
A metaphor…for minds and all.
The prophets…profit by what you hunt.
It starts with Soil, seeds grow to Want.
With Want comes fear of missing out.
It’s deep inside, not just about
the car, the house, the clothes, the cool,
the love of luv, though the majority drool.
You learn Want well in its different forms,
despite your claims of ignoring norms,
despite your aims of avoiding tears,
I fear more flowing in the coming years.
I’ve looked at Fears from both sides now
and Soil and Seeds…I think somehow
you’ll see the tears you’ve come to know
cause more of…the same seeds to grow.
The Soil’s the same, the seeds you’ve sown
are Me & Now and once they’ve grown,
repeating vows of power and pride,
the prophets’ lies now deep inside,
their profits tied to tactics tried.
And there they stand, the kids, with smiles.
The Me & Now, the prophets’ wiles,
will melt those smiles down into tears,
and you must face your biggest fears.
You always knew your Me-Now ways
were fraught from their beginning days.
You bought it knowing all along
the prophets’ ploys were probably wrong.
I’ve looked at tears from both sides now.
I’ve looked at fears and cried out loud.
I’m not alone in seeing this,
the You they sold does not exist.
I’ve looked at you from both sides now
like Joni’s clouds, but crowds somehow
preferred illusions not the call
to know yourselves as one of all,
preferred illusions not the call
to wonder why…so many still fall.
Bug Stu (after thinking of “Both Sides, Now” by Joni Mitchell)
Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.
Tomorrow is also the Stralfs’ Stay/No Stay conference, according to Stu, so I’ll have a report soon.