Sunday, May 07, 2017

"We're Going Wrong" -- Musical Memories


[Note: Check for information about the classes and books by Nyerges]
Everyone from every culture has musical memories: a song that brings back the memory of a significant moment, the song you heard when you met your spouse, the song you heard while driving to the Grand Canyon that made you change the course of your life, the song you heard when your mother died, etc.

And when we call a song “classic,” we mean that the song is so good that it captured and epitomized our very thinking and feeling at that time. Though there is always the intellectual question: Did that particular song really capture my feeling, or did I merely embrace that song to allow it to represent a particular time? The answer is that we’ll never really know, especially if you’re not a song-writer.  For most of us, we simply know that the song embodies the memory of the time.

For me, when I was trying to figure out the meaning of life, and more particularly my life during the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, music was a big part of my mental world.  Sometimes the words and music inspired me.  Musicians such as Bob Dylan, Traffic, the Doors, Cream, and the Chamber’s Brothers were much a part of the network of ideas that I wove together to create my inner reality and my outer plan of action.

There was a feeling of change in the air, and the expectation of a new world, if we only were brave enough to make the inner and outer changes necessary.

My best friend Neil and I would talk about the world as we saw it, and the various particulars of what would happen as western civilization could no longer maintain itself, and how the vast infrastructure that so many depended upon would crumble all around us.  Somehow, we felt that we were above it all, as if we were on top of Mount Olympus looking down objectively at the doings of mortal humans, wondering and picturing how the collapse would occur. We had no doubts that another fall of the Roman Empire was slowly unfolding all around us.

We listened to the enigmatic words and mournful tune of  “We’re Going Wrong” by Cream, and discussed the many layers of meaning that were not found in the words.  Was it about someone personally going wrong, or was it about the fall of western civilization, and the very collapse of what some called “modern Babylon”?  We didn’t know, but that song was a sort of anthem to us.  We didn’t really know how grossly ignorant we were of the ways of the world, and the intricate network that kept churning out food for everyone’s table, and the profits that were earned all along the way. 

We knew really very little, but that song by Cream was one of our inspirations to begin studying ethno-botany, and the rich botanical and earth knowledge that our ancestors somewhat took for granted in the pre-electrical and pre-computer days.  We were short on details, but we felt that if we could just learn to feed ourselves – even just a little – from local resources, then we’d be on our way to becoming a part of the solution.  We didn’t know how electricity was created, stored, or transported, but we felt that if we could provide some of our daily needs without the use of electricity, then we believed that we’d relieve an over-burdened system at least a little, and we’d be on the road to being part of a solution.

We were just high school boys, interested in adventure, and girls, and wondering how we’d ever support ourselves.  Even then, we knew that an increasing population stresses all resources, and we did our best to educate ourselves on how to live better by using less. 

That was over 40 years ago. Life has continued, and for various reasons, some of the situations on earth have gotten better, but many have gotten worse.  Neil and I knew back then, as we know today, that they who do not learn from the lessons of their past are doomed to repeat them, as we were told by philosopher George Santayana. (Some of our school mates insisted that was a quote by Carlos Santana!).

We ruefully listened to the words of “We’re Going Wrong,” realizing that collectively we do not seem to learn from the past, because of our pride, our ego, or our belief that somehow we are better than all that, that we have overcome all that silly stuff from the past and therefore we are immune from the consequences of our actions. 

Neil and I never were soothsayers or psychics, but we knew that we could not go wrong if we pursued the best of the past, and the ways of our ancestors that were sustainable for millennia. 

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