Saxum volutum non obducitur musco
‘a rolling stone gathers no moss’. proverb: Pubilius Syrus
People who are always moving with no roots in one place avoid rusting and stagnation, or in human terms – cares and responsibilities.
There is a contradiction to this old proverb. Not within the proverb itself – as literally and metaphorically it makes sense. However, as the proverb has, shall we say, gathered moss over time, it has produced a dichotomy. The above interpretation (from my wee friend Wiki-P) is the contemporary interpretation – implying that moss is the undesirable growth that accompanies a person who stays put for long enough. The contemporary interpretation glamorises everything from the hedonistic, non-committed, tom-cat type to the innocent nomadic urges that are quite naturally embedded in us as humans (made a little more interesting with a generous sprinkling of artistic flare or philosophical disposition.)
The contradiction is this: Originally, the statement favoured the moss. You know, like: a replanted plant or tree bears little fruit.
I am open to both interpretations. If I focus on either for too long, I fear a dependance forming. I don’t stick around for long in any case. That also applies to studying proverbs! I’d rather accept that there is truth in both statements but I take a step back (and a deep breath) and consider: life creates patterns but it is also subjected to stamps. These stamps can be recognized as the imprint and influence of an intervening force, it may be called God. I feel however, that calling it God will provide barriers, pre-conceptions and limitations. It may be analysed and from a theological or scientific lens – regardless of how we try to configure it – it’s there. (or is it here?…)
We can set out to create a unique pattern, or we can follow or be directed by others, or a little of both. Whether you chose to design your life with the ropes of routine, tradition, planning and discipline – or of with threads of whimsical, impulse-driven, adventure-seeking, inconsistancy… Certain forces will assert their influence, regardless of what you do. Take Serendipity, for instance. You may have no structure and make no plans – and yet you will experience times when you seem to walk with ease into a situation that suits you perfectly. & there’s Synchronicity. You may have made a bunch of random decisions, only to end up somewhere that is significant and meaningful, and provides answers to your existential musings, illuminating visible links, that serve to show you that you are in perfect alignment with life, and always were. These moments question the supposed ‘random-ness’ of your seemingly impulsive decisions. I mean – what is an impulse? We never entirely know what our own psychology staff are organizing in their subconscious offices. We may think we understand why we do things – we tell ourselves all kinds of stories. We believe our own stories because we need to believe something. We often get confused and believe what we think – or worse – that we are what we think. I shudder to even think it!
So back to the rolling stone proverb.
We have already a range of angles towards this statement to examine. Already, I can hear papa was a rolling stone, wherever he lay his hat was his home – (Temptations; 1972.) Since I’m applying this statement to my current life situation, I do not find the lyrics particularly pallatable. I’m more drawn to Dylan’s song anyway – Like a Rolling Stone (1965). This one is part of my performance repetoire. I sing it and I think of the rich and arrogant, or the superficial and shallow – perhaps while I’m busking for a sandwich – – By choice, I might add! So this is why I sing the song light-heartedly and with humour. As if to say – they get a kick out of being rich and superficial, I get a kick out of being poor, artistic and having something to complain about – so thank you for being that ‘something’. I also apply the song to a younger me who was getting a little ahead of herself whilst at the peak of hedonism, and the accompanied belief structure that went something like: Meaninglessness. The doctrine that everything is meaningless. We live. We die. oh – yeah, I can do with another top up, yeah, that’s great, ta. All the pretty people, drinkin, thinkin’ that they got it made.
I don’t actually enjoy singing harsh songs about other people these days, so I’ll create an imaginary character in my mind, composed of parts of myself and abstract issues of society and sing the song with that collage in mind.
I’m too insecure to scorn others, you see. I tend to scorn my scorn. Oh so self-effacing!
The confrontational aspect of ‘art’ has to have a very clear focal point, an unwavering trajectory – a strong, self-assured message with a mild prescription for some redemption. Wow. Can a song even manage all that?
Yeah it can. As an individual song or as part of a repetoire, understanding both it’s mystical capacities and it’s immediate limitations. I’ll try to describe a little of what I mean when I say ‘mystical capacities of a song’. When it is first composed, or sung/played – it feels like it was just waiting in its perfection and poised preservation in the visceral realm to be accessed and brought into the auditory world with all its innevitable catchy-ness and strange familiarity. As it travels, the song awakens a feeling in people that creates varied degrees of understanding and friendship between listeners. These friendships are given fertile soil: mutual appreciation for songs and tracing together the links from one artist/genre to the next. It is a type of geneology. A song, however, is bound to its spiritual contract. It cannot be played over and over without losing its majesty. It’s appeal may appear to be short-lived. It will also be unwelcome at certain times – if played inappropriately, it may suffer the dis-identification of it’s listener. So these are some limitations. However, the soul of the song will, throughout time, be re-incarnated, with similiar excitement and appreciation – this is another aspect of the mystical capacities.
Is their an opportunity for redemption in Dylan’s song?
Apart from his advice – better pawn that diamond ring, babe – there doesn’t seem to do any compassionate favours. Then we could say – he pulled up the mirror to society… it was too personal for that. If he did, it was incidental. His song contains his presence, which is mirror-full, but also self-aware in a human sort of way.
So Dylan was having a hard time when he wrote this one. With vengeance on his mind and generally feeling drained from the pressure of a musical career, Dylan produced “There is some irony in the fact that one of the most famous songs of the folk-rock era—an era associated primarily with ideals of peace and harmony—is one of vengeance.” (WP; Howard Souges, biographer)
I also consider the figure of Edie Sedgwick- Andy Warhol’s orginial ‘superstar’. She is supposedly the ‘miss lonely’ the song refers to. I identify with Sedgwick, the weaker, more vulnerable aspects of my character are drawn to her and see her as a dark idol.* These dark idols exist in some factory in my mind, their thin bodies entangled in an artistic orgy, their ghaunt faces visible only in streaks of silvery light, their eyes swirling like the smog that surrounds them. The factory walls are made of mirrors and these idols are not real people although they did once exist. They are just visions of others, reproductions of themselves, and products of vicious, sensual, chemical reactions.
It’s intoxicating to think of the dark idols. It is almost soothing to know that ‘myths, props, and old beliefs fall away to reveal a very taxing reality.’ Life is weird. The strangest things offer us solace.
(I’ll tell the story of the bird that gets pooped on, in due course)
So, regarding Dylan’s song. Where is the offer of redemption? I wonder as I shy away from inhabiting the song itself and projecting the meaning and the question onto innocent tourists who may resemble the subjects of the song. I mean, they do like it. They love sincerity, even if you spit in their faces. Tell the audience you hate them + sincerity and confidence = they love you. We trust sincerity, even if it’s wrong. …I don’t give them it. I can’t. I don’t want the euphoria of having a dominant/submissive relationship with my audience. They expect things after the show, you see. And besides, I don’t feel particularly Activist these days, occasionally observing and occasionally participating, but most frequently lost in my minds. I can’t condemn anyone when am constantly finding fault when I examine myself.
To round it up nicely, (and again I quote WP) ‘Dylan himself has noted that after his motorcycle accident in 1966 he realized that “when I used words like ‘he’ and ‘it’ and ‘they,’ and talking about other people, I was really talking about nobody but me.’
Dylan’s song, I once knew as ‘how does it feel?’ – well, it’s self-reflexive. ‘We are one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively.’
Perhaps the redemption was awaiting Dylan’s self-realization. We all drift in and out of illusions and innevitably this causes disharmony and pain. How does it feel? Well Dylan wasn’t perfect either.
So I am a rolling stone. Whether it be for good or bad. Whether fate or God’s favour appears to affect me. Acceptance, I realize, is a quintessential part of living a healthy existence. That does not mean being submissive or disassociated.
Saying goodbye has become addictive. There is a resolution that permeates the relationship, a resolution of honesty. Finality enduces presence and removes valves in the mind that have reduced perspective. Although their is pain and inner conflict – serenity always makes an appearance. Serenity is the complimentary sensation, an unexpected reward for surrendering in acceptance. More specifically, when we surrender in acceptance because we love and for a moment understand life.
I have learned to accept that it does not pain me to say goodbye. I collect people like rare stones I don’t need to carry them around looking at them all the time – I’m not a committed geologist, just a passer by with a bit of artistic eye. Sometimes I am nostalgic of the ‘romantic’ that once strode around in my mind (that’s mind, not ‘heart’…) like the curator of a big empty mansion waiting on excitedly preconceived guests. At the peak of this romantic phase, it seemed no one was interested in staying – just in humouring the adoring, desperate curator. Now the mansion is in ruins and the curator has taken to wandering the streets, singing songs to the neighbours in a state that is questionable for its sobriety. The mansion is still beautiful, but their is an air of abandonment that characterises its every countour. Sometimes the curator crawls in through the window to find people waiting at the door. They look round at the place with an acquired affection. As if they have known this building long and formed an admiration and desire to belong their.
I know that Perhaps there is personal satisfaction in knowing that my absence causes a reaction in someone. That means more to me than whatever my presence provides.
These days I yearn for quick introductions, fleeting appearances, and brief, sentimental, or at least word-less acknowledgements of goodbye. I am leaving now. I love you and feel your love too. I need nothing else here.
I’m not saying it’s right. I know it’s damn dysfunctional.
I am either frightened to command presence. Or too lazy or distracted to mantain it.