I have yet to see “I’m Not There,” allegedly a very good film about the many sides of Bob Dylan. And maybe “I’m Not There” is all the message one needs. I have written so much about being there or here lately that it’s hard to imagine what not being would be all about. But I’m thinking it’s time.
Well, he hands you a nickel,
He hands you a dime,
He asks you with a grin
If you’re havin’ a good time,
Then he fines you every time you slam the door.
I’ve never done the manual labor described in the song, but I don’t think Bob did much either. Maybe a little, in those early Minnesota days, but my Mom had a good friend that went to school with “Little Bobby Zimmerman” and he didn’t exactly have the farmer physique. Me neither. The point becomes, really, that any labor can end up feeling physical and manual if it’s bad enough. People go home for backaches, stomach aches, are “just sick” and won’t be coming in for days. There is a word, psychosomatic, but it’s not psycho at all. Why work when nothing is working? Why try when everything’s trying?
Eventually it all feels like you’re out on the farm, being ground into the ground by a machine that nickels and dimes you but carefully controls your feelings and perspectives. Has insidious, trained ways of drawing you back in. Even if you manage to dodge the raining (reigning?) bullets of debt and fear and materialism, they’ll find a way to strike you down, to huff and puff and blow your house down. And hope is not far behind.
My Dad has long (six months?) been saying that “nothing is working anymore.” I’m skeptical as to whether it ever was. But the more I see, the higher my perspective, the more laughable it all seems. What would it even look like? Who is working? Why? The situation is well-nigh screaming at me to cut bait and take my losses. It’s like What is Success? rolled up with Seneca with a sprinkle of Broadway and the Advocate and everything else. I can give myself an India reprieve, maybe. But that depends a lot on the next 7 days. Open future, options and decisions to be made. Is humanity worth saving? Some things are so broken that it’s best to start over.
Emily and I cried at “The Great Debaters” for many reasons, but perhaps most of all because we missed debate. Imperfections aplenty, and some really bad people (mostly great, though)… but rules and order and intellectual rigor and curiosity. Everyone on a (roughly) level playing field in the quest for discourse and powerful voices rising to quiet the din of a confused and ill-informed public. Ivory towers rising to the sky, for sure, but to get above the nonsense and into the light. We will never go back, even when we go back. It’s all over now, baby blue, and maybe when people reunite to run the country it will be different this time. But we know which ones will rise in that way and those were the ones we would’ve voted off the island first (and won the elections there, just as elsewhere, of course). So it’s all for naught, even in the best of cases. What is worth saving?
Well, he puts his cigar
Out in your face just for kicks.
His bedroom window
It is made out of bricks.
The National Guard stands around his door.
I talked at length what seems like eons ago (it was, chronologically, just over six weeks ago) about Distribution and how few to no people in the world would “need to work” if the world were properly distributed. Or how we could all work a few hours a week (like six or eight) and more than comfortably provide for everyone. Maybe this doesn’t sound like the most exciting thing ever to most people, but I would imagine it does. “The Great Debaters” touched on these issues, and many more, about the nature of work and whether it helps or is necessary or is just one of those hurdles a manipulative society puts in the way of its people.
The point is, we have all been trained and raised to believe in work, no matter what that looks like or how absurd it is. I’m reviewing here. But it takes repetition to break down stereotypes. What are you working for? What am I working for? (I’m really asking here.) For debt? For needless planned-obsolescence gadgets? For the opporunity to give offspring more debt and more obsolete gadgets?
Well, I try my best
To be just like I am,
But everybody wants you
To be just like them.
They sing while you slave and I just get bored.
I am chronically addicted to telling the truth and busting the doors open on perceived needs for privacy, and it is for this reason more than any other that I am getting blindly angry this past week or so. When people try to restrict my ability to speak, to say what’s going on, to share and communicate, especially when it’s completely obvious that such communication is the only road to functionality and the converse is the road to ruin, I get really frustrated. And more so the more it goes on and builds up. It gets hard to even sit still, to breathe, to know what to do. If some place is willing to compromise you more than you even knew you could be, what are you doing? What am I doing? (I am asking here.)
I know all my counter-arguments, my rebuttals, my refutations. I understand the temptations that I am drawn in by, the draw of influence and power, proxies for the opportunity to lead. To provide leadership. To be a leader. In some ways, the worse and more profoundly silly things get, the stronger the argument for staying and fighting and cutting through the madness. I could fix this, give me six months and enough “buy-in” (code-word here for the ability to unite, to wield power for the positive, to bring people together). That’s all it would take.
And maybe, it occurred to me just this morning, the job of every worker at a non-profit should be to put themselves out of a job, just like the work of every non-profit is to put themselves out of work. Everyone who’s doing right by non-profiteering is trying to get our distribution away from needing the work of the non-profiteers. We’re making up for things that shouldn’t be as they are. If we do our job, then we won’t be needed anymore. How many parables and lessons carry a central figure as a traveling teacher whose stint is brief but more powerful than 13-17 years of an educational system?
So six months, maybe twelve, to put myself out of work. Then forget it.
But in six days, mark this, it may already be too late.
Let’s go, time’s a-wastin’.