AMAZEMENT I CAN'T UNDERSTAND
Tom Waits, On The Nickel, Lyrics at the bottom of this piece. https://youtu.be/8055IqijQzo
My son shared this link with me just an hour ago [Saturday]. You won't understand what I'm saying unless you can go where the link takes you. I sent this immediately to some friends and I've doctored it a bit [ twice now] for this public piece.
It, I suppose, will strike us all differently, but I don't understand just what I'm feeling right now and I want just to pour this out before the bewilderment leaves me.
I don't understand all these lyrics, only fragments of them, but the pics and Wait's [always] visceral delivery speak volumes and they give the lyrics meaning at a level that makes them more potent than my verbal/literary understanding could alone. And the same is true about what the lyrics do for the pictures. I warn you that I haven't grasped what I'm talking about here but maybe you could respond [later] and help me.
This link between the two media that deals with a stark and universal wrong opened my eyes to something I thought I was in touch with. I say it opened my eyes and yet that's only partly true because I don't know exactly what it has opened my eyes to.
It's more than the sadness these generate. I've felt that as long as I've ever been conscious; no, I'm talking [I think] about the vastness of the potential for human experience. It's like a flash of lightning when you're lost in a dark forest that lasts only for an instant but gives you a suggestion of the way you should go; it's tentative but it's real.
Again, I'm not talking about the depth of sympathy and sadness. Not to feel those would surely mean we're lacking something human. I feel astonished by something I can't quite articulate but I know it moves in the direction of size, vastness, the depth and breadth of humanness. Somehow Waits' presentation, the little-understood lyrics and the oppressed and burdened humans made me feel they were me and I was them. [Yes, yes, I know; I'm no tragic figure and my comfort makes my last remark seem peurile even to me. I warned you I don't know precisely what I'm feeling.] My solidarity with the human family in all the ages keeps popping into my mind. Maybe that's it but I've said such things for years. Maybe my fleeting amazement, before it has begun to dissipate, is giving me a glimpse of God's heart. Wouldn't I like to believe that?
I hate it that the ISIS thing happened in Paris or anywhere else but this long long long crucifixion of the poor makes the Paris incident seem almost incidental.
But it isn't that I'm groping at here. It's something else and it centers in how not-well-understood lyrics [words] and the awful wrong we experience in our plundered poor can mesh and throw light on each other. These plundered poor [Markham] are our people, being ravaged by an Alien. It is our enemy too but it's an enemy of our victimized and helpless!
I don't even want a full explanation of the lyrics--"There now, no verbal mystery--the rest is merely psychological response." I sense that the ignorance, the mystery is essential to what it is I'm feeling right now--if not awe, at least amazement. At what precisely? I'm not sure I want to know precisely right now for it might take from me what I sense I need to know to enter into the larger experience of being human. But more than that, though I'm comfortable and not suffering as these [the little girl sitting on the steps, head in her arms on her knees] they are us, they are me and I am them. It's happening to all of us and it's showing itself more vividly and more socially/physically painfully in these men, women and children pictured here.
There's a common enemy--an invisible reality, cruel, heartless, destructive, predatorial, parasitical, that in countless ways eats at us and our besieged brothers and sisters--visibly and concretely--and we only get a chance to see the edge of its slimy shimmering cloak as it hovers over us all--we only get a real glimpse [only a glimpse] of it in these poor witnesses of its vicious presence, these fear-filled and despairing humans who've run out of options, or never had any to begin with; these who sleep when they can where they can or rummage or weep or drink themselves unconscious, unemployed and unemployable; but they speak to us. The only reason I can't be wise but enraged and ceaseless enemy of their enemy is because it has me also [in my comfortable setting] in its velvet-covered, well-manicured talons. In seeing these weeping, bewildered brothers and sisters of mine I sense myself as a mere observer and that might be all I want [O God, I hope not] and that would be astonishing.
I don't know where I'm going with this. I've moved from where my amazement was generated and the sense that I've been given the opportunity to see something truly awakening is leaving me the more I talk.
This last remark will now seem almost trivial though if I know my heart at all it's genuine enough. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus is against all the forms and causes of the torment of the plundered poor and in Jesus Christ he has expressed his support of all the wise and honorable ways we move against the Evil. I feel more obligated now to throw my two ounces on the scale and borrowing Herbie's prayer to say, "Dear God, count me in, jim" Surely while it's true that there are things I'm not able to do there are things I can do.sticks and stones will break my bones, but i always will be true, and when
your mama is dead and gone, i'll sing this lullabye just for you, and what
becomes of all the little boys, who never comb their hair, well they're lined
up all around the block, on the nickel over there.
so you better bring a bucket, there is a hole in the pail, and if you don't
get my letter, then you'll know that i'm in jail, and what becomes of all the
little boys, who never say their prayers, well they're sleepin' like a baby,
on the nickel over there.
and if you chew tobacco, and wish upon a star, well you'll find out where
the scarecrows sit, just like punchlines between the cars, and i know a place
where a royal flush, can never beat a pair, and even thomas jefferson, is on
the nickel over there.
so ring around the rosie, you're sleepin' in the rain, and you're always
late for supper, and man you let me down again, i thought i heard a
mockingbird, roosevelt knows where, you can skip the light, with grady tuck,
on the nickel over there.
so what becomes of all the little boys, who run away from home, well the
world just keeps gettin' bigger, once you get out on your own, so here's to
all the little boys, the sandman takes you where, you'll be sleepin' with a
pillowman, on the nickel over there.
so let's climb up through that button hole, and we'll fall right up the
stairs, and i'll show you where the short dogs grow, on the nickel over there.