Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Real Good for Free

This is a picture of L'Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, D.C. It was taken by a guy named Drew McDermott. I don't know who he is, I needed a relevant illustration for this post and so I Google imaged it. He should get credit for it though.

It's the first of May and I almost forgot about my tradition of a poem on the first of each month. (I'm sure you've been holding your breath, right?)

Anyway, these are actually lyrics to a song by Joni Mitchell. I'm not a big Joni Mitchell fan, I don't know her songs, but I'll tell you the story after you read it.

I slept last night in a good hotel
I went shopping today for jewels.
The wind rushed around in the dirty town
and the children let out from the schools.
I was standing on a noisy corner
waiting for the walking green
Across the street he stood, and he played real good
on his clarinet for free.
Now me, I play for fortunes
and the velvet curtain calls.
I got a black limousine and a few gentlemen
escorting me to these halls.
And I'll play if you have the money
or if you're a friend to me.
But the one-man-band by the quick lunch stand,
he was playing real good for free.
Nobody stopped to hear him,
though he played so sweet and high.
They knew he had never been on their TV
so they passed his good music by.
I meant to go over and ask for a song,
maybe put on a harmony.
I heard his refrain as that signal changed,
he was still playing real good for free.

-- Joni Mitchell

About three weeks ago, a co-worker sent me the link to an article called "Pearls for Breakfast" and the story pretty much consumed my life for two or three days. If you can take the time, the article is well worth it (right, Ilene?) Not that it draws any conclusions, but it poses a lot of interesting questions. It's an interesting study on human behavior and makes you think about your own. So after I read this article, I had to read all the comments on the article (maybe that's why it consumed two or three days of my life). One of the comments included the Joni Mitchell lyrics which touches on one aspect of the article.

Again, I recommend this article if you have the time. It's very well written and researched. If you do take the time, let me know your thoughts. And make sure you watch the video clips.



Saule Cogneur said...

On my pessimistic days, I wonder if articles like this one reflect what it truly means to be American while fearing I may be no different than the masses. On normal days, I simply say, “everyone has to pay the rent” and forget about it. In reality, I suppose it doesn’t matter; generalities aren’t good for much.

I would be naïve to place full blame on our culture because ultimately and individually, we choose our priorities on our own.

To say that Bell’s playing "does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live" is absolutely perfect. Not in the sense that it’s true (though it may in fact be so), but in the sense that it emphasizes (to me) the biggest danger in devoting the entirety of ones life to getting ahead.

I feel like this article highlights the need for balance. We all need the means to eat, but if that is our only goal in life, as Kurt Vonnegut once put it, “our big brains are entirely unnecessary.”

laura said...

One part in the article that really struck me was this:

"he seems so apart from his audience -- unseen, unheard, otherworldly -- that you find yourself thinking that he's not really there. A ghost.

Only then do you see it: He is the one who is real. They are the ghosts."

Ilene said...

Such a great social experiment. I really don't know how I would have reacted if I was there. Typically, I am running late and so I am very single-minded when going somewhere. I guess we all need to take time to smell the roses, as they say. Really, what is the point of our being here if all we do is focus on all of our "to do" tasks and never take time to truly enjoy this experience we call life? This lesson can be applied on so many levels and at any stage in life. Right now too often I concentrate too much on getting the kids fed and keeping the house in some sort of order. Sometimes I just have to let things get messy and read a story to Jackson or play with Thomas. It is that Mary & Martha parable all over again.

Saule Cogneur said...

I thought the part about the ghosts was cool too. It reminded me of a book about Elliott Smith I read a while back. The author opens with the description of a concert:

“His fingers pluck at the strings professionally, but his voice is quiet and he barely looks up between songs, so it’s easy to believe he’s singing alone. After the applause that follows each song, the hometown crowd falls into a clean silence – nobody reacts to the music, nobody moves, and nobody talks. The crowd doesn’t want to hear him perform, it seems, so much as it wants to overhear him.”

I think I know what these authors were getting at. In the presence of good music, all that matters is the music itself. Everything else, our own existence even, is irrelevant detail. I can think of few feelings I enjoy more.