Tag Archives: genius

The Renaissance Myth: bref double

If genius is the thing that saves mankind
by pulling it along above the mud,
and with the rarest spark, inducing flames
to warm against the night the coldest souls,

then why does the world still seem deaf and lame?
Could be, outside that magic, a savant
controls the weak container that is man,
so that true genius rarely breeds in coals;

and Nature, seeking balance, leaves most duds,
to make such genius difficult to find.
So talent tends to weaken other skills
and handicap our saviors in their game.

The renaissance mystique we rarely find;
and by its flaws, most genius comes to nil.

24 JAN 2017

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Outside the Box

The next idea, the one that rocks,
will be born “outside of the box”,
beyond the thinker’s comfort zone,
where daring, they have gone alone
into the dark and scary mists
to reap the untold benefits.

But once they get there, settle in,
I’m sure the process starts again:
the stale taste speech leaves in the mouth,
the sense that the world’s going south,
that notions rise and notions sink
and for true vision, one must think
outside the box that’s larger now;
it seems an endless quest, somehow,
to always walk that extra mile
into the dark, where you now smile
because it’s land you could map blind
by now, at what point do you find
a new idea when your zone
of comfort includes all you’ve known,
and every inch of common ground
has been exhausted and walked ’round?
What good is having visions then,
when everywhere is where you’ve been?

08 SEP 2006

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The Ten Percent Solution

Lobotomy perhaps provides the clues:
that with what meager portion of the brain
society encourages us to use
and education bothers us to train,
we think, and therefore are, so far reduced
from what potential might be in the whole
that in our ignorance we have deduced
the object and observer’s separate roles.

What lies beyond? The best minds only guess,
and courting madness, let conjecture fly:
that limitations serve, under duress,
as a protective shield. No one asks why
in fact such armor should be status quo,
or further, why we seek to find defense
against a world we barely even know,
imagining it a cruel experience.

Let science define borders, create lines —
the territory is more than a map
that presupposes theories of design
and satisfies itself merely to slap
a label on a place or thing, and feel
sufficiently content it is defined.
Such actions no more help divide the real
from the imagined than a sandy line
splits an expanse of beach neatly in two,
or marks a boundary between mine and yours.

Besides, conditions in the lab are too
unnatural and sterile. To use “pure”
as a benchmark for quality or right
when we our ourselves are amalgam and blend
is to constrict the possible so tight
that we are left with traces, and pretend
our grasp is all the world extends to fill,
our footprint covers the whole earth entire,
our mind a mirror of some Divine will,
and all creation slave to our desire.

27 JUL 2005

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Death of a Circus Lion

His speech was almost poetry;
I say almost, because to claim
such subtle acts of sophistry
as conscious art is to enflame
the ire of critics, who exist
with their sole purpose to decry
encroachment on their world as lies,
and play the constant pessimist.

The world’s not ready, they proclaim,
for such a mix of show and tell;
for movements that defy a name.
The vanity of hope won’t sell
a single copy on the coasts.
Besides, a voice we cannot tell
“be silent” is quite mad; to boast
its worthiness despite our well
intentioned praise, or degradation,
seems to smack of heresy.
I ask you, in this situation,
would you dare let such things be?

In these and other ways, more sly,
the world prefers its genius mute;
no small surprise that you and I
give up such goals as our pursuit,
and gambol, as if without care,
through life without a moment’s thought
to who built our cage bars just there,
or for what purpose we were caught.

25 JUL 2005

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Artie Shaw

By the time I got to it,
the clarinet was odd;
a quaint small instrument for guys
who never got the girls
(even the ones who played
and sat in the same orchestra rows
day and day, year after year),
who shuffled in the back
behind the trumpets
and saxophones.

It wasn’t really a manly thing
at nine or ten years old
to play.
But that was after Artie
set it down, and Benny
stopped “Flying Home”.

Used to be the clarinet was king —
and guys who played it
led the bands that fellas killed
to get into. Not the “sweet” bands
(although even Miller’s band cashed in
on clarinet by chance, with
Moonlight Serenade, and Welk’s band
was the only place you’d see a closeup
on those nickel keys)
or the “money” bands, per se,
but the bands where you had to be
great to even get a note in.

To me, that was the reason why
I played that black and silver stick:
because of Artie Shaw
who even out swung Gene Krupa.

30 DEC 2004

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Ray Charles: Eyesight From the Blind

In one of his early 70s comedy routines, Flip Wilson imagined a conversation between Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain (and I paraphrase, as the album Cowboys and Colored People is long out of print and my vinyl is lost to the ravages of time):

Queen: Well, what’s in America, Chris? What are you going to find there?
Columbus: Ray Charles.
Queen: Ray Charles is in America?
Columbus: Damn right, woman. Where do you think all those records come from?
Queen (excited): Chris gonna find Ray Charles, Chris gonna find Ray Charles!

At this point, Queen Isabella promptly handed Chris a check, which he took down to the local Army-Navy store, obtained three used ships, four cases of rum and a couple of rashers of beef jerky. The rest, as they say, is history.

Humorous as this interpretation may be, it highlights a very important point: Ray Charles was America. And a lot more, as well. Never mind the fact that without Ray Charles, it’s probable that Van Morrison would still be an unknown skiffle player; or that Joe Cocker might never have been inspired to damage himself in service to a song. Never mind that legions of artists, stretching back in time from Elvis and Aretha (herself touted as the female Ray Charles early in her career) to Stevie Wonder, would not have had a figurative leg to stand on without him.

The fact is that Ray Charles represents the ideal of America, as expressed in Music. That ideal is that what makes us different, what gives us strength of character, is how we are able to use what is formative in our lives to create a personal interpretation of our reality that illustrates not so much who we are, but what we are capable of.

Ray Charles, although blind, saw something more clearly than others who retained the ability to “see”. It is apparent to me in the large body of work he did as a solo artist, but comes absolutely into focus when you examine the duets he performed with other people: Joe Cocker, George Jones, Willie Nelson and so many others were touched by the “Genius” of Ray Charles, and learned, I think, one important lesson: that Music really is the universal language, and it doesn’t matter what anyone says about which genre you should limit yourself to or what type of Music is “appropriate” for you to perform. What is essential to living life to its fullest, to experiencing, not only the depths of sadness, but the elevated heights of joy, is not so much picking the song. The song itself is secondary in this process (although the song, to be truly universal, has to have certain basic qualities).

What is essential, sang Ray Charles in a lesson to us all, is to sing with your whole being, to find yourself by embracing not the preconceived notions of what a song has been, but what it could be. Where it could go; and by extension, where we as human beings can go if we dare to venture outside the safe, accepted boxes in which society so desires to put each of us.

Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful” is a revelation about America. Because it poignantly illustrates not only the absolute love of what America is supposed to stand for, but the heart-wrenching sadness of how far from that goal we are at present. Ray Charles knew that America was not, in practice, about brotherhood. But it SHOULD be. It COULD be.

Ray Charles almost single handedly changed American Music, taking from its isolationist parts and creating a homogenous, harmonious and soulful whole. He created “American” Music from southern gospel, northern Appalachian, western swing, eastern cool and midwest and Delta blues.

American Music. The Music of not white, black, rich, poor, ignorant, educated, simple, or complicated.

The tragedy is that with his loss, we may forget how to sing it.

Ray never ratted out a friend
because they leaned far left;
the communists had great songs too:
from all, Ray learned, and wept.

Instead of Johnny One-Noting
like some are wont to do,
Ray reached inside, and realized
that all is part of you

America, Ray never saw
but took its dreams on faith:
that each could find their own ideal
despite their flaws, or race

Ray Charles sang of America,
its separate, equal parts,
and wove them in a tapestry
of soul, belief and heart

From east and west and north and south
the pieces he combined
Constructing Musically the nation
that he hoped to find

A silent moment, now, we share
now that his voice is stilled;
and promise, though some would forget
that song, we never will.

11 JUN 2004

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History Lessons

Well, my mom is visiting for a few days, having driven 2,500 miles on a cross-country jaunt to see not only me, but my sister in Tennessee, uncles and cousins in Cincinnati, the farm in Forest and then friends in Madison, WI and back across the country to San Diego.

She brought with her a number of interesting things, as she is in the process of sorting through everything in her house and distributing items to myself and my siblings. One of those things was a box of my writings dating back as far as 30 years, including but not limited to, song Lyrics, short stories, school essays, drawings, etc. Much of this I gave to my parents for safe-keeping when I moved to Boston in 1991 – but other parts of it were part of a much earlier trove of collected stuff. High school journals, elementary school skits, and so on. After plowing through this compendium of teen angst, I find myself more and more in agreement with Wallace Stevens on the matter of a poet’s subject being bestowed congenitally. Were this not the case, I don’t know how I could have touched upon certain themes, expressed in certain ways, as I find in even some of my earliest efforts. Of course, there is a great deal of schlock to be unearthed in these, and equal parts precocity and absorption with and of the culture of the times (mostly the mid to late 70s and early 80s). But there are some gems there. Some that barely require the shaping of the jeweler’s tools. As I rediscover them, I’ll be adding them to this site, which ultimately serves as the touchstone for all things artistic throughout my life.

I also revise my earlier comparison with W.B. Yeats. One thing that we both share is a somewhat conceited relatively unshakable belief in our own genius (LOL). One thing that I lack that certainly assisted Yeats in proving that greatness to others is the propensity and capacity for self-advertisement, for putting my name out there in whatever form possible. Or maybe these found writings of mine illustrate otherwise – because certainly there is much that I have written throughout my life for the purpose of including others in my version of reality. Hmm…

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