Oh, man, this has got to be a terrific post now that I've come up with that title. It's almost Christmas, so naturally my thoughts are turning toward utterly unreligious stuff.
But I'm still getting signs from the universe.
At least, I like to think that I am. And who else is better qualified to tell whether a seemingly random event actually is a message from... [fill in the blank; me, I have no idea who might be the messenger].
Like, yesterday I was driving around, listening to Classic Vinyl on Sirius XM, grooving to sounds of the '60s when -- oh, my God! -- two of my favorite songs came on in a row: Janis Joplin singing "Me and Bobby McGee," then Grace Slick singing "White Rabbit."
Clearly, a message from [X].
There's a lot of great lyrics in "Me and Bobby McGee." Like:
Freedom is just another word for nothin' left to lose
Nothin', don't mean nothin' honey if it ain't free.
And feeling good was easy Lord, when he sang the blues
You know feeling good was good enough for me
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.
I love how the song is so earthy, so real. It's easy to picture windshield washers beating time, as a woman "holds Bobby's hand in mine," singing every song the truck driver who picked them up knew.
Abstractions, they're fine. Ditto with dogmas, theologies, concepts, hypotheses about what the cosmos might be all about. Then there's what Joplin sings about with such soul: holding Bobby's body next to mine.
I couldn't find a video online of her singing this song. But it's her voice that sends chills up my spine. There is only one Janis Joplin. I've never heard or seen anyone else like her. Which should remind us: there's also nobody else like us.
Shortly after I arrived at San Jose State University in 1966 as a freshman, I stumbled across a free concert on campus by Big Brother and the Holding Company. Janis Joplin was holding forth on stage. Watching her, I knew that I wasn't in conservative central California anymore.
A new magical world was dawning. The mantra: "Do your own thing." Still damn good advice, especially when it comes to religion, spirituality, philosophy of life, morals, ethics -- all that stuff.
Janis Joplin died at twenty-seven from a heroin overdose. Seems like it was too soon, but who am I to say? She lived life her way. Full tilt. Holding nothing back. Expressing herself like nobody before or since. She was unique. Again, like we all are.
Here she is singing "Ball and Chain" with every ounce of her being.
Some people flash through life like a vapor trail, appearing and disappearing suddenly, making a sonic boom that grabs our attention. I thought of Joplin when I glanced up during my afternoon dog walk in the woods today.
Like the setting sun, which greeted dog and me as we turned toward the west and headed around the lake.
That oak tree must be several hundred years old. It started growing way before me, and almost certainly it'll still be alive when I'm dead and gone. I hate those words "dead and gone," because I love life. Yet... out in nature, like I was this evening, I feel much more comfortable with the thought of my own demise.
Life happens. Death happens. It's what happens.
And didn't Joplin sing, "Freedom is just another word for nothin' left to lose"? What do we have that is really ours? Is this body mine, this brain, this anything? I came from somewhere/nowhere and I'm heading back to the same place.
I was thinking along these lines as dog and I walked across the dam at the end of the lake. As so often happens, I wasn't aware of what nature was speaking, I was so focused on what the voice inside my head was talking about.
But, just in time, I noticed another vapor trail. Another jet, headed in the same direction as the first one. Yet now I could see the jet. It was illuminated by the setting sun.
Earlier this month I also fired up my iPhone's camera on a dog walk. I made a one minute video of what was happening with some trees at the time. Leaves were falling. The moment was strangely moving. For me. Likely, not for anyone else who sees the video.
As is so often said, "I guess you had to be there." And not only there, but there inside my head. Here's my quasi-poetic (very quasi) narration, since the sound wasn't recorded very well.
Hard to catch,
Hard to predict.
Dog's ready to move on.
I want to catch a few more.
Try to look for it,
It's not there.
Have to be patient.
On a different note...here's Grace Slick singing "White Rabbit." Wow. Wow. Wow.