Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A scream of consciousness

I have no doubt God has a sense of humor. Here is a case in point.

This fall I made a homemade album of songs I wrote last year, and I gave it the title Ten Thousand Days. One of the tunes was deliberately written as a nonsense song.

I had been sitting at a park bench and, more as a kind of exercise than any real intention to write a song, started stringing phrases together at random, as fast as I could.
Orange dogs and old black cats are crying at the door;
A painted lady called my name, but I don’t go there no more.
Pained ecstacy haunts aging dreams, and it’s time to go to bed ...
The song became “All That’s Left You” when my wandering brain stumbled across a fragment from the Simon and Garfunkel song “Bookends” — “A time of innocence, a time of confidences ... Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.”

So the first verse of my new song became “A stream of consciousness, a stream of confidences, Protect your innocence; it’s all that’s left you.”

And when I came to that line while recording, I goofed. I sang, “A scream of consciousness.” I laughed, and because it was a nonsense song, for a time I thought about leaving the song that way. I’m still not sure I made the right decision by going back and re-recording the line with the original lyric.

But I got to thinking about that phrase. What would a “scream of consciousness” be, anyway? When it hit me, I had the idea behind the book.

Have you ever, figuratively or literally, awakened from a stupor and become accutely aware of who you are and what you’re doing?

You were lulled to sleep by a stifling everyday routine, and suddenly you woke up and said, “Wait a minute. There’s got to be more to life than this!”

Someone was abusing you, psychologically or physically, and suddenly you stood up and said, “I don’t deserve this!”

You were enslaved by a bad habit and suddenly you became aware that you were headed in the wrong direction. You stopped in your tracks and said, “I’m not going to do this anymore!”

Or maybe you just were Sitting by a window on a cool summer morning and became aware of the call of a bird, or several birds, and all you could concentrate on was that beautiful sound, and that caused you to feel suddenly very much alive.

That, I would argue, is a scream of consciousness.

You rose out of your psychic fog and realized you didn’t want to keep going in the direction your life was going. You may not have known where you want to go and what you wanted to do, but you knew you didn’t want this.

You gained consciousness and screamed, perhaps literally. It was a scream of consciousness. It may have been borne from the frustration of realizing you had been unconscious, or it may have been borne from the joy of discovering beauty. But the moment you gain consciousness — when you realize or remember that you are what the science-fiction writers call a sentient being — is exhilarating.

There’s more to life!

God, with his big sense of humor, expanded my view of life when I stumbled over the words while singing a nonsense song.

How cool is that?

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