Ruminations just for the hell of it.


I feel like I’ve cornered the market on introspection here of late. Much of it owes to the opportunity to catch up on reading during the holidays, not only books but a backlog of magazines and newspaper articles. Fortuitously, Bluegill and I enjoyed a recent discussion along the general theme of mainstream musical and artistic occurrences versus those that are localized at the grassroots level. Several of these themes are starting to click.

It so happens that one of the books I’m reading is U2 by U2, an oral history of the band by the members themselves. I’m admittedly a huge fan of the group, and the fact that its members are my age always has been a source of fascination, but I’m trying to approach their testimony from the vantage point of learning how and why the creativity and talents of four local musicians in Dublin came to pass from micro to macro, from decidedly small time to impossibly huge.

What can be learned from their experience? One thing that leaps out at me is the group’s collective insistence that they came to be what they are today precisely because they barely knew how to play their instruments in the beginning, and having no clear purpose beyond being members of a rock band, they instead did their own thing, in their own way, and learned the conventional musical language only after creating their own.

In turn, this thought echoes elements of my conversation with Bluegill, in that I expressed frustration with myself for being so preoccupied with transforming this blog into something approximating a newspaper that it seemed no longer available to me as a means of exploring other aspects of my existence. Bluegill helpfully referred to this missing element as the “being human” aspect, and as usual, he’s right.

Even if local newspapers won’t be what I’d like them to be, there isn’t much I can do about it, and while I remain intrigued by the possibilities of blogs and blogging, my profession is beer, not journalism. Mind you, there is no desire here to forsake the editorial soapbox with regard to local politics and civic affairs; rather, there’s a desire to place these into an overall context, and one way to do that is to continue writing and trusting my own instincts when it comes to what might be interesting for readers. If it’s done properly, effective writing must include a component of forcibly peeling away layers of inhibition and scar tissue, and probing one’s own inner recesses for fingerprints.

What could be more local than the contents of your own noggin? Comparatively, everything lying outside a individual is mainstream. Taking it a step further, into the larger circle of the community, and probing …

How do I balance a local perspective with the conviction that I remain a citizen of the planet at large?

For as long as I can remember, it is a question that has prompted unrelenting internal debate, and there’s no better illustration of the way it nags me than a brief consideration of the one thing that has confused so many people, friends as well as foes, over the years. The question comes out something like this:

Roger, how is it that someone like you who feels such ambivalence about America … an avowed Europhile, and a person who notoriously is unable to suffer fools … has lived in Floyd County his entire life – maybe traveling as often as possible, but not once moving away?

Good question. It confuses me, too. And so the interrogation proceeds:

How is it that someone taken to espousing local thinking in so many other ways fails to be better versed in local music and local art, and insists on looking abroad for inspiration?

How can someone with a “Red Room” think of himself as a capitalist?

And so on. Rest assured, these wheels spin constantly, glib answers are seldom glimpsed floating to the surface, and eventually the original question returns:

How do I balance a local perspective with the conviction that I remain a citizen of the planet at large?

All that can be said is that at some point early in life, I concluded that there was great personal value in certain areas of knowledge and ideas; that because my place of birth places a pathetically low value on education, these areas consequently are seriously undervalued here at home; and that there was a choice for me: Attempt self-growth and comprehension by playing the role of contrarian gadfly in the midst of localized incomprehension, or risk the relative happiness of placid normalcy in another place where most other people think rather like me.

Sore thumb or team player?

Hard-wired somewhere deep within my psyche is the conviction that it’s better to stay put and confront complacency and stupidity at home – to be a royal pain and a performance artist for my vision of truth whenever and wherever possible in an effort to illustrate to the few who are capable of understanding that it’s okay to be different – than to cut and run … to a blue state, or to Bamberg, or to a new career.

I don’t pretend that any of this is particularly noble, although serving as a beacon for various themes of disaffection has its merits. Like anyone else, I possess character flaws aplenty and my philosophical precepts are riddled with exceptions. At the end of the day, it’s likely that a majority of New Albanians would vote me off the island, just as if given the chance, they’d proffer the hemlock to Socrates if it meant not having to think about anything.

And that, friends, is justification enough for me in this new year. I can’t really explain it, and I don’t know where it’s heading … and that’s the whole point.