Perception

How perceptions change. I thought of one of John Keats poems yesterday, as I listened, breathlessly nostalgic, to one of Joni Mitchell’s songs. (Khyentse Rinpoche reminded me of her when he discovered Both Sides Now a couple of years ago, but that was not the song I was listening to.)

Both the poem and the song are about parties: one the aftermath, the other the experience itself; one carved from 19th century romantic sensibilities, the other from 20th century judgements and confusions. Keats appears to have enjoyed his party as it inspired within him some kind of spiritual rapture—or at least that’s how I interpret his words. Joni Mitchell, on the other hand, only sees deceit and trumpery at her probably more glamorous party, and is upset and disturbed by it.

Has education and overdeveloped perspicacity helped us as we stumble through our lives, I wonder? Or has it simply confused us and made us more fearful. Less truly romantic. More desperate.

OK, I agree! I’m writing with far too broad a penstroke here, making mental leaps without dangling a thread to lead you through the labaryinth of complications with which I awoke. And, characteristically, I haven’t the will to poke around and analyze all this nonsense, or a strong enough back to be able to sit for hours, whittling it down into something comprehensible. (Are you sighing with relief?)

So today’s compromise is that I offer you both bags of words to juggle over breakfast or brunch or whatever, with my love. If you make any sense of any of it, do let me know.

(By the way, I remember the Keats poem because I assumed the poet called for a golden pen because he thought it would make the poem somehow better. I was horrified because at the time I valued grey drudgery and poverty above gold and leisure. How perceptions change.)

A Sonnet by John Keats
GIVE me a golden pen, and let me lean
On heap’d up flowers, in regions clear, and far;
Bring me a tablet whiter than a star,
Or hand of hymning angel, when ’tis seen
The silver strings of heavenly harp atween:
And let there glide by many a pearly car,
Pink robes, and wavy hair, and diamond jar,
And half discovered wings, and glances keen.
The while let music wander round my ears,
And as it reaches each delicious ending,
Let me write down a line of glorious tone,
And full of many wonders of the spheres:
For what a height my spirit is contending!
’Tis not content so soon to be alone.

People’s Parties by Joni Mitchell
All the people at this party
They’ve got a lot of style
They’ve got stamps of many countries
They’ve got passport smiles
Some are friendly
Some are cutting
Some are watching it from the wings
Some are standing in the centre
Giving to get something

Photo Beauty gets attention
Then her eye paint’s running down
She’s got a rose in her teeth
And a lampshade crown
One minute she’s so happy
Then she’s crying on someone’s knee
Saying laughing and crying
You know it’s the same release

I told you when I met you
I was crazy
Cry for us all Beauty
Cry for Eddie in the corner
Thinking he’s nobody
And Jack behind his joker
And stone-cold Grace behind her fan
And me in my frightened silence
Thinking I don’t understand

I feel like I’m sleeping
Can you wake me
You seem to have a broader sensibility
I’m just living on nerves and feelings
With a weak and a lazy mind
And coming to peoples parties
Fumbling deaf dumb and blind

I wish I had more sense ot humor
Keeping the sadness at bay
Throwing the lightness on these things
Laughing it all away
Laughing it alI away
Laughing it all away

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