Starry Night

When I was in the sixth grade we had a crazy music teacher. She would come in once a week to teach us music which usually consisted of endless work on do-re-mis and ta-ta-tee-tee tas. One day she brought a phonograph with her and a picture of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. We sat quietly as she told the tale of the mad artist who cut off his own ear. She explained that he mailed it to his girlfriend as a declaration of his affection. A record album was pulled out and the album was placed on the turntable. Don McLean’s Vincent played and we were to draw our own Starry Night while listening to the melody for the remainder of class. She’d pick the needle off the record and start it over at the beginning, and she did so over and over and over.

Sitting in the hot tub tonight out on our back deck I was amazed by the Perseids meteor shower. Bright light objects crossing the sky at lightning speed before they burst into flames. It was spectacular. I sat there watching the cosmic fireworks and lett go of the tensions of the day, and I started thinking about Vincent Van Gosh, his ear, and the Starry Night he’d painted.

I’ve always been fascinated by madness. Having spent a bit of time in the nut hut myself I feel I can empathize with those who believe they are losing their marbles. In my independent and casual random surveys of people I have met throughout my life as well, it seems to me that everyone on this big blue marble is somewhat touched to one degree or another. While the vast majority of us aren’t slicing off our ears, don’t we all have our irrational moments?

Today at psychic school my last reading was with a woman who was losing her mind. The primary problem in her life was that she wasn’t aware of it. It was difficult for me to tell her the truth. She wanted answers on why that job wasn’t calling her back, why her father had disowned her, why nobody was publishing her novel. I told her nothing was going her way because she was, well, in need of assistance with her mental health and I suggested seeking professional help. Needless to say it didn’t go over very well.

I normally have such an incredible appreciation for human beings and our complexities. We’re all wired in such amazing ways. Lisa’s, uhm, madness, never ceases to amaze me and I have to laugh with her. Everyone I know has their own quirks, their obsessions, their idiosyncrasies – and that’s part of what makes them who they are. I think I love them even more because of them, not in spite of them.

Ron reminded me of what my high school reunion was like today. My ten year reunion was funny. I wandered the auditorium wondering if I was in the right room. I kept thinking, “Who are all these old people?” It seems my graduating class had gotten fat and bald and any semblance of style they might have had seemed to have went with the wind. Almost all of them hadn’t left the South Seattle neighborhood we grew up in, and if they had they only got as far as the North side of town. The best part about it all was getting to fill out a questionnaire for the “Where are they now?” book. Herd are my entries verbatim:

Favorite memory of high school: Serving as Washington State Vice-President of the Future Business Leaders of America.
Current employment: Cashier at Tower Records
Marital Status: Single
Children: I think not
What have you accomplished since graduation you would like to share with the class of 82: I’ve come to terms with my sexuality, overcome a serious drug addiction and have achieved some degree of success as a performance artist off and on Cable Access television in San Francisco.

In reading the booklet I discovered that everyone else was married, had a good job, they were so proud of their kids, and I couldn’t berate them for any of it. Not at all, except that entry after entry was all so, uhm, nice?

“People don’t like the truth. They don’t like to be called on their bullshit. They’d rather be nice. They’d rather hide behind the pretension of being nice, and being nice doesn’t really get you anywhere in this world. It’s a cop-out. It always has been. (…) Being real, being concerned, being passionate, loving, all comes from very strong emotions. Being nice is a weak emotion. It’s not even an emotion. It’s just a weakness, period.” – Sandra Bernhard

The older I get the more I agree with Sandra. Underneath all of the pleasantries are an endless series of self denials, ignoring who we really are and how we really feel, while painting a portrait of who we want to be seen as. There really isn’t enough time in the world to pretend to be something I’m not at this point. I’m just Philo, 24/7, and he’s a rockin’ guy to be. I want to have relationships with people, online and off, that are as about being fully present with one another as we can be. I want to run naked in a rainstorm. I want to lick life off my plate and savor every last greasy drop of it.

In order for me to do that I’ve personally found it necessary to seek the essence from within. Tonight I see that life is all about shooting stars, spirituality, Kozy Shack tapioca pudding and good friends like Choire that I can call at 3 in the morning if I’m ever feeling close to the edge. And I love it when Shauny really writes. I don’t know that I will ever find all my answers in an organized religion either, but for tonight I think I’ve found them staring up into the milky way waiting for another flash of speeding light, taking in the incredible vast darkness of it all, and realizing that somehow, someway, there really is some crazy kind of order in it all.