No Other Life

Before there was Gangnam Style,
Before there was metal, punk, electronic, acid,
before any rock could be called classic,
before any rock at all,
There was The Beat.
And The Beat, well, The Beat,
It goes on.
And the Beat says:
There is no other life.
(No other flame, no other chalice, no other us, no other life.)
We can stylize it and trivialize it.
We can say “man” at the end of it, and make it into a parody of Beatniks:
“There is no other life, man.”
And now maybe it’s funny.
Now it’s Maynard G. Krebs on Dobie Gillis, 1959 to 1963, played by Bob Denver before he became Gilligan.
Maynard G. Krebs, beatnik stereotype, with his goatee, hip talking, unkempt appearance.
“There is no other life, man”
Maynard might have said,
And the laugh track would have told us
Because we wouldn’t otherwise have been sure
That it was funny.
There is no other life.
You’ve heard that cannabis can make a person feel profound
Saying things trite, quotidian, unremarkable.
“Hey, man, the tiny atom is a model of the vast solar system
And the vast solar system is a model of the tiny atom.
Wow, man. That is soo heavy.”
But we are aloof from that, that scene.
We know that’s not heavy at all.
We know that’s just some ridiculous Maynard G. Krebs beatnik
Induced, by a couple tokes, to make some silly unimportant irrelevant remark
Seem all deep and important.
There is no other life.
How many layers have been thrown up to protect us from that truth?
Bundle it as humor.
Bundle it as something we’d have to be high to say.
Bundle it as a cultural phase from more than half-a-century ago, something America had for a few years,
but got over,
like the flu.

We have learned to say “been there, done that”
As if everything in the whole possible conceivable world was worth paying attention to exactly once and never again.
As if we needed a bucket list of things to do before we died because life could somehow be more thrilling than it is right now.
As if the measure of a life were the length of the list of things done once, rather than the integrity of things done over and over,
10 years, 20 years, 30 years,
until they shine with iridescent beauty and grow
with each repetition.
There is no other life.
Stop with the “been there, done that” and go back to that place you have been and that thing you have done.
Go back because last time you were there you didn’t stay.
Go back to what you know – but live as if you’d forgotten.
There is no other life.
Touch that familiar cloth, and the electric jolt of mad implication:

If there is no other life, if this is it, all of it,
All of it right here
Then that makes everything different.
If there is no other life, then life is other
Than the fog of otherness-craving we took it for.

Look around.
There is no other life.

* * *
This is part 1 of 4 of "Beatnik Celebration"
Next: Part 2: "Riffing on Hymn #34"

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