Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Blue guitar

The Man With the Blue Guitar

The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

They said, "You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are."

The man replied, "Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."

And they said then, "But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are."

-- Wallace Stevens

I always kind of related to that poem. I don't necessarily completely understand it, but I relate to it. Because at times I feel I'm sitting there playing a blue guitar while the world passes by and not a lot of people are pitching coins into my hat. It's as if they don't recognize the tune.

I think I see things clearly. And I hear that beat of the different drum they are always talking about. But it makes me feel so different sometimes. And different isn't always considered a good thing.

Of course, being considered eccentric does help you get away with things, like not ever cleaning my desk at work until things threaten to fall over on me. It allows me the freedom to violate corporate standards and keep odd things around me like the monkey playing cymbals and coconuts (long story).

At one point in my career, when I was a lowly copywriter, I used to have a complete Elvis shrine at my desk and tons of random crap that seemed to gravitate into my cubicle. One day I looked up and an entire middle school class was filing by on a field trip. The person hosting the field trip had made a special trip to my floor just so the class could see my office. As the kids filed by gawking at me like I was a geek in a carnival ready to bite off chicken heads, I had an Epiphany as to why gorillas in cages fling feces at people who stand outside the bars making faces at them.
It was all I could do not to stand up a scream in a lisping voice, "I'm a man, not an animal."

But I doubt any of them had ever heard of the Elephant Man.

It's just that, when I was growing up, I caught on to the Catch 22 of being "creative." Teachers were always encouraging us to think out of the box and be creative problem solvers. Great inventors like Thomas Edison and George Washington Carver were always paraded in front of us as examples of what creative thinking could achieve. But damned if the same teachers didn't make us walk around single-file with our arms crossed ready to whack us in the head if we talked without raising our hands. And all hell would break out if you colored outside the lines.

But I learned that people aren't really comfortable with "out of the box" thinking that actually steps outside the box. People like their boxes. This is why they freak out when you don't mow your lawn or make your bed. God forbid if you dance naked on your roof with a dead chicken and a feather duster...not that I've ever done that...more than that one time.

But I digress.

Anyway, I guess I've arrived at a fairly happy medium in my life and can walk the line that allows me to play the blue guitar and occasionally throw in a few standards that people can hum to. It pays the bills and keeps me employed.

But I still refuse to make the bed.

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