And I'm wondering if this signals some sort of emotional regression in me. Should I worry that I smile when Lil'Wayne's newest offering comes on -- "Call me Mr. Flintstone, I can make your bedrock" -- or that when Rhianna grinds into her bawdy list of musical imperatives for "Rude Boy," I start doing a (very pathetic) robot-dance move around the perimeter of my steering wheel? My favorites at the moment are two by someone named B.o.B.: "Nothing On You," and "Airplanes II."
It's true. And frankly, I'm both physically and emotionally moved by the lyrics of the latter, apparently co-produced and co-written by Eminem, our beloved, foul-mouthed American lyricist. In the song's chorus, B.o.B and Eminem ask if we might pretend that airplanes are shooting stars, because, as B.o.B tells us, he "could really use a wish right now." The third verse belongs to Eminem, and he wonders-in-rap what might have happened if he hadn't have pursued his musical career-- "let's pretend Marshall Mathers never picked up a pen" -- and then he proceeds to give a passionate and expletive-laced description of what his life would have been like if he hadn't had that drive, the excuses he might have made to himself. He says this pathetic alter-ego "wished it, but it didn't fall in his lap," so that "his alarm went off to wake him off but he didn’t make it to the rap Olympics, slept through his plane and he missed it."
Which reminds me of a dream I had a few weeks ago-- one of those strangely vivid dreams that seems to be more than a midnight mind-fart, a dream that seems to mean something. In it, I was scheduled to fly to Virginia for a speaking engagement at the university where a good friend teaches, and somehow I slept wildly late, completely missing the flight. Then, through a series of strange circumstances that could only be reasonable in a dream, I was afforded another opportunity to fly. But this time I got horribly lost in the airport. I remember realizing that my mind wasn't working, realizing I was acting crazily, that I'd only brought an empty suitcase. My ability to make rational choices had failed; I was only wandering, through brain and concourse.
Maybe my dreams and Eminem are conspiring. I've had a similar conversation with a few different people recently, about this, about the fact that unless we "risk this shit," as Eminem puts it, we may wake up 20 years from now and gape backwards through time at the obvious and incomprehensible timidity (i.e. laziness) of our younger selves.
I feel as though I did little risking throughout my 20's, no matter how much my friends and I told each other to "risk it," (the pet rallying cry for a few us). Sure, I had a few good philosophical reasons against buying into the idea of risking it, against choosing something in the face of no good criteria, no compass. In that philosophical stasis, I slept through an alarm or two.
And now, as Lowell tells us in "Skunk Hour," "my mind's not right." Now that I've been given this second chance, with a better understanding of the way this whole world-orientation thing works, my synapses keep hiccuping. I do strange things. I listen to radio I'd never have listened to 5 years ago. One way or another, I might miss the metaphorical plane.
But I did actually catch the real one. I made it on time, sighing inwardly at the luck of it, and flew to Virginia to do a short lecture on epiphany in poetry at Washington & Lee. It was lovely. But does it count as a risk? No, it's more of the result of having loved others and having been loved, connections being made, opportunities opening. And this seems to be true: without love, whatever the risking might achieve, it wouldn't give me any lasting pleasure. Love, or the desire for it, plays a prominent role in the power to will. Eminem says as much in his rap-rant: his bleak description of his failed self peaks in a picture of his two daughters, implying that their welfare is the primary reason he did what he did. And this morning on the radio, an a NBA draft candidate, who'll likely go as number one, spoke of his relationship with his mom, how she'd given up so much to get him where he's gotten, how glad he'll be to give back to her now, to let her relax finally after so many years of pulling 4 jobs. "That's just it, right there," he said. "That's the whole thing."
At this point, it seems right to swap the one cliche -- "risk it" -- for another: "Love is the answer." How is it that cliches can sometimes rear their banal little heads and be suddenly transformed, transfigured, glowing with the radiance of a universal Truth? But neither undergoes apotheosis without the other.
"Epiphany in poetry at Washington & Lee." Sounds like Eminem could do something with that.
"Nothing On You," the official music video. Ha! Enjoy.