A bit of introduction to the following anonymous letter: Recently the Sarah Lawrence paper,
"The Emanon", reprinted an particle I wrote in the October 3 STUDENT about rock and revolution,
among other things. This letter was sent to the editor of the "Emanon" in response to my article.
At first the incredibly gushy cliched sentimentality of the tone is funny, and you know the girl
who wrote the letter reads "The Prophet" every night before she goes to bed, listens to Simon and
Garfunkel religiously, and prefers sunsets to people because they're more well, more poetic,
more beautiful more human.
But underneath the flabby surface of the letter there is something almost sad going on. The girl's
sentimentality and need to simplify and label so much that is completely beautiful cheapens so much
that she speaks about: She cheapens the Living Theatre by turning it into a simple cure for
alienation, she cheapens Bob Dylan by first turning his amazingly human tapestry of colors in
"Blonde on Blonde" into an "acid-fantasy" album and then seeing "John Wesley Harding" as being
nothing more than Dylan's return to simple folk and blues, in what may be his most religious,
complicated, even hallucinatory work. She cheapens Bach, Gregorian chants and Thoreau by refusing
to understand their depth or beauty. And, greatest shot of all, she cheapens all life in one swoop
by declaring herself for a "reaffirmation of the simple beauty of being alive." Could there
possibly be a beauty less simple in all the world than that of "being alive"? Is it fair to ask
this girl if she cleanses her soul with Lestoil?
— Jim Steinman '69
To the Emanon Staff:
"Joy's impregnate, Sorrows bring forth" said Blake in his "Proverbs of Hell."
My participation in three performances of "Paradise Now" by the Living Theatre has given me a new kind
of joy which I should like to share with you. To review Living Theatre, however, would be a ludicrously
impossible endeavor; You have to go do it, up on the stage, to have any real conception of what it is.
I feel compelled to write about it only because I am distressed by the fact that so many people reject
Living Theatre as worthless, refusing to see its value, and also by the apparent inability of many
people who attended "Paradise Now," by the Living Theatre, to liberate themselves enough to get
involved in it and express themselves in any degree.
Furthermore, I was not only distressed, but saddened and disgusted by Jim Steinman's two pages of
obnoxious verbiage in last week's "Emanon," "Revolution Rock Rebellion Expresses Itself in the Musical
Medium of Youth."
So disgusted, in fact, am I that I am going to waste your time as much as he wasted mine — and
tell you my reasons why I found his article particularly disturbing, dangerous, and pathetic, why I
think he is representative of a lot of people who misunderstand and misrepresent everything from Living
Theatre to the Doors to Nietzsche — and why he has nothing to offer us except his own pathetic
conception of chaos.
Ordinarily I wouldn't bother laying my verbiage on you or bother writing at all I believe that there is
too much life to be lived, dances to be done, songs to be sung, love to be made, worlds to be explored
that there is no time to sit on my ass analyzing things. But the joys of whirling in this on-flowing
continuum of reality are too often punctuated with unspeakable terror and tragedy, making it imperative
to speak of the unspeakable. "Joys impregnate, sorrows bring forth."
I could virtually hear Jim Steinman's gasping, intoxicated voice as he proclaimed the coming
cataclysmic March of the New Maenads who, pimpled and stoned, lead by Jim Morrison, their fingers
gesturing obscenely, their pubescent voices squeaking the hymn of the "Lizard King", together trample
in the dust the terrified legions of the over-thirty generation trample to dust every last bayonet
brandishing billy-club swinging fascist pig cop and then proceed to the brink of the Nietzschean chasm
of oblivion and there, exulting in Dionysian dissonant euphoria, they scream Five to one baby, one in
five" ALL FALL DOWN!
The children have done the "Totentanz" around the prickly pear and plunged into the pit from which
they will never arise.
Ugh! Disgust! Nausea! Not only is he evoking a really horrible image but one that contains a
frightening element of truth. It is obvious that many people today are thrashing around in a chasm of
oblivion, brought down there by bad trips, too many decibels at Fillmore rock concerts, sex without
love, restlessness and cynicism, fear and paranoia.
But for God's sake (or Apollo's sake, if you will) what use is all Mr. Steinman's verbal shit, or my
anger at him, or all of our fascination with Thanatos, all our Lethewards leanings, all this seeking to
lose ourselves in what D. H. Lawrence described in "Women in Love" as the Ultimate Black Sensation?
What is needed now is a re-affirmation of the simple beauty of being alive (at the risk of sounding
trite); a return to our own respective Walden Ponds. Enough of these drunken word games that ultimately
spell nothing but death. (Richard Goldstein, Village Voice Rock Critic, is another one who is forever
quietly laying verbal shit on all of us.)
Steinman is telling us nothing new when he says that Nietzsche, the Blood Bath in Chicago, Rock Music,
and Marijuana are all interrelated. That has been obvious to me for a long time. The question is where
do we go from here?
I'll try to give you some of my solutions. First of all, if you manage to emerge from the Fillmore with
your membrana tympani still intact, go put Bach or Gregorian chants on your record player and note the
exquisite beauty and purity of the form.
Then go join Living Theatre's "Paradise Now." This is especially therapeutic if you are feeling cold,
alienated, un-loved, and de-humanized. You cannot emerge from the human vibrational intensity,
abundance of exposed flesh, OM - chanting, ecstatic dancing, brutal closeness of bodies without feeling
more deeply and somehow transformed — even reborn.
There are many ways of getting reborn. Everyone has his or her own methods. I think it has to do a lot
with going back to simple elemental things; back to the mountains.
Bob Dylan emerged from the despair of "It's All Right Ma, I'm only Bleeding" and his acid-fantasy album
"Blonde on Blonde," going back to the original simplicity of blues and folk in "John Wesley Harding"
— his archetypal Robin Hood, and the earthy erotic charm of "I'll be Your Baby Tonight."
And, as regards going back to the mountains and Walden Pond, I am going to charter, at the next meeting
of the Sarah Lawrence Royal Court (Student Council) the Sarah Lawrence Mountaineering Club.
Source: Amherst Student archives