Peripatetic Postcards

Whatever Gets You Through...

Whatever gets you through the night

'salright, 'salright

It's your money or life

'salright, 'salright

Don't need a sword to cut through flowers

oh no, oh no

"Whatever Gets You Through the Night", John Lennon

Getting through a journey is a lot like that. Maybe. Depending on how you take John's meaning.

One way I take it -- whenever I find myself on the road -- is that there are always simpler ways to solve life's conundrums than may, at first blush, spring immediately to mind. And ways more rewarding than calling on a corps of engineers to erect a bridge when a raft wafting lazily down the river might just as easily work.

Well, at least, it's something to keep under consideration.

One of the points of this blog is to remind us all that one of the points of the peripatetic life is to enjoy the journey -- to keep our eyes open, our ears attuned, our noses aware, to ensure that our brains are engaged -- to treat, in short, the journey as if it is the purpose, rather than a means toward some other purpose. Because if we treat it in the alternative, then we won't abide by any of these sensory commandments and then our trips merely amount to work. They become transformed into a grating on the psyche; a waste of 8 or 10 or 15 hours in our finite store. They become a metaphysical equivalent of the stack of books planted in the path of ants heretofore trying to move from Point A to B. Sure, give them a little time to get over their astonishment and they're guaranteed to find a way over and around the books -- no doubt about that -- but for what purpose? Merely because they were forced to in order to join the begnning with the end point. Maybe greater social concord will result, but it is unlikely that enlightenment or moral benefit will follow.

Even so, for me, there are times when my various peripatetic forays reduce me to that state of anthood. One more queue to join, another form to get processed by another functionary with a worn atttitude and a badly frayed uniform. It is times like those when I counsel myself to abide by Lennon's lyrics: do whatever it takes to get by, make your way through. Any way you can; just get through it, as simply as possible.

Which -- don't get me wrong -- doesn't mean you have to do everything in accord with someone else's agenda. Not at all.

Thinking about it, I am reminded of this woman I spied as I was walking one morning through a subway station in Tokyo:




Sitting right there on the cold marble floor. On her very own polyurethane prayer mat, legs tucked into the lotus position, back resting lightly against a concrete pillar, hands clasped, breathing under control, eyes clenched in concentration, mind seemingly deep in the throes of meditation. This amazing feat achieved as hundreds of commuters bustled by to make their 9:15 meetings, to catch their 10:10 class, to complete furtive assignations, to try to forestall cockamamie blackmail schemes, to engage in a shaky gambit or two, to get through the grueling paces of their grind-it-out daily lives. None of it mattering to her, this woman on the floor of Tokyo Station, squatting in supplication, on her makeship worship sheet. The woman with the suitcase tucked off to her side, pausing along the trek; doing whatever it takes to make it through . . .

John would surely have the been pleased.


Whatever gets you through your life

'salright, 'salright

Do it wrong or do it right

'salright, 'salright

Don't need a watch to waste your time

oh no, oh no

Then there's me. Peripatetique extraordinaire. Always on the way to somewhere else; always ticking off boxes on the checklist for something next. Maybe not the best way to appreciate the process, I'll grant you that. But I try my best to fill up the moment, rather than just setting my sights on the next thing that has to get done. Understanding that there are few absolute "wrongs" and many ways to get anything right.

And, if nothing else, at least I have a part of it right: abiding by John's admonition about watches. Me, I haven't bothered to wear one for years. Sort of as a challenge. Like setting out to sea without a compass. And even so, I manage to make just about every train, and haven't (yet) missed a plane. Besides, it isn't that great a risk . . . there always being someone to my left, right, or center who keeps a timepiece. And, besides, in any language "do you have the time" is a sure conversation starter. Sometimes I ask just as a way of breaking the monotony; a way of hearing a new voice; opening a new doorway, placing a foot into a new adventure.


Whatever gets you to the light

'salright, 'salright

Out the blue or out of sight

'salright, 'salright

Don't need a gun to blow your mind

oh no, oh no

Recently I've taken to carrying a ukulele when I travel. Lightweight, easy to maneuver, provides companionship, brings out a different voice from within, cuts down on boredom. And, talk about a conversation starter. Ukes certainly go over big with kids (and the occasional middle-aged woman). So much better than a gun -- stringed instruments are -- especially since they let ukes through customs and onboard planes. As John says, there are ways to expand consciousness other than through implements of terror.



Aside from books, travel is the best way I've encountered thus far. To expand consiousness, that is. That's why I do it as often as permissible.

It's just those rough patches in-between; those spaces when a little something extra is required, that puzzle that one has to solve. For in every journey there is going to be the problem of how to contend with the unwelcome lull, the intrusive rustiness, the resistence of inertia, the noise of bodies ground to halting stagnation.

For those conditions, it is essential for the peripatetique to take a meditative pause, to pluck a few chords on a music box, to snatch at a random conversation in an airport lounge. For everyone it may differ. But whatever it is, you have to find it, grab it, use it, pursue it.

Whatever gets you through . . . on the way there. However briefly, however trivial a thing it may seem to be . . . it may still prove significant in the course of the journey. So . . .

go for it.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image