Our Words: “With Great Prowess Comes Great Responsibility”

6275825-a-pile-of-reference-books-isolated-against-a-white-backgroundI have a friend who said to me, “Words are powerful things.”  It was quite some time ago, but I believe I was saying something hurtful at the time.  And, as a writer (one of my few true skills), I had the ability to make my words really sting.

I’ve heard that there are studies in which the power of words was tested by saying “I love you” and “I hate you” to dishes of freezing water to see if there was any effect.  Reportedly, the ‘loved’ samples made beautiful crystalline formations, and the ‘hated’ samples made very fractured-looking structures.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I DO know what words can do to a person.

It’s rather hypocritical of me to be hurtful with my words, since I can still remember the things that were said to me as a child by my peers.  And let’s not talk about adolescence.  It’s because of that lingering pain that I have felt the need to amp up my words into a full-blown arsenal when I feel slighted.  It’s the desire to one-up the other and dish out more than you’ve received.

Words are indeed powerful things, and just as I’ve seen the hurt I can cause and have been caused, I’ve seen what KIND words can do and what my own have done for others.  I’ve had someone very important to me tell me how I always seem to say the right thing, the best, most perfect thing to help them stay grounded in that moment and maintain perspective.  You know what?  I like the feeling it gives me to have THAT effect on someone better than the scarring one.

I’ve mentioned a few times in this blog that I’m in a couple writers’ groups.  We ALL have this power, and ALL have this responsibility.  Even if you’re not a writer, the pain that words can cause can still last.  I’m sure the people that hurt me from childhood and on weren’t exactly Shakespearean in their verbal skill.  So may we all bear in mind the power of words, and pause before we do some damage to someone, because oftentimes that damage lasts far longer than it took to even speak.

Words: “With Great Prowess Comes Great Responsibility”   

  

Someone once said to me, “Words are powerful things”.

They can be used to help, or to hurt, an array that each one brings.

I’ve used my words in scathing ways, cutting deeply as I could;

I’ve also used them to let one know their pain is understood.

     I hope that when my time is up, what’s left when mine are heard

     Is something benevolent and sincere or else be deemed absurd.

     May others feel the light of love that’s hopefully interred

     Every time, from here on out, within my every word.

I have a gift to use my words in all the ways I do;

I’ve often been praised for all the shapes that I can mold them to.

But I must revere that power that I know they each contain,

Remember all the times they’re used, intent to cause one pain.

     May each sentence that I share leave no darkness that’s inferred,

     And if I fail in that regard, leave the recipient undeterred.

     Unless productive, taking flight like a paradisiacal bird,

     May no harm and only help be born by every word.

© Jordan Alan Fox 

11029565_831396376930392_4143102203592460891_n

Advertisements

“Turn Up Light and Sound”

I saw the band Rush on Friday, October 12th.  Rush is a band I’ve loved since 1989, and they’ve been a musical and lyrical inspiration since then.  In fact, I credit them with expanding my own lyrical skill in the first place.    MusicallyRush has always been a creator of challenging and interesting material, and have influenced and inspired uncountable amounts of musicians over their 38-year recording career.  Geddy Lee is still my all-time favorite bass player, Neil Peart is one of the most widely recognized monarchs of the drum kit as well as of lyrics, and Alex Lifeson is an unbelievable guitar player, capable of very emotional and technical solos, and able to play an incredible array of styles.

A picture on my wall of Geddy Lee. It was taken by the band’s late longtime photographer, Andrew MacNaughtan.

I only saw them once, in 1990 or ’91, and  I sat way up in the 3rd level.  As a result, I didn’t feel like I was even there.  I was also very young, had the attention span of a gnat, and wasn’t mentally able to take it all in.  I wanted to see them last year, on their  tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of their signature album, Moving Pictures.  Veterinary bills kept me from being able to attend, and there was no way I was missing this one in support of their newest album.  It was absolutely amazing.

Detractors of the band have consistently pinpointed one reason for not liking Rush, and that’s Geddy’s voice. He’s known for singing in a very high register, and it was especially stratospheric in the earlier part of their career.  His voice can’t quite do the highs as much anymore, and it’s reflected on the last 2 albums in the lower range he chooses.  I’m curious as to how much that effects their decision when choosing which songs to perform.  One thing to consider when analyzing his performance is that he sings while playing some incredibly complex bass lines, as well as the synthesizer parts.  He’s practically a band unto himself.

The show definitely focused on the latter-half of their career, with the exception of classics that would be murderous of them not to include, such as their hugest commercial success, Tom Sawyer.  And Geddy’s voice held up better than I expected.

Rush, as a group, have a very jovial way about them, and this always translates onto their tours, despite the seriousness of their album content.  They always do slapstick films on the rear projection screen, have roadies run on stage in bizarre outfits, and have done things over the last few tours such as having washing machines on stage out of which roadies take t-shirts to throw into the audience and having a chicken rotisserie which roadies come out to baste while wearing chef’s hats and aprons.

While I was intent on taking the show in and not missing anything (who knows how many more tours there’ll be), some of the glow still disperses as daily life overtakes the memories.  Thanks to the magic of youtube, however, there’s an entire catalogue of performances recorded on cell phones (with surprising quality), including the show I saw in Philadelphia.  Getting to rekindle the magic is priceless.

As for the album they’re supporting on this tour:  Rush, in the past, has done numerous long songs (entire sides of albums, sometimes) with a story being told via the lyrics.  The latest offering, Clockwork Angels, is a full concept album, and it’s also surprisingly heavy musically.  One treat that they did this time was work with author Kevin J. Anderson to produce the story as a novel as well.  The novel helps to make more sense of the album since Anderson had 300 pages to work with as opposed to 12 songs.

In the book, Anderson (who has been friends with Peart for many years) drops lines from Rush songs and other references that long-time fans will understand throughout the text.  Inspired by this, as well as the experience of the concert, I wrote a poem which uses song titles in the same way.  I also chose a really obscure rhyme scheme.  Instead of using couplets or rhyming every other line , I waited 3 lines after the initial one to rhyme.  I did this to honor the 3 members of the band.

Turn Up Light and Sound (What a Rush) 10/14/12

A 22-year devotion,

To see these 3 on lighted stage

The aural assault, the lighting’s dance–

An evening charged with emotion!

And as these stars advance in age,

There may not be another chance,

So I ponied up what entry cost.

It didn’t matter, to make this night;

I’d work out paying bills somehow.

I couldn’t bear this opportunity lost,

To miss them in latest limelight

Circumstances I couldn’t allow.

Stage hands scrambled all about;

I sensed the countdown impending.

They made their final preparations

Before the band could come out

To amaze all who were attending,

And feeding all our anticipations.

Like a body electric, the stage came alight;

We watched the big screen animate.

You bet your life I had to be there,

Hear those mystic rhythms that night,

An evening to leave our mortal state

And revel in a show beyond compare.

And hours later, to have been exposed

To a musicianship, a stagecraft

Lovingly honed for 4+ decades,

To some of the greatest rock composed,

A spectacle upon which we can graft,

And a euphoria that meets the accolades.

Nothing lacked in their chemistry,

Other bands seen a far cry from this.

I wished for a time stand still, to perceive,

Savor, prolong the sweet miracle before me,

For vapor trails become of this bliss.

I pray the afterimage will never leave.

 

© 2012 Jordan Alan Fox

Rush – YYZ Live 10/1212 Philadelphia PA Wells Fargo Complete Killer Multicam HD Show 2012www.youtube.comAwesome show. as always with this amazing band.this is one camera angle out of 4 that will be an amazing mix. if intrested inthe complete show email me at ba…

“The Anarchist” Rush@Wells Fargo Center Philadelphia 10/12/12 Clockwork Angels Tourwww.youtube.comThe Anarchist, Rush, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA; October 12th, 2012; Clockwork Angels Tour

Rush – Tom Sawyer – Philadelphia 10/12/12www.youtube.comWells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA, October 12, 2012. Entire show filmed (stage shot), partial show (screen).

RUSH – “Headlong Flight” – Official Lyric Videowww.youtube.comThe official lyric video for “Headlong Flight” – the first single from the new album Clockwork Angels – available everywhere June 12th. Pre-order here: http:…

RUSH – “The Wreckers” Official Lyric Videowww.youtube.comThe official lyric video for “The Wreckers” – the new single from the album Clockwork Angels

Subdivisions – Rushwww.youtube.com”Subdivisions” is a Rush song often considered to be describing feelings of isolation, boredom, conformity, and sadness springing up from teenage life in the…

clockwork-angels-hardcover-book.html

Clockwork Angels

Of Cruelty and Shame, of Lennox and Buck

Lately I cry and cry.  I have to admit that I’m an overly emotional person (I once had a female manager tell me I was “worse than a woman”).  Regardless of the fact that I’m given to feeling things profoundly, I’d have to say that the last 6 months or so have been exceptionally turbulent with tears.

Those that have followed my post or at least read a sampling of it before might know that my hobby is animal advocacy.  To all of you that have been to Grasping the Tale before, I apologize for the months since my last post, but it is my engagement in this second full-time, non-paying vocation that has kept me from blogging.  In fact, I haven’t really written even my poetry/lyrics with any kind of appreciable frequency.  Whichever part of the brain it is which I utilize to advocate has kept me wrapped up there so I can’t transition to the creative part.

About  the tears: it is so draining to see the animals for which I advocate suffer so much, have their innocence and dependence upon mankind be betrayed so badly.  It runs from the (unfortunately) typical cases of neglect to the worst possible scenarios.  Two cases recently have taken a toll on those of us that dwell in the “online animal kingdom”.

One is the story of Lennox, an American Bulldog/Retriever mix that was a family pet in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  Lennox was seized by the Belfast City Council for violation of DDA, or Dangerous Dogs Act, which is known as BSL (or Breed Specific Legislation) in America.  The Council determined Lennox to be a Pit Bull even though he is the breed mix stated above.  Pit Bulls are banned in Belfast as per the DDA.  Despite the fact that he only resembled a pit bull and had never bitten, attacked, or even threatened anyone, Lennox was taken.  While in their custody, one member of the Belfast Council declared Lennox too dangerous to be allowed to live, even though video exists of her with Lennox stitting by her feet and at one point even licking her.  The family fought through the legal system for two years to regain their cherished family member.  After losing the last round of appeals at the end of June, the family’s legal counsel advised them to end the fight.

During this entire ordeal, the world became aware of the story, and literally hundreds of thousands of advocates were signing and posting petitions to free Lennox and return him to his home.  Later on, well-reknowned animal behavior experts such as Cesar Milan and Victoria Stilwell offered to take Lennox out of the country and work with this “dangerous” dog to become a well-mannered, safe member of society (which, of course, he already was).  The City Council ignored all requests.  The council declared that they would euthanize Lennox at 7:00 a.m. on July 11th.

There was a flurry of activity to add even more signatures to the petitions, and media markets all over the world ran pieces about the fight to save Lenox’s life.  Hoping that the negative publicity would move the Council even if the appeals to their human decency failed, the animal-loving world held its breath.

Lennox was killed by the council as declared on the morning of July 11th.  So many mourn this senseless and evil loss of life, and sympathize with Lennox’s family, who were denied requests to see him one last time, to be with him when he was killed, and to at least receive his collar as a relic of him.  They were told they MIGHT be given some of his ashes after he was cremated, though even that has not been provided at this point.  It has of course been theorized that Lennox was either killed while the legal battle was still going on or that he died languishing in his meager cell (pictures showed it devoid of food and water bowls and even appropriate bedding).  These are just theories, though they are highly likely scenarios.

The other dog’s account that has crippled me emotionally is that of Buck, a blind elderly dog that was released from a shelter to an individual that either let him free or negligently allowed him to escape.  After weeks of searching for Buck, his body was found in a concrete enclosure.  It has not been revealed at this point how he ended up in this cement resting place or whether he died of exposure and lack of sustenance, torturous foul play, or a mixture.  The fact that he died alone and hungry, thirsty, and without even the sight to understand his surroundings is too much.  I keep thinking that some SUBhuman beings might have even abused him to death, which is worse.

I sometimes wonder whether it’s worth being part of this world when such stories of incomprehensible pain and cruelty seem increasingly the norm….

I had written a poem for Lennox upon hearing of his official end (the grief being so great that the artistic flood gates finally broke), and will conclude this post with it.  You’ll notice the title says “Part II”, and this is because Part I was written the night before as a sort of prayer (unanswered, obviously)  for his life to be spared.  I am too drained at present to write one for Buck, though I absolutely want to do so.

For Lennox, Part II                               7/11/12

Belfast now a place of scorn

As countless hearts lie ripped and torn

For all the pleas you would not answer,

Your pride and ignorance like a cancer.

You could have picked another way

Yet bathed your hands in blood today.

You heeded none, for you thought best

To lay an innocent one to rest.

I hope your conscience one day wakes

And your hands shake in fits and quakes

When you see doings that you sought

Have not justice, but murder brought.

You’ve disgraced yourselves before the world;

In Hell’s fires your souls be curled

Around a spit and searing slow

For how you have brought Belfast low.

I can’t see why you’ve made this choice

Now countless cry in Lennox’s voice.

 

 

National Tattoo Day

June fifth is National Tattoo Day, and I was asked to write about the tattoo topic.  I had previously posted about why I got mine, so I think I’ll cover some other, broader aspects.

Tattoos, of course, have a negative connotation due to various cultures using them to mark criminals, the times criminals (or would-be criminals) marked themselves as a status symbol, and the fact that anything that breaks the norm is usually scorned.

However, in today’s world, the tattoo taboo isn’t as great.  Tattoos are actually fairly commonplace, and are seen everywhere.  Many women have them on ankles, shoulder blades, or have the infamous lower back “tramp stamp”.  Men get them on arms, legs, backs, and chests.  But why do they do this?

Well, starting with the criminal element, tattoos can mark loyalties (especially to gangs) and acts committed.  I don’t think I need to cover this realm further; I’m sure you get it.

Members of the military have gotten them to show loyalty as well, or pride in their service.  Tattoos have also been done to honor fallen comrades.  One of the coolest tattoos for military (and sailors in general) is a pair of birds.  I believe the birds are swallows.  My understanding is that when one is sent overseas, they get one swallow to mark that they arrived safely there, and get the matching piece done when they arrive home.  I think it’s an awesome tradition.

Many get representations of loved ones and pets.  And some cultures, such as the Samoans, are tattooed as a right of passage.

Of course, a lot of people in the Western World get inked because they’re trying to be cool or present a certain image, but this should not be allowed to take away from the millions of works of art created every day that have legitimate meaning, if only to the person bearing them.  And this is indeed an art form.  One apprentices before they can get a regular gig as a tattoo artist.  They have to earn their dues.  And even the finest graphic artists would have a hard time doing what they do via a vibrating needle and oft-times moving, wincing, flinching canvasses.

I realize some may think of me in a certain light because I would have to wear long sleeves and pants to cover all of mine, but every tattoo I’ve gotten had thought put into it and means something to my life.  And this is the last reason I’ll give as to why people get work done:  For many, including myself, these works of art are landmarks.  They signify where we’ve been, what we’ve been through, and where we want to be.  The only one that brings me a twinge of regret is my ex-wife’s initial on my shoulder.  It happens, but I could always cover it up if I choose to do so.

I hope this was informative.  And maybe you’ll get one of your own now if you haven’t already–welcome to the establishment!

Poetry

One of my writers’ groups had a discussion on poetry last night.  This being my field of creativity, I, of course, HAD to go.  It was a very lively discussion, too.  A lot of the people there said that they used to write poetry, but haven’t in a very long time for various reasons.  One person, if I’m remembering this correctly, thanked me for continuing to do so.  What I remember clearly was my reply: “I didn’t have a choice!”

This is quite true.  My first poem that wasn’t forced out of me by a teacher was written when I was 14.  “Dreamdeath” was the title.  I had a view of poems as being girly, or pansy-ish, or whatever, and was as such not given to thinking that this was something I would want to do.  At least not consciously.  I couldn’t say why I wrote that first poem that day except that I was COMPELLED to do it.  I still have the fear when I tell someone I write poetry that they’ll apply the stigmas I believed were there when I was 14.  I’ll tell people I’m a lyricist, which is true since I do write musical accompaniment to a lot of my pieces, but I think it sounds a little more macho maybe to say lyricist instead of poet.

Regardless of the name one uses for what I do, by 16 or 17, I was churning out poems/lyrics.  I did intend them to be used in songs even then, having bought my first bass guitar and amplifier at 16 and figuring I was going to be in the next Motley Crue (he admitted embarrassingly).

My favorite bass player now, Geddy Lee from the band Rush, once said in an interview that to become a better musician, you had to play with musicians better than yourself.  It will force you to elevate your skills to their level.  I think the same thing works for writing, or it did with me, at least.  I started out writing lyrics (very sadly) similar to those of the music I listened to.  It was shit.

I eventually got into bands like Rush, Queensryche, Iron Maiden, Sting, and others which have actual, real-live intelligence put into the words.  By elevating my lyricists of choice, my own skills elevated.  I got pretty good, if I can say so, but then I read something new:  John Keats.  Kaboom.  I progressed by lightyears over where I’d been.  I didn’t even read that much of Keats in the grand scheme of things, but it changed what I did.  Perhaps it was the phrasing, some use of alliteration, I don’t know.  I’m just glad it took hold.

Many, many years later, I still need to do this, my writing.  In fact, I think I write my songs so that my words will have a vehicle, rather than writing words because songs need lyrics.  I have demons to exorcize, and this is how I do it.  I can’t imagine what and where I’d be without this outlet.

I have gotten so much positive feedback from those with whom I’ve shared my writing, which is almost as rewarding as having created the work in the first place.  I have heard artists of all types refer to their creations as being like their children, and that they had to “birth” each one.  I agree with that.  I do see them as like my children, and I’m proud of them.  You want them all to be successful in their own right, but of course this just isn’t possible.  You still want the best for them, though, and want them to be regarded well.

Regardless of whether or not this makes any sense to you and equally regardless of whether you choose to call what I do lyrics or poems or simply WRITING, it’s something I still HAVE to do.  It’s almost as important to my existence as blood, air, and physical sustenance.