Saturday, June 25, 2011

Within the Fire, You Find the Rain

Back in the 1990s, when I was in law school, and then a musician (and also in grad school), my best friend Peter Black and I used to drink "on occasion", during which time would discuss all things metaphysical, mystical and philosophical (we still do this, but far less frequently, alas). I wrote a song about our otherworldly conversations, called "A Drawing Down" (the title came from a line in the Wilfred Owen poem "Anthem for Doomed Youth"), and our view that society (and most of the people within it) had become  hollow,  too wrapped up in bread & circuses, and lacking a meaningful direction, or awareness of a "bigger" picture.  Peter and I weren't particularly settled on what that "bigger" picture should or could be, only that people should be looking for it in places other than those deemed socially acceptable by the powers-that-be, and that there was no one answer, or path, that people should follow - rather, there were parts of almost every path that could lead to insight and form part of the greater whole.

Accordingly, the conversation would range from Marxism to Christian mysticism to Aleister Crowley, and many points in between, off to the side, and over the proverbial fence. From time to time, we would light a little fire in the center of the room and try to commune with the elder gods, should they exist in some form and still be in the practice of accepting calls. To this day, I'm not sure that we ever got an answer, although we did have a pretty strange experience with a ouija board once, but I am sure that one should never attempt to put out a fire in the middle of a room with a glass full of vodka. I definitely consider that a bullet dodged!

Anyway, here are two versions of that song by my old band, Julia's Rain - the first is the original, harder-edged version (which we eventually released on an e.p. called "notes from underground"), while the second is a jazzier, more acoustic version taht we played at a live fundrasiing gig for radio station CKDU.

The lyrics were:

I read the news today -
I really thought it would mean something to me,
but stranger tales, well I have heard
nothing that happens seems to make me anymore,
just round and round it goes
through my revolving door.

I heard a song today -
I really thought it would mean something to me,
but truer songs, well I have heard
nothing they write seems to touch me anymore,
just the words going in and out
through my revolving door.

Candles burning on the floor
and Aleister Crowley is knocking at my door,
come around, come around
to this drawing down,
on this "unholy" ground
come see what I have found.

I heard a voice today -
I really thought it would mean something to me,
but stronger voices, well I have heard
nothing they say seems to move me anymore,
just the Word going in and out
through my revolving door.
I wasn't the only one drawing upon a wide variety of literary influences for musical inspiration back then, however. Another of my best friends, John Rosborough, fronted a band called The Fourth Wall, with whom my various bands played frequently, and like me he looked to the Beats and mystics for inspiration, as well as philosophers and poets such as William Blake. Beltane Born, the title of the band's one full-length CD release, also gives a hint to some of the more mystical elements of John's writing.

John and I on a shoot in northern British Columbia, 2002.
Like me, John now works in the film & television industry here in Halifax, as a producer / director / writer, and from time to time he still plays with The Fourth Wall. You can find their website and some of their music here - I recommend "The Wizard" in particular, wherein John writes, "What do you want to be now, what do you want to see now?"

John Rosborough playing with The Fourth Wall.
With Peter, John and I, it has never been about coming up with "the answer" - rather, it's been about asking as many questions as possible, because none of us think there's just one "answer". We've always been looking for "the other side of truth", cognizant that it's the journey that really is the destination. It's been a journey that has taken us all to some strange places (in the case of Peter and I, usually a cemetery late at night). I could relate the story of how John and I were almost eaten by a bear in the wilds of northern British Columbia (a personal favourite for the sheer absurdity of it), but I prefer the story of a night out in San Juan, Puerto Rico, whilst filming "Fields of Fear" back in 2006.

John with Nick Redfern and researcher Orlando Pla
on location in rural Puerto Rico, 2006.
The rest of the crew had settled into the hotel for the evening (along with Nick Redfern, who had gotten ill from a tuna salad sandwich he had eaten in Mayaguez earlier that day), while John and I headed out into old town, where we moved from small bar to small bar, and wandered down the dimly lit streets with no real purpose other than curiosity. I remember walking down one street, and realizing that John had stopped to look down an alleyway. I motioned him to leep going, but he said "have a look." I did, and down that alley was some sort of house party going on. He suggested we wander down and have a look... so we did. I won't relate the rest of the night's adventures, in the interests of maintaining a PG friendly readership, other than to say that we should all be willing to just head down the alleyways of life and see what we find there.

As Blake wrote: "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom; for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough."

That journey continues tonight for John and I at a local watering hole, where we will no doubt be talking about James and Kerouac and Bukowski, the elder gods, and life and how to live it. As he wrote in the Fourth Wall song "Find the Rain":

"within the fire, you find the rain."

Let it rain.

Paul Kimball


Tony Morrill said...

Ouja boards, communing with elder gods through ritual, and psychedelics, different paths to the same destination? Maybe, maybe not. Great post really dug the life lesson about not putting a fire out with vodka. I will keep that in mind for next time!

Paul Kimball said...

@ Ryan - thanks, but in the future, in line with my recent post "The Devil's Radio", I'm going to ask that you don't take digs at anyone, even by implication. I know you've been reading for years, and that you'll understand.

@ Tony - Pete and I actually used to tape record a lot of our "sessions", and somewhere I have a recording of the night I almost burned down the law frat because of the vodka incident. I may dig it out and post it one of these days. :-)


Ryan P. said...

Sorry Paul and understood!

Anonymous said...

Are you wearing a medal in that first vid?

Paul Kimball said...

@ Ryan - no worries, amigo!

@ Anon. - yes indeed... it was an old Soviet labour union medal that I picked up on e-bay.