Just now, in the middle of a nineteenth email from OTL about Kaltura and their systems-training videos to help us “begin immediately transitioning” to teaching all our classes via teleconference . . . by the way, there’s an old story about this, pretty much exactly; it’s called “The Machine Stops,” by E.M. Forster, way back in 1909; here’s the link: https://www.ele.uri.edu/faculty/vetter/Other-stuff/The-Machine-Stops.pdf . . . anyhow, while my school was berserking me with messages and blah blah blah, the YouGottaBeKiddingMe-in-Chief comes on TV (Where’s the damn mute button?) and starts blaming, I’m not kidding, President Obama for the corona virus and stock market swan-dive, and somehow—just like I’m demo-ing here—I was both manic and bored simultaneously.
And my real mind knew it, since our brains are full of connections. It sent me a different thing to think about, this new thought, sort of like a river flowing blue, and specifically to songs. Not even whole songs either, just thoughts about the opening notes, and also this question: What’s the most iconic one ever, the best first note, where you instantly know what the song is before your ears can hear?
I don’t think it’s the most iconic one though. And probably not AC/DC either, though it only takes one guitar strum to say it’s “Shook Me All Night Long.” That note is close, you betcha. It’s recognizable, big-time. And the rockin’ out that starts a few seconds later is as good a contrast as anyone can ask for. But I’d have to say The Clash beats AC/DC: those scratchy first guitar licks: “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” A tough question, but I think I’ll go because even The Clash runs a distant second so long as Buffalo Springfield is in the world. The opening note of “For What It’s Worth.” I think we were born knowing that sound. Like it’s one of our ear bones.
So connections, but also disconnections, and those are just a few in my own head this morning. Think of economic systems. Now add global bans on travel. Think of ecosystems. And now melt away the snowpack.
Or if you’re fed up with bleakness already, then think about this since Good Is Still Possible. I couldn’t write if I didn’t believe that. There’d be no point in working, revising, and looking up how to spell “fermata”:
Why We Have Otters
We have otters to thin out the urchins before the urchins mow through the kelp, that kelp like forests on the sea floor, eating sun, eating carbon from the air and ocean. And those kelp beds are home for the littler fish, and those littler fish feed the salmon, and sometimes— maybe a Saturday, the first warm day of summer— the salmon feed us. There’s a boy and his parents; the condensation on the glasses cold and wet; a sun-deck restaurant. And the girl says, “The air smells older here, more muddy like the seagulls like it.” And the boy smiles, watching the otters. . . how they float on their backs. . . how they eat something purple.