The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - Listen, Ana, Hear My Words
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Listen, Ana, Hear My Words|
"Listen, Ana, hear my words
They're the ones you would think I would say if there was a me for you...."
If I had to choose one song to live with for the rest of my life, it would be "Ana Ng," by They Might Be Giants. The staccato fuzztone guitar, the heartfelt-yet-cryptic lyrics, the weird triumphant feeling in the chorus... All of them combine into something ineffably perfect for me, and whenever I pick it out of my CD collection I invariably listen to it ten times in a row.
"Make a hole with the gun perpendicular...."
They Might Be Giants, however, always makes me think of a friend I made one day at The Training, back when I was twenty, and drifting madly, and my parents were forced to watch helplessly as I pissed all of my hard-saved money and hard-earned scholarships away on skipped classes. In an attempt to give me some purpose in life, they paid $400 to send me to The Training for a weekend.
The Training was what EST had evolved into, but it was pretty much the same: A focused psychological breakdown. The Training was famous for claiming that things were "bullshit," and that the only thing that mattered in your life was results. Had a problem? Get past it. Worried about something? Get past it. Low on money? You can beg. They called you on every lie.
But they did this by making you hyper-aware of your own thought processes. The Training was a form of flensing, basically making you extremely aware of all the excuses you make in your everyday life to get by... And goddamn, we have a lot of them. The word of the day was choice: You choose everything. The question they wanted you to answer was, why do you choose that? - and that was a question nobody wanted to answer.
It's easier to pretend that you're powerless. The Training was about empowerment. By the time you came out of The Training, you had no excuses left for anything bad in your life. You would either fix it or accept it.
And it was exhausting.
Nobody could keep The Training up for long periods at a time, because what you discover is that excuses are easy. You can tell yourself, "Hey, I can't do anything about work" and then settle into bed, comforted that it's all out of your control and there's nothing you can - or need - to do. Whereas the truth is always hard, and you have to scour your soul asking, "Is this bullshit?" and even when you finally figure out what the problem is you have to fix it. If work's really fucked-up, guess who has to stay up until three in the morning figuring out what to do about it?
Imagine doing that for every aspect of your life: Family, friends, lovers, jobs, future career hopes. It's a lot easier to pretend that you're not in charge, because when you're the boss of your own life you put in a lot of overtime.
But at the end of The Training, they made you choose a goal. Oh, you couldn't just walk out of there with a general, "Boy, my life'll be all better now!" No, you had to walk out with something you planned to accomplish within the year. Me? I said I'd write a novel - which I did, and then I shelved in a drawer. Technically, I believe I promised that I'd publish a novel... But that's a goal I have yet to meet because I'm a slacker.
But the guy next to me completely floored me, because he said he was going to be the drummer for They Might Be Giants.
At the time, this was bizarre. Not only were TMBG one of the larger indie bands because they had just hit it big with "Flood," but they were notorious for their use of drum machines. I'd read interviews with the two Johns where they said they didn't want a drummer, because they liked the way they could program the rhythm tracks exactly the way they wanted it - and besides, most drummers couldn't handle TMBG's wild usages of polyrhythms and syncopation anyway.
And their drum machine techniques were excellent. As a drummer, I listened to TMBG with awe, admiring the way they had fought past the blocky rhythms that drum machines usually engender to bring a warm, live sound to their recordings.
It would have been audacious to say, "I want to be the drummer for R.E.M." To claim you'd be the drummer for a popular group that didn't even use drums was insane.
I told him that. He shrugged. "I'm going for it," he said. "Why not?"
Eight months later, he was their drummer. I saw him on stage. He kicked total ass.
Now, of course it's entirely possible that he had some inside information. Perhaps he knew one of the two Johns in the group and knew they were getting bored with punching in kick drums.
But the lesson for me was this: I don't know what's possible. I brushed him off at the time because he was a loon... But what might have happened if I had decided that I wanted to be They Might Be Giants' drummer? Maybe I could have made it. Maybe today, I'd still be on their drum chair.
Nobody fucking knows.
Every time I think, "Jeez, why should I bother sending my story to this place? They'll never accept it," I look back to my crazy drummer pal and say, "Shit, I didn't know then and I don't know now. Take the damn chance."
And I take the leap. It usually doesn't pay off. Usually, I fail horribly.
But when it works, it pays off big.
My drummer friend taught me well. Maybe you should listen; you never know when you might become the drummer for a band that never wanted one.
Everything sticks like a broken record
Everything sticks until it goes away
And the truth is, we don't know anything
- Ana Ng, "They Might Be Giants"
When they come out with "Chicken Soup for the LiveJournaller's Soul", I hope this one makes it in.
I'm bookmarking this, and will be sure to read it the next time I scrap 90% of my novel and start berating myself for writing something everyone is going to hate.
Their songs always bring me back to a happy place of innocence...now and then there is an interstitial on Nick Jr. or something maybe PBSKids that uses one of their songs...and it always makes me smile...I need to dig out my old tapes...
This is what I try to tell people, but with a damn sight less eloquence :) A positive 'can do' attitude works wonders.
Not trying is like saying that you don't want the best out of life that you can get, which I can't understand at all - why would anyone accept second best?
There are a few songs that, whenever I think of them, inevitably convince me that they're my favorite song in the world.
Ana Ng is one of them.
"I don't want the world...I just want your half."
Brilliant stuff. :)
for years I thought that was "...your hat." Didn't make much sense to me.
Out of curiosity, was The Training in the eighties? It reminds me of a style of psychology my dad was telling me about - "realism" psychology or some such. I'll have to ask him about it again.
One way or another, though, that's certainly worthy of a "Chicken Soup" entry. And a kickass story, to boot.
Humm... interesting. I didn't go to any Training. I just woke up one day when I was 20 years old and was suddenly hardcore like this. Of course, I attribute it to finally getting fucking sick of girls walking all over me. :)
I don't want the world. I just want your half!
It's no "Dancin' on the Ceiling," but it's all right.
I love They Might Be Giants. They remind me of being in high school, with its attendant host of happy memories and awful rejections.
And I also sometimes need a good beating with the Ambition Stick.
Bonus points for nerds: The bridge on which everyone's favorite quote is written is outside of Boulder, CO, about thirty miles north of my house. Perhaps an expedition, with pictures, is in order?
Lemme know if you do. I'd love to see it.
I've never heard of "The Training" as such.....but it sounds like a more emphatic version of a three-day course I've seen from behind the scenes a dozen or so times, especially the "get a goal" bit.
Inspiring story, but my reaction to it is the same as other motiviational tales; "meh, sounds like effort...where's my beer?" <g>.
I've heard of EST (and remember having a friend who still hated her parents for being involved with it) but never heard of the Training.
I do love that song lots, though. I remember when you could go into a Sam Goody's and buy a mixed tape, pick the songs out and they would make the tape for you at this little station (this was in the very early 90s), and I had them put that song on.
I did the exact same thing. The next song on the tape was "Just What I Needed."
God, we're old.
|Date:||July 7th, 2004 02:56 pm (UTC)|| |
they don't need me here, and I know you're there
That song really drilled into me fall & winter of my freshman year of college. It was a tough time of transition and song takes me back there just about every time I hear it.
I had a college professor who was into EST. I gravitated to her for guidance on some things, and she really shook my world up and sent me down a path of righteousness. One of the key things I remember her saying was, "NEXT!" In terms of, "Ok, so you did this and you did that and now this bad thing is happening and so-and-so doesn't like you. Get over it. NEXT!" that sort of thing. I still use what she taught me today.
It's a scary, exhausting, but great thing that we are totally in control of everything in our lives. The book Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting
was instrumental in helping me wrap my head around that, and learn to really take full responsibility for everything in my life, which has not magically made everything in my life peachy keen, but it has enabled me to roll with life much, much better and be a lot happier overall.- Tyldak
|Date:||July 8th, 2004 12:29 am (UTC)|| |
Re: they don't need me here, and I know you're there
I'm biased, of course, but I think there's too much emphasis on feeling good about what you choose and not enough on feeling good in general.
Heroin feels good when you choose it. But not for long.
That's a great story.
And, I agree. You never know what's possible 'til you get out there and try. It's always easy to make excuses for what you don't do or what you did badly. On the other hand, history is full of examples of people who disproved what was believed to be impossible at the time.
Thanks for sharing that. I'm adding it to my memories.
Oops, forgot one other piece. The part about EST/The Training reminded me of something I heard from my friend Archon once. This was when I was busy feeling sorry for myself about a relationship that wasn't going so well, and was agonizing about what to do. He's a big fan of Star Trek, and has been since I've known him. One thing he talked about was a Klingon tradition in the shipyard. When a ship would approach to dock, the yardmaster would contact the ship's captain, and the traditional statement was something like "Well, Ship-Captain, what do you want?"
From what Archon told me, it wasn't meant as disrespect. It was simply just asking the captain in a no-nonsense way what it was he wanted, which was generally to dock. But the captain had to know what he wanted and ask for it.
Seems similar to me. Know what you want. Take responsibility for asking for it, and trying to get it. Deal with the fact that if you don't ask (or try), you don't get. I've remembered that ever since. I don't always live up to it as well as I'd like, but it's stuck with me.
|Date:||July 7th, 2004 03:26 pm (UTC)|| |
If you've never seen the movie Dreamscape, go watch it.
And remember: You can do whatever you want in here, Alex.
Somehow I got the "you choose everything" idea without specific training (through my romantic relationships, I think, and the book Concious Loving by Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks) but it's definitely one of the most important parts of my life philosophy, and the one I have the hardest time trying to get other people to do.
On the other hand, sometimes I do a lot more accepting than changing.
Ok, the Training thing??? I LOVE IT.
I so would love to go to something like that.
I wonder if I can make do with a home-grown version. Who can channel Kali for me?
Thank you for sharing such an awesome post :)
As for TMBG, and that song in particular, I've always been disturbed by, and attracted to it. They were the favorite group of both of my best friends, but since they are more lyrics-heavy than music- or vocals-heavy, and since I tend to not understand lyrics too well, I could never get into them properly.
Actually, the interesting thing is that I also never get lyrics, but I find them extremely music-heavy. They have among the most interesting melodies of any songwriters I know, and they're very dense and hard to play sometimes.
So it's curious that you see them as lyric-heavy, whereas I see it as precisely the opposite.
In other news, missed ya last night. How's the tooth? And did you get any games won with the fuzzy stuff floating through your head?
|Date:||July 7th, 2004 04:41 pm (UTC)|| |
and we still haven't walked in the glow of each other's majestic presence
Great song, great story. Thanks!
|Date:||July 7th, 2004 04:44 pm (UTC)|| |
...I love that song.
j00 are *cool*
I did another iteration of EST - The Forum - in the mid-eighties. And some advanced courses afterwards. Like anything else in life - take what tastes good, spit out the bones.
Really enjoyed this post!
I found you via manifestress
, and I'm glad she pointed this out! Excellent story, excellent points to remember, and a great moral!
I thank you VERY much for sharing!
I didn't know you were a drummer.
What's the name of that album, I'm gonna check it out.
Used to be. Had a band. It was a good band.
The album is either "Lincoln," or the far better double-CD "Now and Then."
If after my medication kicks in I still can't get my shit together, you'd better sign me up for Training. :p
That totally reminds me of what I'm always saying: if there's a calling for all of us, then we should follow it. Sometimes people think my ideas are crazy but I'm determined and I hope I can make it.
You knew Dan? That's so cool, definitely one of the nicer musicians I've ever met, although Flansburg was also very very nice.
And as far as TMBG being lyrics heavy, they are. But their melodies are also intense, they do things that I would never have thought possible.
|Date:||July 8th, 2004 03:16 am (UTC)|| |
They don't need me here, and I know you're there
Thank you for posting this!
I went to the Option Institute a few years ago, and the weekend really helped me at the time. It wasn't as rigorous as the Training sounds. (And, really, I wouldn't do too well at a place where people said "Bullshit!" to me a lot and were, well, aggressive at all. Did anybody cry??)
I remember coming out of Option felling really full of possibility for the future; this was all during the time that J. was living away from me, in East Lansing, and it was a very good experience to have then. I still fall back sometimes on what I learned there, but, like the program you're talking about, it's hard to put into practice every day. (It is very cognitive -- you have to keep asking yourself what beliefs are driving your emotions, and then to analyze if these beliefs are serving you now, etc. I still have a lot of guilt, and sometimes doing this helps.)
I know you're a great writer, so I would definitely encourage you to keep sending your stories out. I know I'll be reading your novels sometime soon. *g* I do mean it when I say that you inspire me, you know. I'm sorry that this year has made me be so withdrawn, because I really miss you; I'm realizing how much more important my friends are than this paper, and I'm making time now to work on being more connected.
With much love,
wow, that was a great post. I <3 tmby like there's no tomorrow. Ana Ng is hands-down on my Top 5 by them. always reminds me of my former boyfriend who introduced me to them. great guy, great band, great stuff. Props. ;-)