January 25, 2016

A White weekend: Six year anniversary

I have an anniversary coming up in two weeks, but circumstance caused me to celebrate early. Six years ago, I found myself stuck at home during a historic blizzard and spent the hours indoors developing a musical infatuation.  This weekend, the mid-Atlantic was hit by another blizzard of record-breaking proportion and I've been stuck at home for four days so far. I've spent these hours re-exploring that old infatuation and what it's come to mean to me.  

Anyone who's familiar with this blog surely knows that I'm talking about the music of Jack White.  I wrote about that weekend six years ago and he's been a predominant subject here ever since. On the surface it looks like an obsession but, really, it's grown into something else. Sure, I'm still infatuated with Jack. He's an endlessly fascinating personality and his music moves me in a way no other musician's ever has. But in following his work, I've begun to look at a bigger picture surrounding him and his music. He and the company he created, Third Man Records, have become symbols for me of a way to look at the world, primarily art and music, but also culture and society. 

For a while now, I've been wearing a silver ring on my lefthand ring finger, a set of three bands that look like bones. I've never told anyone why, but this anniversary seems like an apropos time to talk about it. The ring is a symbol for me, just like a wedding band is a symbol for anyone who's married. As in the film Elizabeth, when Cate Blanchett's Queen Elizabeth proclaims to Lord Burley, "I am married. To England.", I also feel married to something rather than someone, to an ideal rather than to a person. (Though I am actually kind of married to Jack, seeing as how I was at the San Francisco show in 2014 during which he decided to marry every woman in the audience in the middle of the song Blunderbuss. But it was the night after he'd sprained his ankle on stage and he was probably high on Vicodin and for all I know he had it annulled two days later without bothering to tell the couple thousand of us.)  That ideal I feel wed to may walk around wearing the form of Jack White, but I see so much more now when I look at him.  I've read and been told enough about him, and observed a bit myself, to know the man is way too human to ever qualify for sainthood or keep his balance on any pedestal. But I also see him continually striving to grow, and to make the world a better place in his own way, on his own and with the help of the people he's brought into his organization. Whether it's his New Year's Day advice in the Vault chat room, his inquisitiveness about history and art and science that he shares with his fans through all of the projects he's involved in and things he mentions in interviews, his constant urging to remember the romance and ingenuity of the past while admiring the innovation of the future, the efforts by Third Man Books partners Ben Swank and Chet Weise to spread culture and beauty through poetry, or the many charity drives organized (there are four links in that string of words, click on 'em all) by Third Man Records, that striving is what inspires me.  It's the one thing we can all do, regardless of our talent or ability or circumstance, we can always try to grow and be better-- Better at art, better at whatever it is we do, better human beings with a wider field of vision and curiosity and awareness.

Thank you to the unknown person on Tumblr who captured and posted this.

Bob Dylan said in Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie--

...You'll find God in the church of your choice
You'll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital
And though it's only my opinion
I may be right or wrong
You'll find them both
In the Grand Canyon
At sundown

He wasn't talking about Woody in those last lines, or in any of the lines of that poem. He was talking about what Woody represented to him.  I'm no poet like Dylan, but I understand exactly what he meant about Woody because it's very much the way I've come to feel about Jack.  When someone creates something that moves us, or begins an organization or movement that inspires us, what that person represents can become something that's both incorporated within them and totally separate from them.  Look at Martin Luther King Jr or Abraham Lincoln. On a much smaller scale, look at Woody Guthrie and, more and more, look at Jack White.   

Of course, running underneath and through it all is the music.  And there's so very much of that to celebrate, not just this weekend but every single day...



sean said...

Well, then: Happy upcoming anniversary!

You might be interested in this show coming up in March at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore:


KaliDurga said...

I am very interested in that, but unfortunately the date conflicts with a business trip. But thank you for the link, it was also a reminder to get on the Creative Alliance mailing list.