Let My Inspiration Flow...That Will Not Forsake You
By Robert Hunter
One important lesson of 9/11, the tsunami, and of the current heart wrenching disaster in New Orleans, is that those not directly in the path of the apocalyptic hooves are left with a dwindling sense of the importance regarding their own less challenged lives. How can we delude ourselves into continuing to believe that our relatively insignificant interests are worth pursuing? Yet, those petty concerns may be all that stand between us and a depressed and even crippling fatalism. I pick up my horn, play a few notes, set it back down. What's the point? I pick it back up again with the conscious understanding that its value is strictly personal.
Music has its own agenda, its own right to exist even though the world crumbles around us. I first realized this truth, with chilling certainty, when I played "Terrapin Station" late one night from a terrace atop a high building directly overlooking the floodlit smoking ruin of the World Trade Center in September of 2001. It felt almost like sacrilege, a wind howled up and threatened to blow me and my guitar off the roof, but I planted my feet and continued and, by the time I'd finished, realized, or chose to believe, that the City accepted my offering. It was all I had to give. My feeling of hopelessness lifted. It was not a connection such as is felt between a performer and an audience. I just added a bit of music to the acrid smoke in the wind and, in so doing, changed the course of my life for several years to come.
Though professedly retired, the next day I accepted an invitation to appear at the closing of the Wetlands and played my first public performance in years. I continued to perform, propelled by the experience atop the roof. I felt a window had opened in the very bowels of disaster and, perhaps mistakenly, believed that the City would rebuild with a new sense of spirit and mission, emerging triumphant from the ruins; a spirit that would spread and encompass the rest of the world. I felt moved to be a part of such renaissance. Perhaps such an improbable thing might have come to pass, had not political spin snatched up the costly opportunity and transformed it into a rationale for war.
I feel moved to write this entry in my journal, not to show how resourceful I am at fending off the personal effect of depressing circumstances through the fostering of grand delusions, but to reaffirm that, when small personal resources are all we've got, it's a mistake to devalue them just because they appear patently ineffectual faced with the constrictions of Leviathan as it attempts to crush life and spirit from the earth. Such activity may not help New Orleans, inflicted with the emergence of mob inflicted stone age values in the midst of chaos, nor should we delude ourselves it might, but there is another sphere in which small life affirming actions are never to be despised. I refer to civilization, which can be very much a personal matter.
Robert Hunter is a poet, songwriter and performer. He wrote the words for numerous Grateful Dead songs.
©2005 Robert Hunter