Wednesday, November 20, 2013

radio interview with Johnny Appleseed

Q: How, where, and when did you get started with all of this appleseed stuff?

A: Wow... to think of time... that’s a tough one... you really want retrospection?  Want me to talk about yesterday, and then gradually move on into the present, and finally into distant ages continued henceforward? 

Q: Sure!

A: Have you guessed you yourself would not continue? Have you dreaded those earthworms, and the image of them dining on your stiff, lifeless corpse?

Q: Uh...

A: Have you feared the future would be nothing to you? Is today nothing?  Is the beginningless past a mere nothing? If the future is nothing they are just as surely pure nothing. Or maybe a better word would be nothingness. What do you think, gentle sir?  

Q: Uh, nothingness works for me, I guess...

A: And yet, to think that the sun rose in the east- that men and women and the critters and flowers and glaciers and mastodons and our early chimpanzee ancestors were flexible, real, alive, moving about, eating apples- that everything was alive, to think that you and I did not see, feel, think, nor bear our part, and to think that we are here now and do in fact bear our part!  

Q: It does seem that way, yes...

A: Not a day passes, not a minute or second without a cool achievement , not a day passes, not a minute or second without a horrible failure, right?

Q: But sir, t

A: The dull nights go over and the dull days go also, where, I'm not exactly sure, some sort of warehouse in oblivion, maybe, the soreness of lying so much on the hard ground goes over, the physician after long putting off gives the silent and terrible look for an answer, the children come hurried and weeping, and the brothers and sisters are sent for, medicines stand unused on the shelf, (the camphor-smell has long pervaded the rooms) the faithful hand of the living does not desert the hand of the dying, the twitching lips press lightly on the forehead of the person passing away, the breath ceases and the pulse of the heart grinds to a halt, the corpse stretches on the bed and the living look upon it, and think about that storehouse of cosmic oblivion and realize that it must be of pretty gigantic proportions, ya know?

Q: Sir, I understand all that, really... what I was really hoping to learn from you, though, was how you got started off with the apples and all.  Surely you must have had some sort of mentor, some sort of childhood hero, correct?

A: To think the thoughts of spirit merged with the thoughts of materials, to think of all these wonders of city and country, and others taking great interest in them, and we taking no interest at all.  Why is that, gentle sir? Can we properly even be said to be living?

Q: I take plenty of interest, Johnny.  That’s sort of my job, as a journalist.

A: To think how eager we are in building our houses, or planting our orchards, or you here in this studio, endlessly recording new interviews, endlessly asking people about their endless thoughts and activities, which will all be gone in an instant, essentially, and then to think that still others shall be just as eager, and we completely indifferent, already lodged away in the storehouse, twiddling our thumbs, as it were.

Q: So that's how you see it, eh?

A: I enjoy conversation with you, sir! Don't let anyone try and say otherwise! Imagine, if you can, a cold dash of waves at the ferry-wharf, trash and ice in the river, half-frozen mud in the streets, a gray discouraged sky overhead, people wandering around near the harbor with no sense of direction or purpose, the short last daylight of December, a hearse and stages, the funeral of an old Broadway stage-driver, the cortege mostly drivers.  Steady the trot to the cemetery, duly rattles the death-bell, the gate is passed, the new-dug grave is halted at, the living alight, the hearse opens, the coffin is passed out, lowered and settled, the flowers are laid on the coffin, the earth is shoveled in rudely, the mound above is flatted with the spades- silence, a minute- no one moves or speaks- it is done, he is decently laid to his well-deserved rest- is there anything more? He was a good fellow, free-mouthed, quick-tempered, not bad-looking, ready with life or death for a friend, fond of women, gambled, ate hearty, drank hearty, had known what it was to be flush, grew low-spirited toward the last, sickened, was helped by a contribution, died, aged forty-one years... and that was my mentor’s funeral, since it is he that you ask about.

Q: And what was his name?

A: Thomas Brody.

Q: And how did you come to know him?

A: The schools, the markets, the zoos, the orchards, the barracks, the forests, the swamplands, the islanders, castaways, people such as the Swiss Family Robinson and the Lord of the Flies. The vulgar and the refined, what you call sin and what you call goodness, to think how wide a difference, to think the difference will still continue to others, yet we lie beyond the difference, supposedly.

Q: Are you sure about that?

A: Do you enjoy yourself in the city? Or engaged in farming or business? Or planning a nomination and election? Or with your wife and family? Or with your mother and sisters? Or in housework or yardwork? Or here, in this studio, creating your silly radio program? These also flow onward to others, you and I flow onward, but in due time you and I shall take less interest in them, I suspect. Your farm, profits, crops, neighbors, interviews, newspaper articles- to think how engrossed you are, to think there will still be farms, profits, crops, neighbors, interviews, articles, whatnot, yet for you and I- of what avail? We will already be lodged in the warehouse.

Q: You really wanna go down this road?

A: What will be will be well, for what is is well also, to take interest is well, and not to take interest is a fine prospect also. The domestic joys, the computers, sorting out the recycling, watching TV, reading books, paying bills, doing yoga, the building of houses, the tree planting, the upcoming theater piece at the White House, Franz’s endless confusion, Karl’s crazy ideas, none of these things are phantasms, they have weight, form, location, substance, gravity, meaning. Farms, profits, crops, markets, wages, government, are none of them phantasms, the difference between sin and goodness is no mere delusion, the earth is not an echo, human beings are as well-considered as our ape ancestors were, not a jot more or less, according to most anthropologists.

Q: I don't really know, Johnny.

A: You are not thrown to the winds, sir. You have your own radio program! Every person you interview probably becomes a sort of eternal soul mate, I bet.

Q: Think again, Johnny.

A: It is not to diffuse you that you were born of your mother and father, it is to identify you, gentle sir. To locate you here in your studio, pressing all these little buttons and talking into all of these fancy machines. It is not that you should be undecided, but that you should be decided. Ok?  Try and get that through your thick skull! Something long preparing and formless is arrived and formed in you, brother!

Q: Uh... ok...

A: You are henceforth secure, whatever comes or goes. The threads that were spun are gathered, the weft crosses the warp, the pattern is systematic, and yes, apples are indeed very nutritious and tasty. The preparations have every one been justified. The orchestra have sufficiently tuned their instruments, the baton has given the signal. The guest that was coming, he waited long, he is now housed, he is one of those who are beautiful and happy, he is one of those that to look upon and be with is enough. The law of the past cannot be eluded, the law of the present and future cannot be eluded, the law of the living cannot be eluded, it is eternal, the law of promotion and transformation cannot be eluded, the law of heroes and good-doers cannot be eluded, the law of drunkards, informers, mean persons, not one iota thereof can be eluded.

Q: Where did you learn all this stuff, Johnny?

A: The internet, mostly. The great masters and cosmos are well as they go, the heroes and good-doers are well, the known leaders and inventors and the rich owners and pious and distinguished may be well, but there is more account than that, there is strict account of all. The interminable hordes of the ignorant and wicked are not nothing, the barbarians of yore are not nothing, aliens and UFOs are not nothing, the perpetual successions of shallow people such as you and I are not nothing. Of and in all these things, I have dreamed that we are not to be changed so much, nor the law of us changed.

Q: You would let the present laws stand, then?

A: I have dreamed that heroes and good-doers shall be under the present and past law, and that murderers, drunkards, liars, shall be under the present and past law, for I have dreamed that the law they are under now is enough.

Q: What do you mean by “enough”?  And what’s all this stuff about dreaming? And thanks for calling me shallow, by the way. I really appreciate that.

A: I have dreamed that the purpose and essence of the known life, the transient, is to form and decide identity for the unknown life, the permanent. If all came but to ashes of dung, if maggots and rats ended us, then alarum! For we are betrayed, then indeed suspicion of death. Do you suspect death, radio man?

Q: I’m not sure how to answer that, sir.

A: Well, if I were to suspect death I should die right this instant!  Do you think I could walk pleasantly and well-suited toward annihilation? Pleasantly and well-suited I walk, whither I walk I cannot define, but I know it is good, the whole universe indicates that it is good, the past and the present indicate that it is good.

Q: Uh... pretty good, I suppose.

A: How beautiful and perfect are the animals! The computers! The libraries! The orchards! How perfect the earth, and the minutest thing upon it! What is called good is perfect, and what is called bad is just as perfect. The vegetables and minerals are all perfect, and the imponderable fluids perfect. I went on a canoe trip with Karl once. We liked seeing the wildlife.

Q: And you are saying that you’re OK with all that?

A: I swear I think now that everything without exception has an eternal soul, sir!  The trees have, rooted in the ground!  The weeds of the sea have! The animals! The deep canyons! The glaciers! Even your fancy three-piece suit and all these shiny radio doo-dads! These blinking lights, these computers, that cocaine you did right before we went on the air!  I swear I think there is nothing but full blown immortality! I was probably wrong about the warehouse! There's probably no such thing as oblivion! That the exquisite scheme is for immortality, and the nebulous float is for immortality, and the canoe trips and wildlife and endless cohering and melting away! Spirit and materials are like two peas in a pod!

Q: So now we’re back to spirit and materials- anything else you want to say about them?

A: Darest thou now, gentle sir, to walk out with me toward the unknown region, where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?

Q: Excuse me?

A: No map there, nor guide, nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand, nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land. I know it not, gentle sir, nor dost thou, all is a blank verse before us, all waits undreamed of in that region, that inaccessible land. The Swiss Family Robinson sort of symbolizes what I'm trying to say here, and the movie Castaway starring Tom Hanks, and that one scene on the beach where he is gazing up in awe at the heavens. Till when the ties loosen, all but the ties infinite and eternal, time and space, nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us. Then we burst forth, we float, in time and space, gentle sir, prepared for them, equal, equipped and educated at last!

Q: Well Johnny, that’s about all the time we have for today.  Thanks for coming into the studio and telling us about the apples and The Orchard Players and everything.  Best of luck to you, friend.

A:  Same to you, gentle sir.  And just so you know, from this hour I ordain myself loosed of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, listening to others, considering well what they say, pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.

Q: Sir, that’s a wonderful thought, but I rel

A: I inhale great draughts of space, the east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine also, at least in a manner of speaking. I am larger, better than I thought, I did not know I held so much goodness, and had no idea I would accidentally stumble into a successful career in the theater.  All seems beautiful to me, and I have no problem repeating it over and over and over: “You have done such good to me I would do the same unto you, I will recruit for myself and you as I go, I will scatter myself among men and women as I go, I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them, whoever denies me it shall not trouble me, whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless me.”

Q: Well, on that note sir, I’d like to th

A: Now if a thousand perfect men were to appear it would not amaze me at all, sir.

Q: I believe you, Johnny.  Really, I do.

A: And if a thousand beautiful forms of women appeared it would not astonish me a single solitary iota. Now I see the secret of becoming truly successful, sir.

Q: Oh yeah?  And what might that be?

A: It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth. Here a great personal deed has room, (Such a deed seizes upon the hearts of the whole race of men, Its effusion of strength and will overwhelms law and mocks all authority and all argument against it.) Here is the test of wisdom, wisdom is not finally tested in schools, wisdom cannot be passed from one having it to another not having it, wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof, applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is content, is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the excellence of things.  Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the soul.

Q: If you say so, my friend.

A: Re-examine philosophies and religions sometime, they may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under the spacious clouds and along the landscape and rivers.

Q: Ok.

A: Here is the efflux of the soul, my good fellow, the efflux of the soul comes from within through embowered gates, ever provoking questions. These yearnings- why are they?  These thoughts in the darkness, and by the campfire late at with my good buddy Karl- why are they? Why are there men and women that while they are nigh me the sunlight expands my blood? Why when they leave me do my pennants of joy sink flat and lank? Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me? (I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees and always drop fruit as I pass;) What is it I interchange so suddenly with strangers? What with some driver as I ride on the seat by his side? What with some fisherman drawing his seine by the shore as I walk by and pause? What gives me to be free to a woman's and man's goodwill? What gives them to be free to mine?

Q: I have absolutely no idea.

A: The efflux of the soul is happiness, here is happiness, I think it pervades the open air, waiting at all times.  

Q: All times, all places, all people, I’m guessing.

A: You guess correct, sir. Now it flows unto us, we are rightly charged. Here rises the fluid and attaching character, the fluid and attaching character is the freshness and sweetness of man and woman and animals, including the fishes and insects. Don't be crestfallen that your ancestors were like gorillas and chimps.

Q: You’re a wild dude, Johnny.

A: Come travel with Karl and I, sir! Traveling with us you find what never tires. The earth never tires, the earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, nature is rude and incomprehensible at first, be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well enveloped, I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell. Bring your cell phone, your laptop, your microphone, whatever you think is essential! Gentle sir!  We must not stop here, however sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwelling we cannot remain here, however sheltered this port and however calm these waters we must not anchor here, however welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are permitted to receive it but a little while.

Q: But I like it here, Johnny.  I have a job, a family, a house.

A: I don’t care, sir! Trust me, the inducements shall become unspeakably greater!  We will sail pathless and wild seas, we will go where winds blow, waves dash, and the Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.  Bring the whole gang along!  With power, liberty, the earth, the elements, health, defiance, gayety, self-esteem, curiosity.  I’m not fooling around!

Q: You really think we could hack it?

A: Of course, sir! Yet, take warning. He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews, endurance, none may come to the trial till he or she bring courage and health, come not here if you have already spent the best of yourself, only those may come who come in sweet and determined bodies, no diseased person, no rum-drinker or venereal taint is permitted here.

Q: Oh... well, that pretty much disqualifies my wife and I, then.

A: Listen, buddy- I will be honest with you- I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes. These are the days that must happen to you: You shall not heap up what is called riches, you shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve, you but arrive at the city to which you were destined, you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction before you are called by an irresistible call to depart, you shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those who remain behind you. What beckonings of love you receive you shall only answer with passionate kisses of parting.

Q: Sorry, Johnny.  Can’t do it.

A: I heartily disagree, sir.  Come, with your family, to that which is endless as it was beginningless.

Q: No way, no how.

A: To undergo much, tramps of days, rests of nights, to merge all in the travel they tend to, and the days and nights they tend to, again to merge them in the start of superior journeys, to see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it and pass it, to conceive no time, however distant, but what you may reach it and pass it, to look up or down no road but it stretches and waits for you, however long but it stretches and waits for you, to see no being, not God's or any, but you also go thither, to see no possession but you may possess it, enjoying all without labor or purchase, abstracting the feast yet not abstracting one particle of it, to take the best of the farmer's farm and the rich man's elegant villa, and the chaste blessings of the well-married couple, and the fruits of orchards and flowers of gardens, to take to your use out of the compact cities as you pass through, to carry buildings and streets with you afterward wherever you go, to gather the minds of men out of their brains as you encounter them, to gather the love out of their hearts, to take your lovers on the road with you, for all that you leave them behind you, to know the universe itself as a road, as many roads, as roads for traveling souls.

A: It’s an inspired vision, Johnny.  I get it.  Look, I’m running extremely late for my next appointment, OK?  If you wanna stay here and think about all of this stuff some more, go right ahead.  Jason is here til 11, maybe you can share your ideas with him.  So long, Johnny.  Pleasure meeting you.

A: Same to you, gentle sir.