An Inaugural Day Message via the Words of R.E.M.

Home Is A Long Way Away, Keep Your Hat On Your Head

Music Features R.E.M.
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An Inaugural Day Message via the Words of R.E.M.

Here comes that awful feeling again. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel…low, low, low. The battle’s been lost, the war is not won. We lay defeated. I’m sorry, so sorry, but I demand a rematch. I decree a stalemate. It’s a sign of the Time’s Man of The Year. A day in the life of an addled republic, a bitter refund. I won’t pine for what could have been—I’m preoccupied. The strong man kicked sand into my breakfast cereal bowl. These bastards stole their power from the victims of the “Us vs. Them” years. We’ve gotten lost before—1980, ‘84, ‘88, ’92…I’m lost in the confusion and it doesn’t seem to matter. Goddamn, your confusion. I never knew that it could be so strange. It’s all too much—the pressure. The world is collapsing around our ears, and we can’t hear it. Silence means security, silence means approval. We’ve found a way to talk around the problem. Should we talk about the weather? Should we talk about the government? If the storm doesn’t kill me, the government will. Where to turn? There’s no one left to take the lead. The story is a sad one, told many times. I’m not sure where we’re headed, but I’m very scared for this world.

I turn on Zenith, turn on the TV, and what do I see? A pageantry of empty gestures all lined up for me—wow! World leader pretend promising a volcanic change of plot. A super U.S. citizen, super achiever, mega ultra-power dosing who marched into the capital with his head on fire with high-esteem. Brooding duplicitous, wicked and able, media-ready, heartless, and labeled. This film is on a maddening loop, everyone humming a song that I don’t understand—strange currencies. T.V. tells a million lies. Camera three: GO NOW! The teleprompt flutters, an easy speed message falls into routine. Team by team reporters baffled, TRUMPED, tethered cropped. Look at this man, haloed and whitewashed. Look behind his eyes; hallow, hollow, anesthetized. Mr. Believe in Me, Believe in Nothing turns to lies and conversation fear. Setting trap for the big kill, waste of time, sitting still. Bullshit so thick you can stir it with a stick. Listen to this auctioneer trying to shock, but instead propagating confusion. Rewriting the book and ruling the pages, saving face, secured in faith. Mythology’s seductive, such pretty persuasion. By jingo, buy America. Maybe he’s caught in the legend. Maybe he’s caught in the mood. Look at him drowning on display, tossing up punch lines that were never there. Andy, are you locked in the punch? I meant to turn it off, to say goodbye, to leave in quiet. Instead, I sat silent five commercials. I had nothing left to say except “what a sad parade.” It’s that same singsong, and the DJ sucks.

His revolution is a silly idea, yeah. A dodgeball circus act. A carnival of sorts. I’m not deceived by pomp and odious conceit, but look who bought the myth. The information nation took their clues from all the sound-bite gluttons and messed it, messed it, messed it, messed it up. I guess we took us for a ride. All the sad and lost apostles? Followers of chaos out of control. Shiny happy people crowded up to Lenin with their noses worn off. Holding hands, humming his name and flaring their nostrils. They’re choking on the bones he tosses them. People thrive on their own contempt and, while nonsense doesn’t mean a thing, nonsense has a welcome ring. If you believe there’s nothing up his sleeve, then nothing is cool. The biggest wagon is the empty wagon is the noisiest. Only this is not a parable, this is a terrible thing. When feeding time has come and gone, they’ll lose the heart and head for home lost and disillusioned. Try to tell us something we don’t know. We don’t have to take the bar exam to see what we’ve done is ignoramus 103.

Courage built a bridge and jealousy tore it down. His hate is clipped and distant, tempered with arrogance and a dash of sad conceit. ‘Destroy the things I can’t understand.’ What are you saying? The charge keeps changing every month. This machine can only swallow money. A government for hire, loyal to the Bank of America. Make your money charged with controversy—quoting scripture to keep them guessing which pit you crawled from. Unbelievable! The gospel according to whom are you actually obeying?! You make your money with shrewd denial—oh, don’t you waste your breath. It’s all been said before. Distanced from one, deaf to the other. Make your money with exploitation—‘this is where they walked, this is where they swam. Take a picture here, take a souvenir.’ Could it be that one small voice doesn’t count in the room? Sure all men are created equal—here’s the church, here’s the steeple. Make your money with a buyout bribe—buy the sky and sell the sky and bleed the sky (a simple prop to occupy your time). You’ve got it all, you’ve got it sized. Bury and burn the waste behind you. The flower is scorched, the wire turned to lizard skin.

If hatred makes a play on me tomorrow, and forgiveness takes a back seat to revenge, there’s a hurt down deep that has not been corrected and there’s a voice in me that says you will not win. These waves of conversation are enough to knock you down in the undertow. It’s a tournament, a tournament, a tournament of lies wrecking all things virtuous and true. I know what I wanted and I know how I wanted this to be, but what we want and what we need has been confused. I am tired of second guessing. I know that this is vitriol. I’ve a rich understanding of my finest defenses. No solution, spleen-venting, but I feel better having screamed. What do I do? What can I do? What should I do? What do I say? What can I say? Do I even dare to speak? To dream? To believe? Belief has not filled me. I could live a million years with seven thousand years to sleep away the pain, and be put to the test time after time after time. Follow the leader? Run and turn into butter. Rally round your leaders? I wish the followers would lead with a voice so strong it could knock me to my knees. Give me a voice so strong I can question what I have seen. I want the truth to set me free. I want the sun to shine on me. I want to breathe again. I want to dream. I want to float a quote from Martin Luther King, “I am not afraid I am not afraid I am not afraid.” As for this reader, I can’t say I’m not afraid, but I can’t say I’m fearful. Yes, that’s me in the corner. Look, that’s me in the spotlight losing my religion. I am not resisting. I can see.

This storm it came up strong and it shook the redwood trees. This world is big and so awake. Can you remember when we were young, full of grace and spirited—a rattlesnake? I know it might sound strange, but I still believe in coyotes, wolverines, bumper cars and time as an abstract. I’ve spent half my life figuring what comes next. Where does time go? I don’t know. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. While withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy, the time to rise has been engaged. We know about time—now is greater than the whole of the past. We know how things go—they come and go. They live and grow; they pass and go (and glow and glow). We’ve got to moogie, moogie, move on this one. Let’s begin again. Dear readers, if I stand and holler will I stand alone? You are here with me (follow me)? You are here with me (don’t follow me). I could turn you inside out if given the choice, heart, tool, word, and cheers. Noisy cats are we, and we’re sick of being jerked around. We are young despite the years and hope despite the times. The road may be rough and the weather may forget us, but we can reach our destination. However, we’re still a ways away. We’re 20,000 miles to an oasis, and we can’t get there from here. Something better happen soon or it’s gonna be too late to bring us back. Heroes don’t come easy, so let’s put our heads together and start a new country up. This land is the land of ours. Freedom reigns supreme. The bells are ringing through the town again. Here we stand and here we fight. Great opportunity awaits. Every day is new again. Every day is yours to win. That’s how heroes are made. The finest example is you.

How do we crush this charade? Shred this sad masquerade? Live our lives on high? I was looking for answers from the great beyond, when suddenly they landed on my rooftop—whoa! The future and the truth, on my rooftop—whoa! Take my hand and trust these good advices. There are 40,000 reasons for living. The first starts with someone, and that someone is you. Broadcast a joyful noise into the times; Lead with a voice so strong you can question what you’ve seen; vibrate at the speed of light; live your life filled with joy and wonder; enjoy yourself with no regrets; see the beauty of the light of music; let imagination drive; walk unafraid; count your blessings; hope; ignore the lowest fear; don’t let yourself go; dream; empathize; divine your deeper motives; take comfort in a perfect circle of acquaintances and friends; drink another, coin a phrase; judge not lest ye be judged; forfeit selfishness; listen to reason; decide yourself; think of others; be prepared for anything; hang on; trust in your calling; recognize the weapons; let love be your strongest weapon; turn to a miracle; walk through the woods; throw Thoreau and rearrange; listen as the wind blows through the leaves; whistle as the wind blows; sing a happy song; allow the noise to recede; decompress; open the window; watch the story of your life across the ceiling while you slowly drift off to sleep with your teeth in your mouth; lift into your dreams.

Stand in the place where you live; think about direction; travel; feel absolute peace and stillness; adventure; climb a tree; make the best of what today has; live a simple life unfettered by complex sweets; listen carefully to awkward rhymes; make a happy game to play (Twister, Risk, Monopoly, checkers, etc.); jump in the tall grass; leap the sprinkler; let the sun beat through the clouds; beat a drum; embrace pomegranate afternoons and Mingus, Chet Baker and chess; find a place fit to laugh; stay up late; burn bright through the night; shout at the moon; get carried away; pick up the pieces; be clumsy; trip, fall and pick yourself up; demand something more sub-sub-sub-substantial; drink of sacred fountains; hold onto your hat; climb the ladder; take the prize for complicatedness; let it rain; throw it on the fire; eviscerate your memory; take your instinct by the reins; when you greet a stranger look at his shoes; step up, step up, step up; take your pills; make your breakfast; comb your hair; go out Friday; go forever; gather, throw a fit; make the scene; sing along to Queen; practice your T-Rex moves; take/leave Oasis; kick it out on the dance floor like you just don’t care; order up another drink; eat the lotus and peyote; let the music carry you away; stand on your head; give good head; assume the missionary part; cross your DNA with something reptile; sweep the floor into the fireplace; draw patterns with a cork on a tablecloth; write the great American novel; win a eulogy from William Greider; dream of Maria Callas (whoever she is); love Al Green; be Iggy Pop; take a break (driver 8); garden at night (swimming); let go; catapult. Finally, if you are confused check with the sun; and carry a compass to help you along.

It’s a free world and nobody tells you what to do, baby. Everybody here comes from somewhere that they would just as soon forget, and disguise. The photographs reflect it, every streetlight a reminder—aluminum tastes like fear. It’s a new day today and the coffee is strong. It’s time to breathe. Time to believe. It’s time to let it go and run towards the sea. Let’s find our own higher place, an odyssey back home. We live and dream about the future—you say tomorrow is gaining speed on you. Don’t tell me what tomorrow brings—let’s all get on with it NOW. Tell yourself, “I will make it through the day, and then the day becomes the night. I will make it through the night.” There’s nothing dark and there’s nothing weird. It’s circadian rhythm. Set the ocean machine to nine and wake to a new today tomorrow. Touch. Change. Shift. Allow air. Window open. Drift. Drift away. Into now. Winter rain, a honey pot, birthday party, cheesecake, jelly bean, boom!

There’s a new planet in the solar system. Look up, all of you (and all of me). What do you see? The stars are the greatest thing and they’re there for you. Fluorescent and starry, some of them they surprise. Near wild heaven. “Let your light so shine” could not be more aptly applied, as there shines a light from heaven on your heart. You are the star tonight. Your sun electric, outta sight. Your light eclipsed the moon tonight. Electrolite. You’re outta sight. Say, “this is my world. I can see myself. I can feel. This is my life. This life is sweet. It’s a beautiful life. Everywhere is calm. This is my time and I am thrilled to be alive. I am made by my times. I don’t mark my time with dates, holidays, faded wisdom, locked karma, whatever’s convenient. I am a creation of now. Given the freedom to do as I see fit. Shaken with the cracks and crevices. I’m not giving up easy. I’ve got my spine. I will not fold. Living and blessed, I understand that.” You are the everything and all of this is coming your way. Remember, music will provide the light you cannot resist, living well’s the best revenge, and sweetness follows. The good of this world might help see us through. I stand beside you. I’m not scared, I’m outta here.