Don’t Go to See John Wick

Speaking to the unifying power of music, an ancient Chinese proverb says that an emperor and a peasant hear the same sound.  The blues club I frequent has a great band this week.  Total strangers dance together on the floor; couples embrace during slow music; regulars become friends; we all come together and get happy.  I made the mistake of foregoing all this to go to a bad movie tonight.  I thought that John Wick would be like Jack Reacher, with plot turns, a good story, and action adventure.  John Wick was none of these.  It was a mixture of WWF wrestling and the Assassin’s Creed video game.  What I mean is that John Wick was 2 hours and 11 minutes of graphic murder.  There was no story.  It was 2 hours and 11 minutes of killing.

I don’t understand why people want to see so much murder.  I know that video games are like that, with heads blowing up, blood splattering, limbs being severed, bullets flying.  And that doesn’t make me feel any better.  People were literally laughing at some of the grosser kills–as at a WWF wrestling match.  I was ready to walk out after about a half hour of this, when I realized the kind of movie I was watching.  But I don’t know if my partner wanted to stay, and, out of misplaced manners, I didn’t want to talk in the middle of the movie.

What bothered me most about John Wick was that I could have spent the same two hours and 11 minutes enjoying the Dionysian experience of the blues club, with the hot band now in town.  Instead, I was subjected to graphic representations of killing.  I noticed that the theatre was filled largely with young people, who are probably used to seeing this kind of thing in the video games that are becoming a narcotic.  This also explains the kind of of music being produced today.



To feed the mind

Learning, culture, travel

To make a living

Getting by, job, family

To idle time away

Drugs, parties, bars

To follow trends

Fitness, cars, clothes

To aspire for ideals

Accomplishment, mastery, virtue

The human condition

Sanctity, sin, struggle

Ways of language

Expression, communication, sign


You know me in my higher aspirations

And when I’m in a trying, troubling mood

In either you maintain loving relations

For which I feel eternal gratitude


The love we know and our fidelity,

The good life our love creates together

Gives us each a place of stability

In a world of inconsistent weather


I am pledged to you and you to me

In joy, in trials, and in confidence

We’ll be together to eternity

And live the timeless now as lovers and as friends


I was enjoying the music

Loud music, sometimes

When everybody in the band landed with the drums

On the same beat

Such a powerful pulse of air was produced

It hurt

The music wasn’t the rhythmic pulses of air

Nor would it be cathode-ray oscilloscopal wave forms

Nor was it resonating vibrating ear cilia

Maybe it was the electric synapse lightning-flowing pathways of sparks

Of the brain,–some people think so

The cascades of my emotions

Grooving like air pulses can’t

Grieving in the blues

Thrilling to the guitar licks

Loving the ensemble harmonious sound and the beat

As no oscilloscope can

Movements of my soul

Undulating to what is now music

Is the music


(for Philip)

We live our lives life in a delicate

Balance between chaos and peace.

Each short-lived, the one the other will implicate.

The ancients wanted neither–sought release.


An empty chair in the middle of

A grassy yard, reflecting bright sunlight.

I set it there.  But hesitated when I saw it.

Where is the self that seeks to know despite

The onslaught of experience, who seeks to understand it?

Who tries to grasp ahold of love?


The ancients reasoned “no-self” sidesteps Karma;

And David sees Jehovah as a rock;

And other systems turn from social Maya:

Prestige, respectability sneering mock.


Paul in prison and Christ a capitol criminal?

Christ in prison and Paul an evangel?

Who draws the lines, who forms the frame?

Living shatters all our images–nothing stays the same.


“Because everything changes, all is nothing.”

But I, I sit in the chair, on the lawn.

I hear the many birds singing.

I remember the tree tops’ hue at dawn.

I see the leaves flicker, the limbs’ easy swaying.


We trace the lines and leave them drawn.

And we are left with the chair, on the lawn.

The ’50’s Lie

Contemporary television varies from the mediocre to indecent.  I think of the plethora of reality shows.  A short while back Jerry Springer paraded the underbelly of society before us for entertainment.  Now we have Dr. Phil who makes a fortune parading seedy neurotics before our faces who seem to lack modesty as much as they do morality.  A new series is coming out which promised to air difficulties in newlywed couples before us for our entertainment.  The promo clip they keep showing depicts a man telling his spouse he wants a divorce.

I think of the television programs I grew up with in the ’50’s and early 60’s.  Ozzie and Harriet, Donna Reed, Leave It to Beaver all depicted perfect families including housewives who wore dresses and pearl necklaces as they busied themselves with housework.  In cinema, Mary Poppins and Sound of Music showed stern fathers becoming child-friendly under the influence of odd governesses, both played by Julie Andrews.

So television in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s depicted wholesome content, in fact, uplifting content.  But an idealized kind of wholesomeness.  When I became a teen, we rebelled against the strictures of propriety that the ’50’s packaged and sold us.  We grew our hair long, participated in free-love, listened to acid-rock music, used drugs–all the the horror and chagrin of our parents.

But were the images television broadcast in the ’50’s and ’60’s accurate?  Clearly, the happy families were ideals and not real.  But the values of the television shows were actually enforced in society.  Men all wore short haircuts; girls skirts and dresses at school.  I remember when the controversial new policy was instituted which allowed girls to wear slacks to school.  Most of society went to church or temple.  Streets were clean and white in suburbia, which is where white people moved to, out of downtown.  That is how I remember society then.  I didn’t know then about the house parties my parents went to with neighborhood parents where drunkenness was widespread.  Or why one of my parents spent mornings bent over the toilet.  Or the bowling teams where adults also drank, taking an hour-and-a-half break at midnight to attend mass.

I don’t see a predominance of television depicting marriage, family, and suburbia these days.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  Now, instead of shows about families, more often they are about dating and meeting.  Single people dominate media.  While I feel disappointed at how insipid and scurrilous current programming is, I wouldn’t want the whitewashed shows of the ’50’s either.  We have much more freedom, today.  But with freedom comes responsibility.  That’s what seems missing from the mix today.  Society flails without a moral gravitas.  Even if Donna Reed was an ideal, at least it put forth a moral ethic.  Today, we have the Kardashians and Dr. Phil leading the way.  Yes, I believe it’s come to that.



I see her every night in the blues club

There is where she finds community

Not a drunk, as I was, she is a regular

The bar’s her church she once confessed to me


She was dealt a harder deck that I was

Foster homes, running away, the streets

I had advantages of middle-class

Her past defines her life and who she meets


She holds out love and acceptance to everyone

It’s a sobering lesson for me

She even asks me weekly for a sermon

And each night demonstrates Christian charity


Jesus hung around with disdained people

And reached out with his heart to one and all

The blues club is her church without a steeple

The benefit from our relationship is mutual

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