neil (nlg) Fri 2 Dec 05 16:43
Well, I don't want to drift this into too heavy a philosophical debate, but my point is that there is a real danger that those of us who practice certain non-dual wisdom traditions are fairly cognizant of and try hard to help others avoid -- when you realize that conventional reality is not at all a true reflection of ultimate reality, you need to keep in mind that even though ultimately everything is illusory, conventional reality is where we all dwell. So there is a point to doing stuff, the point being that we have no other choice unless one is to climb a mountain, sit in a cave, enter into a state of dhyana (meditative absorption), and whither away until one's consciousness can separate from whatever is left of the body. Otherwise, you have to chop the wood, gather the fruits and veggies, cook the meals, sweep the floors, mend the socks, and do lots and lots of stuff every day. There is, however, every reason to take the lessons of emptiness (which is not that nothing exists, but that nothing inherently exists, a huge distinction, and that how we tend to view the phenomenal world is illusory), and understand there is no point trying to control everything anymore, because that is just a form of attachment which is what leads to suffering (since most attempts at control will fail, leading to unhappiness, which is the state of suffering). I'll leave the Gita statement alone -- I've drifted far enough down the road of philosophical disputation. My point is that I don't think the song means what Michael suggested, but is closer to what I suggested. Albeit -- Michael's analytical framework is excellent.
Michael Wanger (vidkid) Mon 5 Dec 05 17:35
Thanks, guys, for the great comments. After my initial posting, I realized that what I really meant was closer to what Neil said. Basically, the physical universe isn't the whole story...
searchlight casting (jstrahl) Fri 23 Dec 05 11:25
More inclined to the naval protocol interpretation, which however may be (most likely is) symbolic of something wider. My own fancy is that the third verse is a lament regarding how everyone is supposed to do their own task in the big picture, but things aren't working out that way, no one's got the time, ending with an expressed wish to just drop out and cross the big river in quest of something else.
neil (nlg) Tue 3 Jan 06 09:38
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Wed 2 Aug 06 12:22
Remiss not to note the echo from Mother McRee's Uptown Jug Champions in the title.
Bryan Miller (bamfinney1) Thu 7 Dec 06 20:09
3-31-73 opens with Mississippi and Jerry sings "On the day that I was born/Santa sat down and cried." Merry Christmas!
Bryan Miller (bamfinney1) Fri 8 Dec 06 21:52
just picturing "Santy" sitting there wondering, "What the hell am I gonna get for Jerry this year?"
Marked from the Day That I was Born (ssol) Sat 9 Dec 06 15:04
Well, the choices are pretty obvious, as well as a few difficult to connect with.
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Mon 11 Dec 06 02:37
Heh. I never thought of it as a seasonal tune but what do I know. Several seasons with their reasons ...
Lightning in a Box (unkljohn) Mon 11 Dec 06 12:46
I was listening to a Half-Step just yesterday (not sure but maybe 10/2/72) and Jerry sang "Daddy sat down and died........"
Bryan Miller (bamfinney1) Mon 11 Dec 06 15:48
Whoa, we'll have to check that out.
Bryan Miller (bamfinney1) Mon 5 Mar 07 18:15
I always pictured the narrator "on tour" with this song. Cain, having his mark from the day he was born: born to travel, born to be outside "normal society." Cain was banished, "You will be a restless wanderer on the earth" (Genesis 4:12). Cain is impulsive. didn't think twice. Being impulsive and being banished from society are not necessarily bad either, but hardships are certainly unavoidable. The narrator then goes into the chorus, a shuffle about takin' off, getting out, "See ya, Toodle-oo!" This guy is happy about his "banishment" to be on the road, "I'm on my way, on my way!" The verse about sealing the silver mine makes me think about forgetting the past ("the past is just a goodbye") and getting on with the only thing that now makes sense: living in this out-of-sorts-reality away from the buzz and hum of normality. Cain was marked to be on the road. He traveled far and wide, so much so that he needed a retread. I just can't get away from the expeirence lots of folks must have had on tour. I like the nautical interpret on the third verse. The team work, no one can sail a ship like this by themselves. I remember learning how to paddle a conoe. Round and round in circles for some time til I got the hang of it. The styrofoam cueball reminds me of being high on LSD and thinking everything was hollow, there was air beneath the ground and street. We were walking on styrofoam. If you jumped too hard you'd break thorugh. In a land like that, you can't make too many plans ("we just ride"). And "no one's got the time." How important is time at a show anyway? This whole song seems to be a portrait of a man on tour using biblical metaphors. I also think it's wider than just being on tour, it's being on the bus in general. The whole bus is styrofoam. God, I could get off on everything being so dang flippy, flimsy, and surreal.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Mon 12 Mar 07 23:29
I'm new to The Well and am fascinated by the dissection here. When I think of "Mississippi Half-Step," I associate this song, more than any other, with Keith Godchaux's piano and why, during this period of The Dead, Jerry Garcia convinced the band to invite Donna and Keith to join. The song, more than any other Dead number I can think of, showcases Keith at his Southern honky-tonk piano best. I wonder if the lyrics--the "rock and rye"--were written partly to showcase his playing.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 13 Mar 07 00:39
Hey, Scott - welcome!
Lightning in a Box (unkljohn) Tue 13 Mar 07 06:37
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 13 Mar 07 12:35
Thanks for the warm greetings! I look forward to the discussions here and elsewhere.
Marked from the Day That I was Born (ssol) Tue 13 Mar 07 16:37
Again, very WeLLcome! This is a great place to chat.
delicious hot sugary love (izzie) Tue 13 Mar 07 18:14
Hi, Scott. Welcome!
Lightning in a Box (unkljohn) Tue 13 Mar 07 19:24
You just gotta poke around! Ooops, guess that should be in the Shakedown topic........
Gary Burnett (jera) Wed 14 Mar 07 11:02
David Gans (tnf) Wed 14 Mar 07 11:03
Scott is the author of a book that looks pretty interesting, "The Hippie Narrative." He's going to be interviewed about it in <inkwell.vue> next month.
David Dodd (ddodd) Wed 14 Mar 07 11:40
Hello Scott, and welcome--I'm enjoyng your postings very much.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 14 Mar 07 22:54
Thanks David and David. Hey, Gary. It's refreshing to talk about Dead lyrics in the same way creative writing students workshop submitted poems. (Imagine Robert Hunter sitting in the room, not allowed to speak as the discussion takes place. Ironically, in real life, true poet and master of ambiguity that he is, Hunter doesn't prefer to clarify, even when prompted for explanation.) And, yes, what a great opportunity to share my new book with others who have an avid appreciation for the social dynamics of the '60s and '70s counterculture. I'm looking forward to our discussion on this dynamic as seen through the great literature of the period. For what it's worth, I went to a birthday dinner tonight for my suddenly 29 year-old son. I asked him if he had heard of Salon.com, and without prompting, he said, "yeah, Salon.com, and Inkwell. I've heard of it." April 4-18, I've been told. I'll do my best Pacific Northwest Hippie Half-Step Back-to-the-Land Toodleloo! Scott
Gary Burnett (jera) Thu 15 Mar 07 05:52
I'm looking forward to your inkwell conversation, Scott. As well as Nick Meriwether's which is also next month! And I agree whole-heartedly about the centrality of Keith in the sound of Mississippi Half-Step.
Bryan Miller (bamfinney1) Fri 20 Apr 07 05:13
The Story of the Exiled Underdog The lyric is from Cain's perspective and follows the biblical story rather well. 1st Stanza: Cain had a "mark." In Genesis 4:15 this mark was form God and would protect him in his exile in the land of Nod (Genesis 4:16; a very interesting name for a land if I may say so). Abel "rolled loaded dice" and had an "ace behind his ear" because he offered the right sacrifice to God. He knew the secret of pleasing God; however, he did not share that info with his own brother, Cain. Abel didn't "think twice" about the position that would invariably put his brother in. This of course upset Cain to execute a murderous plot against his brotehr, Abel (Genesis 4:8). Chorus: So Cain is "on his way" to exile. He waves 'toodleloo" to Mississippi, stylin' out, half-step way. He wishes "good-bye" to his "baby" and "farewell" to those "old Southern skies." He crosses the "lazy river" into the West. 2nd Stanza: What Cain "left behind," the "silver mine" was the presence of God (Genesis 4:14), family, and everything he knew. He wandered on, "praying for better weather." He appealed to God for protection in this unfamiliar land of Nod (Genesis 4:14). Nontheless, it was a long trek. He "nailed a retread to his feet." (I've read about Hunter's coming to SF. It wasn't under the best circumstances. It's a story of hardship. But there's a rainbow at the end with its own pot of gold.) 3rd Stanza: Cain thought he had it all wrapped up. He had thought his ship came in, but becusae of his brotehr Abel, all that was gone: the sails, the afterdeck, even the planks and rails, gone. So "what's the use of callin' shots"? What's the use of trying to get ahead? Its all a poor excuse for a set up anyway: "cue ball's made of styrofoam and no one's got the time." So off Cain goes into exile-but he's making the most of it, doing the best he can. Which ain't too bad at all. And "Daddy" saw the whole thing coming-brought a tear to his eye just thinking about it. Once Cain gets out West, to the land of Nod, he'll find there's plenty of other exiled underdogs to hang with, plenty of other Cain's to pal around with. All he'll need is "a bed to lay his head and a little sympathy." And maybe, if Cain hangs on and holds it together long enough (or lets it fall apart beautifully) he'll met that gal and have his own family (Genesis 4:17a). Might even build a whole dang city for all those happy exiles (Genesis 4:17b). Enoch, Cain's son, has a pretty interesting Apocryphal book named after him (or written by him). Cain's other descendantss were the father's of those that play the flute and the harp. His name was Jubal (Genesis 4:21), from which we get our "jubilee" and jubilation. Not a bad history for a guy in exile for killing his brother, eh? The city the Dead built has no borders or boudaries, but only exiled underdogs have "got to callin' it home." So embrace this admixture exile. It's "the only thing he knows."
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