From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hurtin', Leavin' and Longin' (5)—How Far?

[a] How far?   RF
Spatial-temporal thinking meets love and longing this week on Round and Square, as Aaron Tippen and Buddy Brock introduce us to the intersection of memory and momentum.

 How it over you? 

This is a question that everyone with a broken heart and car keys has considered at some point in his or her life. Hell, it's something everyone with a bike or boots or a bus ticket has considered. Why does hurtin' follow us, no matter how fast we try to run from it?  I call it the physics of longing, and (perhaps a few weeks from now) we will consider a few equations.  Before that, though, we need to hear a few songs about walkin' or drivin' (someone) out of our memories.

Let's take a listen. As always, YouTube is most convenient for our purposes, but look away from the picture (or just move down the page). All that matters is the lyrics.  Pay close attention to these lines:

                     This road that's goin' nowhere
                     Just leads me on and on
                     As I ask myself with every step
                     Will I ever be alone?

The neurobiological issues behind this meeting of the frontal cortex and the limbic system (a major theme on Round and Square, as you may have noticed) are formidable. No matter how much we might will them away, the emotions seem to follow. I will have much more to say about these matters in our Sunday Hurtin' posts in the coming weeks.

Now read through the lyrics, and notice the rhetorical blending of distance and memory.

I Wonder How Far It Is Over You
—Aaron Tippin
(Aaron Tippin, Buddy Brock)

I parked my car beside the highway
And I didn't lock the doors
Left a note there with the keys
If it cranks, well friend she's yours

Then I struck out across Texas
Gonna walk it line to line
Now I'm halfway 'cross New Mexico
But you're still on my mind

This road that's goin' nowhere
Just leads me on and on
As I ask myself with every step
Will I ever be alone?

I wonder just how far
It is over you
Is there no place I go
That you don't come to?

'Cause when I left Tennessee
I thought we were through
Now I wonder how far
It is over you

[b] End of the road   RF
I was deep in California
When I finally made a friend
It was me and that old hobo
Till you showed up again

But he ran out of liquor
And I've run out of time
I'm standing by the ocean
But you're still on my mind

I'm staring at the water
So blue and deep and wide
Bet a man could lose a memory
Over on the other side

I parked my car beside the highway
And I didn't lock the doors
Left a note there with the keys
If it cranks, well friend she's yours
 ***  ***
As we transition to Chinese poetry, let us give Aaron Tippen and Buddy Brock (the songwriters) enormous credit for helping us along the path. Note the lines above, and remember that our narrator has journeyed from Tennessee down to Texas, through New Mexico, and on to California. I hope I don't have to tell you which ocean he is contemplating from that vantage point.
[c] A specific ocean   RF
Well, what is on the "other side" of the Pacific Ocean (when viewed from California)?

My point exactly.

China, Japan, and Korea are over there, on the other side. "Bet a man could lose a memory over on the other side" (in China, for example).

Now do you see where these blog entries are going? The only problem is that over in China (and Japan and Korea) people were not losing their painful memories, either, as we have seen in several Hurtin' posts this month.

Let's finish this week's post with a somewhat lighter poem from the oeuvre of the Tang dynasty master Bo Juyi (Bai Juyi). Let me remind you once more that the poems are meant to be juxtaposed—actually read against each other. They are not meant to strike exactly the same notes as the song lyrics (wouldn't that be dull indeed?)...

On a Winter's Evening—
A Late Return On "Level Spring" Road
Bo [Bai] Juyi (Tang Dynasty, 772-846)

The mountain road is formidable; the sun's rays slant down upon it
In a cold, smoky village, a raven perches on a frosty tree
My return will be long after nightfall, but such is not my concern
After drinking three warm cups of wine, I'll already be "home."

白居易  (唐 772-846)

熱飲三杯即是家 [1]

[1] 白居易(唐)《冬日平泉路晚归》选自全唐诗: 卷455.43.  Bo Juyi (Tang) "On a Winter's Evening—Returning Late on "Level Spring" Road"  Selected from The Complete Tang Poems, 455.43.  Translated (freely) by Robert André LaFleur

Sunday, June 5th 
The Heart That You Own
"There's lots of my heart...the heart that you own." Yes, there is more misery next Sunday, when Adam Smith and Karl Marx meet Dwight Yoakam to discuss the ownership of organs (so to speak).

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