George Carlin Has Achieved Philosopher StatusPosted: January 9, 2011
I have been on a George Carlin kick lately. I have been a fan since I was a teenager, but lately he has entered a very respected plateau in my book, posthumously.
His book, Last Words, was given to me over the holidays. It is fairly light reading throughout, as most celebrity bios are. But there is an aspect here that interests me. When did he shift gears? His book clarifies that until the mid to late 1950’s, George was fairly conservative. But as the 60’s began to heat up, in his words “what was inside had to become, outside.” In other words, his true feelings about the world began to change, and his critique began to grow sharper. His friendship with Jack Burns and Lenny Bruce helped to move this along, but this is when George became interesting.
As a result, we have begun to watch many of his HBO specials, mostly from his last decade. And it his views on death, religion and children, that vibrate with me the most. It is his ability to remove the veil of bullshit that I love the best.
I do not believe in genius. I think genius is something we all have locked away in us. But few people ever unloose the chains that hold what is inside us. My whole life has been about unlocking these chains. But I do not have the balls as George did, to stand on stage and air them out in public. This blog has been the closest to letting out my thoughts. Through music and art, I can express the deeper images and feelings that parade through my subconscious, but those who know me, know that even with a guitar in my lap, I say almost nothing into a microphone when on stage.
Mr. Carlin recounts the things people say to you after a loved one has died. “Well, old Bob is up there in heaven looking down on us and smiling.” He says that people never like to say that maybe he is down there looking up at us and screaming. Or “if there is anything we can do for you?” in which case George suggests you put the assholes to work.
When my father passed away, I was 23 years old. At the service, I separated myself from the crowd because of all the nonsense I was overhearing from other relatives. I wanted to sit quietly. This was a defining moment for me. So I sat off to the side in this chapel, and closed my eyes. My uncle, my fathers’ brother, sat next to me. Now this particular uncle had always had a difficult relationship with me. But here he sits down, puts his hand on my knee and says “now we won’t be strangers.” Would you believe me, that after that I never heard another word from him. He survived my dad by 12 years, but never a phone call or a word of inquiry. And I knew in that moment that what he was saying was to make himself feel better, not me.
Another thing that George Carlin exposes to the light of truth is religion. All religion. It is not the need to have faith in something, but the fantasies that are supported by it. His review of the 10 commandments is particularly brilliant.
What I feel at this time in my life that what is important to maintain is the sense of mystery. Life is a mystery. Once I begin to act as if “I know,” then the mystery vanishes. And all the phrases, and morals that we bring to the way we do things, especially those things that involve our behavior with other people, it is important that we practice sincerity. And sincerity is difficult. It is difficult because we have not really been educated to be sincere, We have been taught to lie. Never say what you mean. Never express what you feel. If someone else can be blamed, then so be it. Truth is elusive.
As I grow older, I feel this deep need to be honest. Not just with you, but most importantly with myself. And this requires the practice of quieting myself so that I can hear the bullshit that is going through my own my mind. If I listen carefully, I can actually identify those voices. It is the fears and anxieties of my parents speaking through me. It is the condescensions of my school teachers when I am going through a difficult time, or taking on something new and difficult.It is the sound of doubt that echoes through the chambers of my soul.
But recognizing it is a good thing. It isn’t pretty, but the truth never is. And it is the truth about myself that I begin with. Once this level of honesty is struggled and maintained with myself, then the usual package of bullshit that pours forth from every orifice of the world, is easier to dismiss. And George Carlin was magnifying glass, assisting us in the painful, funny and realistic view point. And that is why I give him a place of honor at the dais of my heart. And truthfully, it is a pretty small table.