You’ve probably seen those “Life is good” tee-shirts. Maybe some of you own one. A dear friend of mine abhors them, and I think her abhorrence has to do with 1) the ridiculously overly simplified message 2) the faded, pseudo “weathered” quality and bad cut of the tee-shirt, and 3) the bad font and design used. (I’ll add the evidence to my left as an exhibit for the prosecution.)
But let’s stick with the watered down and nearly meaningless phrase, “Life is good” for a moment longer. Most people I know would say that Life is a lot of things. Kind of like soul, perhaps? George Clinton knew how complicated soul was, when he wrote, “What is soul? I don’t know. Soul is a ham hock in your corn flakes.” Soul is a lot of things, apparently, some unexpected, perhaps tasty, and surely poetic.
And now let us turn in our dusty lunatics hymnal to John Dee Graham, another musical scholar, about another related overused and vapid expression (“It’s all good”). John Dee Graham says, “Anyone who tells you that it’s all good is either an idiot or a liar. Because it’s not all good.” (John Dee Graham is the lovable crank who ad libs, in a live performance of a song of his that was used for that firefighter movie with John Travolta, “Cheer up Travolta!” But that recording was before Travolta’s son died, so I don’t know if JDG would say the same thing so glibly today. Still, I doubt he’d say, “Life is good.”)
Life is complicated. Even that is an empty platitude, because now the word “complicated” has been simplified and watered down by that other phrase that’s all over the fracking place, “It’s complicated.” I see it most often posted under relationship status on Facebook. Yeah, life is complicated. Relationships are complicated. Sudoku puzzles (for me) are complicated. Folding an origami crane is complicated.
But for fun, let’s presume for a moment that Life is good. Does that mean that Death is bad? (Is death the opposite of life?) Isn’t it all really a big circle, a wheel, or something round, that continues, like Ouroboros (I had to do a google search for that name), the snake eating its own tail, forever and ever? When we can unattach enough to be detached, isn’t that a more complicated and also more accurate way of looking at it all?
To quote another musician on possibly related topics, or at least the recycling of carbon (and life):
“Come down from the cross, we can use the wood.”
“We’re all gonna be just dirt in the ground.”
I’ve been around a lot of death this year. I don’t know the answer to these questions. I know about the deer body we saw decomposing across the street in the Clifton Gorge park. It melted pretty fast. The other day, I wondered if my precious Houdini, who we buried in 2007, is more than bones now.
What about death? I want a tee-shirt.