Just this morning, I was trying to give an account of how weirdly moved I was by the whole thing when Sarah chimed in to help me out: "It only worked on an emotional level?" Yes, sort of. "Trick-motional?" I suppose so. There's the admonition to love the life that we're living, the sound of a man of color asserting he'll be the President one day interspersed with the hope of walking on water, prevailing in a lion's den, and being possessed of a brand new spirit with all these loving interactions between people of differing class and ethnicity in historic scenes that definitely didn't actually go that way. And as my heart goes back to the teenage feeling, I see a white headbanger--I knew quite a few back then--being crowd-surfed in a bar and held up to a window where he exchanges an affectionate glance of celebratory solidarity with a brown-skinned woman across the street. This is as I'm still processing the white woman getting all free doing the robot which evokes, for me, the video for "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic force. I got weepy just trying to talk about it. Sarah listened and watched as I held the laptop in the bathroom but was largely unmoved. I guess that's what I get for being born in the sixties. I'd very much like to have a conversation with the Don Draper who conjured the thing.
"The Cult!" Stu and I exclaim almost simultaneously. And just as we realize it's a mashup underway Dory weighs in to assure us it's Flo Rida's "Good Feeling" that's going on. I'll bet this exchange is happening in millions of households; that it's all, in fact, calbrated. I make a mental note to educate Dory sometime soon concerning what 1985's "She Sells Sanctuary" once did for a sixteen-year-old Nashvillian on his way to marching band practice.
Sarah listens, and she's happy for any and everyone's creative breakthroughs. But she generally views these expensive productions as a waste of perfectly good emotion. "Who broke through to what?" she'll likely ask. She bristles, prophetically I'd say, over the fact that the image of Martin Luther King Jr., for instance, could be sold to Apple to sell products cobbled together by people crushed by death-dealing working conditions. I don't have a "But..." to follow or qualify this sense of dis-ease except to register a few readings/findings/thoughts that have arisen in the days following.
I once asked my Comp II class to write out an account of an instance in which they believe they heard their own voice in someone else's. It could be something someone said, but it could also be a song, a film, a book, a visual, or a performance in which someone said what they wanted to say but differently or better or in a way that somehow uniquely got through to them. The prompt is usually preceded by a presentation of Bob Dylan's "Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie." We all have a Woody Guthrie of one kind or another, I tell them. When I deliver this particular assignment again, I believe I'll follow it up somehow with this from Robert Pinsky's Democracy, Culture and the Voice of Poetry: “What makes us all one—and what makes us all different—seems deeply involved with a voice: a voice that is both imagined and actual; both inner and social; both mine and someone else’s; that separates me and includes me. It will not do to sentimentalize this voice.”
I believe Sarah's often more alive than I am to the dangers--the cruelty even--of such sentimentalization. I see so many of my own hopes and dreams reflected back to me in this dadgum beer commercial, but there's a difference between getting choked up over scenes of racial/class harmony and giving--or receiving--a voice. Fantasy or lived relationship. Hyped-up, momentary feel-good versus actually paying attention to a living someone. One can pass a lifetime mistaking the two. It will not do to sentimentalize.
And this might be a completely ridiculous stretch, but Pinsky ends his book with Edward Arlington Robinson's "Eros Turannos" whose cadence--if you can believe it--slightly resembles that of Flo Rida's "Good Feeling." I don't know what this says about the way I process things, but I think it got through to me all the more thanks to the commercial. As I read it alongside Flo Rida, the one somehow enriches the other, but Robinson's offering is so sad; revivifyingly so, after a Super Bowl.