Oct 5, 2011

Heart And Intuition

Earlier tonight, I heard Steve Jobs talk about the first time he learned of his cancer diagnosis. It was at a commencement address at Stamford University six years ago. Watching it was, for me, not so sentimental as it was invigorating. Jobs' tone was a mix of poe-faced acceptance and angry defiance. It was good to came across this speech, when there's so many choices swirling inside and out.

"Within You Without You" could very well be my theme right now. The man who wrote it faced some scary choices, as the first part of George Harrison: Living In The Material World (aired on HBO tonight) showed. The episode explored the personal and professional sides of Harrison, with contributions from a variety of sources, both archival and recent. Sir Paul is featured, along with Ringo, Astrid, Pattie, Yoko, George himself (taken from older interviews), producer George, and Eric Clapton (and weirdly, little to no John). The Scorcese-directed work is like a massive jigsaw of odds and sods about the Beatles' guitarist, portraying him as complex and yet "black and white", isolated and yet social, spiritual and yet practical. The first part ended with the strains of Harrison's beautifully mellifluous voice singing about his guitar gently weeping.

Harrison was always thought of as "The Quiet Beatle"; I thought of him as a gorgeous, thought-heavy (/heavy thought) man who composed tuneful melodies and had that troublesome wife. He was many things at once, which is what makes him such an endearing (and enduring) figure to so many. Harrison didn't possess any of the traits the general public perceived about the bands' members; he didn't have John's mouthiness or Paul's bossiness. Indeed, Harrison didn't have any kind of identifiable public persona one could look at and plant a flag beside. But that was his charm. His very opaqueness, one that perhaps hid a perceived sensitivity and delicate curiosity, twinned with an iron will and steely resolve, make him a beloved figure who has floated past the creaking shackles of rock and roll nostalgia.

I thought back to my first night in New York, when I had my face-to-face with Yoko Ono; the mischievous smile she had hid an innate kindness. I thought back to seeing Paul McCartney at Yankee Stadium, and the deep shock that sat in the pit of my stomach as I heard his unmistakable voice jauntily belting out the words to "Magical Mystery Tour." I remember many years ago when Ringo Starr took his seat two rows behind me at The Met. New Yorkers barely noticed, but those who did offered an outstretched hand.

The Beatles were and remain as ubiquitous to culture as Apple computers. My best friend growing up was a Paul (named after Macca), and grew up consistently using Macs. (He is, to this day, an Apple devotee.) When the huge metal boxes with the tiny screens first appeared in elementary school, I joined the club devoted to exploring and learning more about them. I was the only girl in that club. Years later, I remember the butterflies that flew around my stomach as I got my first (but not last) Power Mac, and later, my first Apple laptop, and finally, an iPod (I still have my first generation model), iPod shuffle (which I won), and iPhone (the first version of which was stolen in New York City, in fact). Apple products have become so seamlessly integrated with my daily life so as to be inseparable from its functioning. When The Beatles finally had their work made available on iTunes, it felt like something -gravity? -had shifted completely. One great cultural touchstone was finally connecting to another. The meeting felt natural, good, and right.

Harrison and Jobs may've not had much in common on the surface, but they were stealth figures shaping and moulding a new language in modern culture. And their names are forever linked, however contentiously. Tonight I flipped on CNN to hear Jobs delivering these words in 2005:
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out what you really want to do. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition; they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is truly secondary.
Amidst tonight's protests, announcements and memorials, one thing rings clear tonight: life is so short. So very short. Remember. Cherish. "Within You Without You" -- there's a tune, and it keeps playing, on and on.

We were talking
About the love that's gone so cold.
And the people who gain the world
And lose their soul,
They don't know, they can't see -
Are you one of them?

When you've seen beyond yourself,
Then you may find
Peace of mind is waiting there.
And the time will come
When you see we're all one,
And life flows on within you and without you.
-George Harrison

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