After the two years beneath the gray clouds of the pandemic, a-ha came to town with the halos of seasoned veteran wizards of pop music. They entered the world’s music scene like brilliant comets four decades ago with the catchy hit ‘Take on Me’ and continued to travel into the universe all the more brilliantly over time. Indeed, age could not wither them away, nor custom could stale their musical alchemy.
With the opening song ‘Sycamore Leaves’ with its characteristic guitar riffs and heavy drum beats, a-ha came on the stage. The fans were instantly enchanted by their charismatic appearances, like the Three Musketeers of Pop. Magne Furuholmen (Keyboards), Morten Harket (Vocals), and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy (Guitars) were now veterans of the music industry. They were all methodically professional and effortlessly entertaining to present what the fans wanted the most by coming to their concert after two bleak lockdown years. They gave all they got by mainly playing the songs from the first and second albums because those two albums were best known and loved by their US-based fans. The result was the touchy-feely, feel-good atmosphere of the concert. Viktor E. Frankl, the father of Logotherapy, acknowledged that the moments of pleasure in appreciating arts equal the happiness in finding the meaning of life. That night at the Wiltern, a-ha gave the happy moments of life to their fans as their music pleased our senses and sensibilities, allying our passion for what our existential life outside the concert hall had brought to us just for the moments.
Music is the most potent magic in conjuring up the memories in the phantasmagorical display of images of the misty past, vivid and vital, all adrift then aglow in condensed particular energy, becoming nostalgia in the sweet melancholy of romantic solitude manifested in the music of a-ha. Looking at the audience, I thought that we all came to go back to our days of innocence when the pleasure of listening to a-ha’s music on the radio and records required no dreadful existential worries of the world. That night at the Wiltern, a-ha transported us back to our memory lane in the soft sweet melodies of the past and then to the present, lingering in the heart’s windows and staying in its garden forever with the triumphant ‘Take on Me’ ending on a high note in the encore.
There is an excellent article in the newest issue of BBC History Revealed about how the Industrial Revolution has upended the fundamental social and cultural structures of the world as the French Revolution has changed political and economic systems of the world as we take for granted nowadays. Epochal changes are a juggernaut of our human civilizations as a process akin to a caterpillar turning mulberry leaves into fine silk despite seismic transitions ensuing from such transformation. A terse army motto of “No pain, no gain” rings true as a universal objective reality, whether or not you embrace it with open arms.
Yet, amid the mountainous waves of indomitable revolutions and a Levitan that dictates new norms and conventions in every aspect of life from clothing to parlance, one thing never changes, and that is a life of a worker, spending most of the day outside the home with strangers for livelihood. For instance, a person whose labor is paid is not entirely free from the whims and caprice of the employer for fear of losing jobs. There are still employers whose common sense is inconsistent with the progressive minds that today’s employees are not modern-day indentured servants or maids, if not those ancient slaves under Roman mastership. It would be anachronistic and unfair to compare the slaves with free citizens working for money, but a provision of service for subsistence puts the progeny on the same continuum.
Come to think of it, now I know why neurologist/psychiatrist/linguist Steven Pinker, aka the Rational Thinker, disagrees with Descartes’ dualism that the body and the mind are separable and Rousseau’s theory of the Blank State of the mind. We can’t be all workaholics without being personal, like cyborgs at work. Maybe that’s why nowadays, many self-checkouts have proliferated in retail and manufacturing sectors. Mind you, that the Luddites were not brute, ignorant anti-machinists destroying the factory machinery in 19th century England. They were somewhat naive angry workers who repelled against the sordid working conditions they were placed like human-like automation. The class distinctions demarcated by the types of work have become new social hierarchy even after the revolutions as aforesaid.
Reading a section featuring a small, pleasant Q&A type of interview with a writer in The New York Times Book Review on restful weekends gives me a kind of voyeuristic fillip to be privy to the life of the writer; moreover, the usual question of whom to invite for dinner is the gist of such small pleasure. I’ve found it quite stimulating to think about my own list of people to have dinner with. Therefore, I have herein drawn up my own list of invitees to confabulate with. Here’s my list of guests:
Eleanor Roosevelt: The paragon of the First Lady of the United States with Intelligence that ministered to her moral character, she put her philosophy into action by actively participating in social services. Besides, Mrs. Roosevelt possessed a polished but common sense of humor and wits communicative to people of all social strata with her timeless adage: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Joan of Arc: The Virgin of Lorraine, The Patron Saint of France… Such are the epithets of this patriotic French maiden who was burned alive on the counts of witchery and treason, which was of course conspiracy concocted by the French ecclesiastical dignitaries collaborating with the English against whom Joan of Arc fiercely and courageously fought to victory. She was neither a religious fanatic, nor a hallucinated mooncalf, nor a certifiable schizophrenic. She might be a simple peasant woman but a courageous, headstrong, and smart woman of faith who did not even protect her face during battles with the English amid the attacks of sharp arrows, axes, and lances. No wonder did Mark Twain praise the Virgin Knight forthwith: “Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it.” Besides, her simplicity of faith excelled the pomposity of ecclesiastical knowledge by saying thus: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they are just one thing, and we should not complicate the matter.” I can learn many things from Joan as a True Model Woman who embodied Intelligence, Femininity, Courage, and Faith.
Marilyn Monroe: Born as Norma Jean Baker, she was not a blonde bimbo whose physical attractiveness belied her ceaseless pursuit of knowledge concomitant with her pursuit of the meaning of life she desperately wanted to ascertain. Monroe enrolled in evening college courses in New York City when she had no schedules during the daytime. Behind her pretty persona of a movie star, there was a profound shadow of existentialist. Also, Monroe’s down-to-earth personality and kind nature would make her a lovely company striking up a convivial conversation at the table full of strangers.
Jane Birkin: Her bohemian look – that effortlessly sensual but charmingly delightful facade with simple French Chic style is always timeless and boundless, appealing to Womankind imbuing with a sense of emulation of the style. In fact, such qualities of Birkin had one time convinced me that she was French. She seems to wear sexuality like she’s wearing her favorite set of perfumes, which is never vulgar nor degrading. Once a shy English girl is now a sensuous cosmopolitan woman demonstrating admixture of art and individuality in the most fashionable way. She will be a delightful addition to my lunchtime table.
In view of the above, my guests of honors are an eclectic company of women, past or present, surprisingly and strictly non-professional authors who make a living by writing only, although I did not intend it to be that way. Or maybe my preconception of professional authors – especially women – as highly volatile artists with inflated egos, dazzling intelligence, divine beauty, and impressive achievements might have played a vital role in excluding unconsciously any of them from my circle of companions. But so did Michelangelo; he was never befriended with his contemporary Leonardo Da Vinci, who in fact lambasted his untidiness as a sculptor in comparison with a baker. Nor did Michelangelo make friends with other famous artists. Instead, he was a friend of some obscure artisan who helped around various artists by doing sorts of drudgery. It all boils down to the fact that having a good company of kindred spirits can do a favorable service to your soul, making you feel charitable and magnanimous, so much so that you can- to quote the swashbuckling Oscar Wilde- “forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.”