Respect the Muse
By Dick Levon - 06/19/2001 - 05:34 PM EDT
© 2001, Dick Levon.
My name is Dick Levon. I am very excited to be writing for Muse’sMuse. I want to sincerely thank Jodi for this opportunity. It is truly an honor and privilege to engage in something I love to do. I love creating stuff, I love writing songs, and I love helping out this way.
So I venture into my first column. I stand upon the river banks of the Will of the Great Spirit. I drop in and surrender to the Flow. I must pray to the Muse to help me tell this story well so that you all won’t be bored to deathly tears and tell Jodi to “bring out the hook” to yank me off this site.
I have one intention here which is to ignite creativity and imagination. I want you to have a constant and reliable flow of creative “juice” that feeds all the images, avenues, directions, feelings, vistas, notes, words, phrases, melodies, and possibilities of life.
Where do I begin? Homer, one of our fellow story teller / poets, begins The Odyssey with these words, “The hero of the tale which I beg the Muse to help me tell…” and goes on, “This is the tale I pray the divine Muse to unfold to us. Begin it, goddess, at whatever point you will.” The Greeks knew all too well that the source of this creative stuff is the Goddess. So, get in touch with your awesome inner goddess.
Songwriting, like any creative endeavor, takes “heroic” efforts. It takes courage to create and put art into the world. There are no small leaps into the unknown realms of possibility. Songwriters are the “the artists” of our times. Constantly observant of life no matter what the cost. Compelled to bring into shape and form the glimmer of truth of one’s most intimate knowledge of life.
Do you remember your first creative experience? Think back. Do you remember the first time the Muses came to you and opened a vista of possibilities? I do. I remember the day, no, the exact moment when my imagination and creativity were ignited. I blame my mother and my father like most do from my generation. . My mother for her dreams for the future and my dad for his hands. Both never new laziness nor leisure like I do. God rests their weary souls.
I must have been three or four years old. My family and I were living in a small two bedroom post WWII “modern” duplex in Joliet, Illinois. While my father was breaking his back doing honest work in a polluted rubber products factory, my mom was raising us three kids. My father brought home sixty bucks every two weeks which explains the scarcity of toys and extras. Plenty of good food, clothes my mom often made, a house, two vital and optimistic parents wanting more for their children than they had. Thinking of those two, of the ordinary people of extraordinary times, I feel that weird blend of gratitude and grief.
Like I said, I remember the exact moment that my mother, my first Muse, ignited my imagination and creativity. She brought a brown cardboard box into my room. Sat it down in the middle of the floor. She took a large kitchen knife and began pushing the knife in and out of the box. I truly remember feeling dumbfounded until she said, “there, now you have a house with doors and windows.” I was playing with my blue policeman with a red motorcycle. “Look at this”, she said. Tying a string on the policeman and pulling him up through the “Police Station”, she said, “he can ride the elevator up to the top floor.” Two worlds existing side by side. The world of my room with the brown box and the world of all possibilities.
Creating to me is sitting at the intersection of these worlds. The world of what is and the world of what is possible. There are no better seats in the house as far as I am concerned.
I can not resist listening to the Muses. It is said they live on Mount Helicon in southern Greece. These nine daughters of Mnemosyne, daughter of Gaia, mother of all Gods and Goddesses, come from a very messed up family. Gaia married her son Uranus. Oh, yes! Imagine that. The Muses father, Zeus was the only surviving child of Rhea, whose first four kids were eaten by Cronos, who castrated his father/brother, Uranus, with hedge clippers. Ouch! Subsequently, Zeus was raised in a hidden cave on Crete by nymphs and goats. That explains why he was so messed up when he grew up. The Muses have great powers but their childhoods are really distressing. So they tend to be a tad unstable at times. This is not bad for them nor us. To the contrary, its quite good because that’s the source of their power.
That reminds me of a time when I was a kid. I was in the 6th grade and my parents took me to get my own dog. I wanted a Beagle. We went to an Animal Shelter and began the heart wrenching struggle of picking one to take home among dozens to leave behind. There was this one dog that had a sign on the cage, “Don’t put your hands in the cage”. Of course I thought that meant everyone but me and some how I was “so special” that I would be spared the inevitable. As I slowly put my hand in the cage, the Shepard lunged at me as I pulled my hand out of his hot wet breath. He was quite pissed off. I was appropriately embarrassed, frightened, and, most importantly, humbled.
There is a story about the Muses being “dissed” by this king, Pyreneus , after inviting the Muses out of the rain and into his home. He was so taken by their beauty and obsessed by them he “prepared to lay violent hands upon them” (Ovid, Metamorphoses, Penguin). I think we know what he had in mind.
The Muses took to wing, fled and escaped his assault but he was filled with “madness” and in a moment of possession, cried out, “Where you go, there I will go also!”. But he was really out of it and flung himself off a high tower and shattered his skull and died flopping around on the ground. What a way to go.
Well what are we to gather from this stuff? The message is simple and straight forward.
Don’t mess with the Muses. Don’t be “dissin’” the Muses. Don’t be so arrogant in the face of such obvious power (the sign on the dog cage). It can be intoxicating and many have been swept away in the same madness of the king.
Be humble and respect the Muses, that “divine” source of creative power that is consonant with the fabric of the Universe itself. It is the power that connects us to all things. Creativity is a blessing and gift in life. To me it is life itself, pulsating and expanding, on and on.
I recently asked Jodi, our fearless editor-in-chief, “just who is the Muse’s Muse”. In her very expedient and precise way she said, “I've often heard performers, singers, etc. say that they were inspired by their "Muse". Seems to me that songwriters are the ‘Muses to that Muse’... if that makes sense….The unknown quantity with a huge amount of talent to pass along to the person that ultimately gets out in front of the audience. It's sort of an homage to the songwriter in a way - the songwriter that for the most part, is the unsung hero backing many of the most famous artists out there.”
I said to her, “I like honoring the songwriter. I like how that feels.” And she said, “So do I. That's the entire philosophy behind the site, in fact. Songwriters are the inspirational and creative backing to the entire music industry - whether or not the music industry decides to acknowledge that fact. I certainly do. What would the music industry be without songs, after all?” Imagine that!
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