American Avatar (3) 1969, pp 18-19,
by Mel Lyman and Wayne Hansen
I'll never forget the day my father took me aside...
I'll never forget the day my father took me aside, the way he always did when he had something to say to me that was of importance to him. We sat down on the back steps, he fumbled around a little bit, pulled out a cigarette, and said, "You know, son, a college education is a valuable thing, and you should start thinking about it now, because I'll never have the money to send you to a good college, but they do have scholarships now, they didn't have so many when I was your age, and if you work hard at your studies, it's possible you can get one. So give it some thought."
I gave it some thought, about thirty seconds worth, then I finished mowing the lawn and went off to throw firecrackers at toy soldiers in a sandpile. What a gas, sand flying all over the place, bodies falling, just like a real war in miniature. I never worried about going to college. I was the smartest kid in school. And I was right, I got a scholarship to a prestigious prep school and then a scholarship to a university whose name has become synonymous with higher education in America. It was easy, they came looking for you. A famous college. Big deal. When does something happen around this place? I learned a lot in college, I learned that reading Plato and categorizing his levels of consciousness didn't do a thing for me, but that being Socrates, now that would be something. I loved to see the little English professor dance around the stage and get all excited and get you all excited because a huge green knight on a great green charger rode into King Arthur's Round Table at Christmas and challenged the most honest man in the place to take a swipe at him. And I hated sitting in a huge dreary room at exam time and being forced to define the Green Knight's role in the poem, because I knew all about the Green Knight, I loved him, he was outrageous and bigger than life, I didn't want to cramp him inside some literary closet. But you had to do it if you wanted a diploma, and you wanted a diploma to become whatever it was you wanted to become, and if you didn't have one, well, you'd just be out of luck, that's all. But to hell with it, you were something now, and you were so filled with it you wanted everybody to know. Having enough to eat couldn't be worth such a long and dull education. One day 1 just didn't go back. I never even told them I was leaving. And how do you explain that to your poor father who graduated from high school at the bottom of the depression, worked in the Merchant Marine to get by until the war came along, and finally, after sixteen years, managed to pull together enough credits to get a degree. You can understand that he might be just a little confused and unsympathetic about what you were doing, even though it was all the world to you,
What does it look like to him? The chance of a lifetime thrown out the window for youthful kicks. It breaks his heart, everything he ever worked for is blown down the road to his oldest memories of his son as a promising young student, and his memory turns bitter against the reality of the present, not one dream fulfilled, that for which he worked his life out, and still does, means nothing to his one creation, his child.
And this one experience is the experience of many. Again and again college students are making demands of their parents and of the institutions their parents created to maintain the society and its security. These demands are so large and outrageous that they can have nothing to do with what is really wanted. Give them one thing and they ask for more, pass a new ruling to stop a student walkout and next week they take over the switchboard and shout obscenities at the trustees who call in to see what's happening. There's no end to it, and there can be no end. America is eating its security alive, just to get on to something new. A generation that sweated to establish a national abundance stands aghast as its children devour the old goals like cannibals after a battle. "Give us meat," they shout, so you set meat out on the table and they yell, "Potatoes, we want potatoes!" They don't know what they want, but they know instinctively that a real and exciting moment in time occurs only when they ask for more than can be given, when they force some stodgy old college president to call out the cops or the national guard against his better judgment and his liberal sentiments, when something happens that attracts the television cameras of the world and brings them and what they're saying into the homes of an entire nation. Then is the moment, and it was all for that, although hardly anyone is conscious of it.
But the damn trouble with all of these things is that you actually can get what you want The people who run the colleges now are by and large such liberal wishy-washies that they either quickly agree with the students demands or, after a serious enough threat to their security, finally give in. The establishment has gotten smart, they don't crucify you anymore, they accept you to death. Everybody's so fair and understanding, there's hardly anything left to rebel against. It's revolting. What with all these believers in nonviolence running around, you can't even get up a good fight anymore. Take the war in Vietnam issue for example. We didn't want to fight in it because it was unfair. So we turned in our draft cards, we refused to be inducted, we had big anti-war demonstrations, we worked really hard to turn flabby old President Johnson into an Adolph Hitler, and look what's happened, some dull and pointless peace talks, a couple of trials for draft evasion which will go on forever with nobody getting hurt, and a President who will probably end the war as soon as it's convenient. Sure, a few slant-eyed foreigners are still getting the shaft, a few pink-cheeked American boys are getting their nuts shoved up their kidneys, but so what? If it wasn't happening there, it'd be happening here, so what's the difference? There was a time when you could get off on this stuff, but that time is past and gone, every dingbat in the country wants to love his fellow man these days, why even television is sympathetic, those guys covered the Democratic Convention like they were on our side! And have you dug the commercials? Spades all over the place, they've even got a couple of serials with spades starring in them. And there's one that's all about a darkie couple and their domestic life. Everything we were out to set straight five years ago has been absorbed by the system. The only people worried about nigs on TV are the color television makers. They're worried because they figure nobody will pay good money to watch a purple nigger when for a lot less they can see him in living black and white. So the revolution is over, gang, there are already some places in this country where you can blow dope right in the streets, there's just nothing left worth fighting for, maybe a few details to clean up, that's all, and some goody-goody is always around to do that. What ever happened to those good old injustices that used to get us so mad? We used to complain because we were too restricted, we threw a couple of tantrums and now we can do anything we damn please. Freedom was our rallying cry, colored folks wanted to be free to work, young people wanted to be free to have a good time, perverts wanted to be free to corn hole each other, but nobody can really get into freedom anymore, because everybody's got their cork up their ass, happy as a pig in shit, everybody's been bought off for whatever their little price was, so we obviously have to come up with something new.
What could you do to get a rise out of somebody these days? Do you know the other day I called a guy with a big nose a dirty kike and he invited me to his house for dinner? And these Yids don't even eat Kosher anymore. It's so hard to get angry at them because you can understand they've had it rough in the past and they really just want to be like everyone else. I can really understand that, because some of my best friends are Jewish people and they're all right by me.
But anyway, things don't look very promising on the revolution scene, looks like we turn out to be the Pepsi Generation after all. Wait a minute! Assassination! Naw, there's not even anybody around worth shooting. Suppose you shot ol' friendly Dickie, everybody would have a good cry and pretend he was somebody great and it would all be over in a few weeks. I just don't know where to turn anymore, nothing turns me on, loud music is a bore, nudity sucks, drugs are for kids, dirty words don't raise an eyebrow, hating your parents is sick, I can't remember what the establishment IS, I feel sorry for cops, free love is empty, hippies are common, demonstrations sell lots of newspapers, there just aint nothin wild left to DO anymore. Guess I'll settle down and make some money.
That revolution is over and we never got what we really wanted because what we really want is . . . is unexpressable. It's so big, it's so outlandish, that you can never get your hands on it. And once you've seen it, it drives you mad to get back to it. It's got nothing to do with any of these things of the material world, there are no rights, no freedoms that can be granted to make it yours. And having to live without it on this stinking excuse for a world leaves everything here empty and without meaning. Even suicide can't end the longing for such a thing. All that's left is living without it, searching for it, maybe even having it close around tempting you always further on, driving you insane because of its inaccessible proximity.
For awhile you can hang its label on some thing you can touch or see, but then there's nowhere left to find it, for it is in itself intangible, it is the pure essence of life and it can't be bought or owned or had in any way. It's quality is freedom, it is free of you no matter who you are. And life on earth without it is a bore. You're a bore and I'm a bore and we all make each other sick we're so dull after knowing that simple thing. I want that essence to fill me up, I want that so badly that I would break all the laws of God and Man, I would kill if that would do it. And I've searched inside myself for it and it's not there and I've searched the world for it and it's not there, but I know that it exists. It drives me mad.
There's one guy who's always talking about it, and says he's very close to it all the time and that's Mel Lyman. Everytime I think about him and see those pictures of him in the Avatar it really pisses me off because he's got some kind of edge on it, or at least he claims to. My guess is that he's fakin' it, that it's no more real for him than it is for me. Some people are good fakers, and although I've never been too good at it myself, I can see that that must be how he does it. Well, that's groovy, man, if he wants to lie to himself like that, well, it's his trip, right? But why the hell does he have to shout it all over the place? "As Christ appearing in this modern age. . .", that pompous bastard! Hey, I'm Christ too fellah, we all are, right gang, we're all Christ, so big deal, one guy has always got to make a big stink about it and shove it down everybody's throat, Christ was humble, you know, Mel Lyman, and I'm humble and you're a conceited sonofabitch so maybe you're not Christ after all, how about that? But that's not right, I mean we're all equal, and you've got just as much right to be Christ as I have, Mel, but why don't you just cool it, man, I mean the whole thing is so absurd, I mean it's really ridiculous, right? Christ in the ol' U.S. of A., what a funny idea, ha, ha, funny, isn't it. Why aren't you laughing, why don't you say something you cheap prick? Christ? You're Christ on a fucking crutch! Look, I don't really mean that, I mean I love Mel Lyman just like I love everybody in the world. Love, that's what it's all about, right, we love our fellow man and he loves us back and everything is real and groovy.
Maybe the guy is just a kook, you know, kinda funny in the head, psychological problems from when he was a kid, hung up on his mother or something. It's the freaks like that who've spoiled the whole country. Just when things are open and getting together, some nut decides he's got more truth, whatever that is, and so he runs off and forms a community someplace and they make trinkets and they just shut themselves off from everybody and live away in their phony little paradise on some Fort Hill someplace, but they die, just like everybody else they end up dead some day, so what's so great about that?
Certainly you can justify him historically, it all fits into the pattern of recent history, Kierkegaard, Neitzsche, the Industrial Revolution, the two World Wars, and now the threat of Nuclear Disaster, all the factors there to make it possible for a man to stand up and claim to be the spirit of the Divine returned to transform the world. He doesn't seem to be terribly bright, though, some of his writing is abysmal. No creative writer who knew what he was about would have allowed some of those writings to appear. Many are just too amateurish. And his familiarity with form and technique seems very limited. Oh, he makes rude attempts at classical forms, very poor imitations of some of the greats, but often the content is truly repulsive. If they were going to send us a Christ, you'd think they could have put together something a little more acceptable. Some of his earlier pieces, the style is infuriating, and those capitalized WORDS! Oh, the wretch, let's crucify him quick before he irreparably botches the English Language.
I've always stood up for those who have taken a chance to try something new, to experiment in new forms of expression, I wrote some pretty strange poetry myself at one time, but I was really disappointed at one of the concerts they put on, the Lyman Family, Mel Lyman's bunch. I layed out five bucks for an evening's entertainment and they just sat around up there and made excuses and I put out that money to hear some music. They're musicians, so why didn't they play something? They could at least have done some old Jug Band numbers, Jim Kweskin could have done that, but they didn't do anything except fool around and finally they showed this dull movie directed by the great Mel Lyman with just some guy sitting around the table looking bored or sad or something and, Jesus, you know, this guy Mel Lyman says he's Christ, well, he cheated me out of five bucks, and I say he's a crook.
You may not believe this, but I was brought up a Roman Catholic, no, really, I was, and I really believed in Jesus and the priests and all and even now that I'm a confirmed atheist, there are still some remnants of that past left in me I suppose and I would really like to see the Christ come back and make things right again, but he'd never act the way Mel Lyman does. Christ was a beautiful man, full of love and kindness, he never hurt people, he was always very gentle, and that Mel Lyman is just awful, the way he taunts people and challenges them and is so bigoted. He says he's Christ and it's wrong to say that if it's not true and I know what Christ is and he's a dirty liar, he's not Christ, he's not! Oh, dear God, please forgive my sin for even hating one little person, but I only do it because he lies about being your Blessed and Holy Son.
Look, I don't care how many disciples he's got, they're probably the same kind of asshole he is. A bunch of weak people who arc afraid to stand up for their rights, I understand he treats them like slaves. You know, they've lived in the middle of Roxbury, right in the black section, for three years and not once have they used any of their money or time to aid those poor people there. Among them they have several college degrees and a good deal of training and they could really help out some of the Negroes in that area, but instead they serve this guy and worship him like a god, it's just disgusting with all those starving children around there and all those unwed mothers. A real Christ would put himself to work on something like that, not some phony world-saving mission. He's just power hungry, he'd like the whole world worshipping him the way his foolish followers do, and then he'd just sit back and act fat, have sex with a lot of women because they thought he was Christ and probably with a lot of men too, you know a lot of those pictures of him he looks very like a homosexual. Christ was a little different maybe, but he wasn't a queer.
He just really makes me sick, that's all, sitting up there in his ivory tower, the proud bastard, the smug little prick, doesn't let anything really get to him. Anybody could be Christ if nothing ever happened to them. I'd like to punch that self-important son of a bitch right in the fucking nose. That proud and phony fucker, I hate his stinking guts. I wish Mel Lyman didn't exist.