Uncle Hyena (unclehyena) wrote,
Uncle Hyena

Intransitive and Transcendant

Intransitive and Transcendent

Rock and roll: verb, intransitive. 1) To create, reproduce or dance to rock and roll music. 2) To achieve a momentary, deliberate, and ecstatic loss of control, usually in a context of defiance, imprudence, or violence.

Lao Tse would have understood. In fact, Lao Tse DID understand; the anachronism isn't relevant.

A friend of mine recently used the verb "to rock and roll" in an article intended for a Japanese language publication. His unfortunate translator, whose English was non-idiomatic and whose grasp of American culture was negligible, couldn't translate the phrase. To his chagrin, my friend found that he couldn't, either.

"Sex! Drugs! Rock and Roll!"
Student protest chant, U.S.A., circa 1968

Shortly after Irish actor Kenneth Brannagh arrived in Los Angeles, he took it into his head that he wanted to go skiing. He drove into the mountains, found a ski resort, rented equipment, and rode the lift to the top of the "advanced" slope. At the moment he aimed himself down the course and pushed off, his entire experience with skiing consisted of having strapped on the skis. He speaks of feeling the "light behind his eyes" and of hearing himself say that he was too stubborn to fall-- and he didn't. At the bottom of the hill, he turned in the skis, and then he drove back to Los Angeles.

"Rock and Roll!"-
Unofficial U.S. Army war cry, Southeast Asia, circa 1968
Usually associated with firing an automatic weapon

In 1989, I was 20 miles into an 80-mile day on a cross-country bicycle trip when I was overtaken by a thunderstorm. I was wet, cold, and generally miserable. My basic impulse was to set up a temporary shelter, wait out the rain, then find a phone and call for an evacuation. Instead, I waited for the edge of the front to pass, then got back on the bicycle and resumed my course. As I mounted the bike, I was laughing.

"Rock and roll," as a toast, sans exclamation point, is or can be virtually identical to the toast, "C'est la Guerre!" made on the eve of a battle. Of course, "C'est la Guerre" can also be used as a toast on the day after a battle, in which case it has another meaning altogether.

The music started in the 1950's. It wasn't just loud, it was raucous, and proud of it. It was a prepackaged party crasher; it was music to get in trouble by. By the mid-60's, the attitude behind the music had taken on an identity of its own and become recognizable when there was no music to be heard.

With reference to my friend and his Japanese companion, from a Japanese cultural context, rock and roll is insane and horrifying. Of course, in the United States, it's just as insane-- but it's an insanity which flirts with being (without becoming) admirable and respectable.

To rock and roll is to lose yourself in the moment at hand, to become what you are doing, whether what you are doing is skiing or bicycling or dancing or killing or making music. And that means to truly lose yourself: to abandon all self-consciousness, and all thought of consequences. If you are thinking about what you are going to do once you catch your breath-- or even about catching your breath at all-- you've missed the point.

Rock and roll.

P. Haynie
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