Thursday, 12 May 2016
I've used a song lyric in my book by a singer called Jim White. It's during an exchange between two characters, where one is trying to cheer the other up by singing to him.
The song in question is called Handcuffed To A Fence In Mississippi, from the album No Such Place.
I need permission to use the verse, so I sent Jim White an email, and within an hour he'd sent me this great reply. Sadly he doesn't own the copyright any more, but he talked about the song, and the ideas behind it, and we exchange a few emails before we were done with the subject. It was such a cool response from him, I wanted to share it with you, in the hope you might be inspired to check out his music, watch his documentary 'Looking For The Wrong Eyed Jesus', or generally spread the word about what a great bloke he is.
Here's an edited version of his email. enjoy!
For the record, the actual line is as follows:
"Freedom's just a stupid superstition,
'cause life's a highway that we travel blind.
It's true that having fun's a terminal addiction.
What good is happiness when it's just a state of mind?
For in the prison of perpetual emotions,
we're all shackled to the millstone of our dreams.
Me, I'm handcuffed to a fence in Mississippi,
where things is always better than they seem."
Handcuffed To A Fence has an attendant philosophy called Pessimistic Optimism that I framed around the song. The basic premise is that there are four essential human outlooks available to us: pessimism, optimism, and then the two middle options (which I call the European options), optimistic-pessimism and pessimistic-optimism.
Working reductively through the approaches one quickly learns that pessimism just flat out sucks, optimism feels great but is annoying and so makes others want to club you to death and so is not evolutionarily viable.
So that leaves us with the two "European" options. Optimistic- pessimism seems to to be most attractive of the remaining two, but it plays out poorly---you rise in the morning and say, "Things are going to be great today!" then if events go badly you get incredibly depressed. Not an attractive life modality.
So that leaves us with pessimistic optimism, which plays out as follows: you rise in the morning and say, "I'M FUCKED!" then at the end of the day, if you don't have a hatchet protruding from your skull, you feel pretty great about things. Which is echoed in the end of the chorus with the line "Thing's is always better than they seem!". I consider it a mantra of sorts.
Good luck with the publication!