Outlaw poet Ron Whitehead talks about the Blues & Jazz, his poetry, Hunter S. Thompson and the Beats

"The Blues and Jazz touch deep emotionally resonant chords in anyone who is open to heart soul spirit sex. The Blues and Jazz are real vibrant life force energies."

Ron Whitehead: The Storm Generation Poet

Ron Whitehead is poet, writer, editor, publisher, organizer, scholar, professor. He is the author of 29 books 37 cds. He has edited over 3,000 titles, published over 2,000 titles, produced over 3,000 events round the world, presented over 60 scholarly papers at major colleges and universities, as well as presenting over 6,000 performances of his creative works with musicians round the planet. His works have been exhibited and are included in major museums, libraries, galleries, and private collections here there and everywhere. Dr. John Rocco, SUNY Maritime, nominated Ron for The Nobel Prize in Literature.

Photograph © by Jinn; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5

Ron's works, of thousands published round the world, have been praised by many of the world's leading authors, musicians, artists, cultural figures. In 1992 Ron founded The Global Literary Renaissance, a non-profit organization, supporting the global literary community. He was Director of the Global Literary Renaissance for 14 years. He has edited and published works by H.H. Dalai Lama, President Jimmy Carter, Seamus Heaney, Jack Kerouac, Diane di Prima, Allen Ginsberg, John Updike, BONO, Yoko Ono, Andy Warhol, Amiri Baraka, Rita Dove, David Amram, Thomas Merton, Wendell Berry, Edvard Munch, William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Herbert Huncke, James Laughlin, Douglas Brinkley, Lee Ranaldo, Robert Hunter, Anne Waldman, Ed Sanders, David Minton, Bob Holman, Jim Carroll, Casey Cyr, Denis Mahoney, Frank Messina, Steve Dalachinsky, Jean Genet, Jan Kerouac, Christopher Felver, and many many others. 

Interview by Michael Limnios     Photographs © by Jinn

Ron, when was your first desire to become involved in poetry and music & which is Ron’s philosophy?

I was born a poet. I've been a poet in previous lifetimes including in Atlantis. Poetry and Music are intimate lovers. Together

they birth poems and songs. The best Poetry is Music. The Best Music is Poetry. Early musical influences and inspirations:

the bone man dances circles

round the subterranean gloom

paints pink and blue and purple

until he fills the room

with the smell of roses

and a pandemonium moon

 

Music Saved My Life and Bob Dylan Saved My Soul

The Impossible Dream

 

Just as I am without one plea

But that thy blood was shed for me

 

 We were a gospel quartet Brad Steve Stan and me

Singing our hearts out "The Impossible Dream"

Sunday morning service at the Centertown Baptist Church

After the preaching and "Just As I Am"

Page came up and smiling said "boys that was sure good"

And she added laughing real loud "and Ronnie you sure are animated"

And then Saundra Karl chimed in with "yes that was fine

but Ronnie you were flat" and oh my oh my oh my

I went home swearing I'd never sing again

And I didn't until I got in the car

Turned on the radio and heard Bob Dylan

Singing Like A Rolling Stone "how does it feel

to be on your own a complete unknown" and

I caught myself breaking my promise

Singing

So what if I was flat as a pancake

Music had saved my life more than once

And every time I'd listened non-stop to

Bob Dylan well ever since I was 12 years old

Every time I heard him sing I felt deep down inside

He was saving my soul helping me want to keep on

Keeping on no matter what the hell was going on

And I knew then as I knew before and after that

I'd never quit listening to Bob Dylan who I regard

To this day as The Best of them all better than Homer

Better than Shakespeare his words his songs helped

Me know I'd never abandon song I'd never quit

Listening to the Gift of God sweet music and even

If I couldn't in public at least in private I'd keep on

Singing and well us boys Brad Steve Stan and me

Well I believe all our lives and souls were saved

More than once by music by Bob Dylan and

Yes we listened to every kind of music we heard

It all church music and funeral dirges as Mama and

Her sister Jo Carolyn sang far back as I remember

I see people climbing on coffins including Pappy

Trying to keep Mammy from leaving him behind

Her lying there in the pine yes we heard gospel

And blues and we heard country mixed with

Traditional oldtime folk mountain Appalachian

Going back to Ireland and Scotland and Wales

And we listened to Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams

And Bill Monroe and Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn

And Woody Guthrie and Odetta and Jean Ritchie

And Pete Seeger and The Everly Brothers and

Merle Travis and Robert Johnson and Mose Rager

And Grandaddy and The Montgomery Brothers and

Brother Mathew's Gospel Quartet with my 3rd grade

Teacher Mrs. Duncan banging on that piano like I'd never

Heard in no Baptist Church and I got excited Oh Lord

Can music make you feel this good? brought tears to

My boy eyes made goosebumps run all up and down

My back and all over my body made my flat topped hair

Stand up straight and tall without no butch wax on it

And then came Elvis and Johnny and Jerry Lee and

My parents said turn it off but they were glued too

And didn't couldn't move eyes staring in disbelief but

Excited what in the world is this and everybody felt

That way more excited than ashamed wanting to be

Part of that energy that we all know must be a gift

From some greater source and for my generation

For me Bob Dylan yes The Beatles and The Rolling

Stones but Bob Dylan from the first note I heard him

Perform late one night I was 12 upstairs in the attic

Where my brother Brad and I slept holes in the walls

Of our old farmhouse wind whispering through cedar

And pine through those holes I saw plenty of ghosts

There but I also every night listened to 79WLS on AM

Radio outta Chicago and the sound went in and out

Depending on the weather and Daddy some nights he

Home from working double shifts at the coal mines

Yelled up the stairs as the radio had gotten real loud

And Bob was singing "how does it feel" and being a

Poet who loves music as much as poetry well Bob's

Words and I knew them all by heart Bob's words

Saved my soul growing up in the pioneer lands of

Kentucky where Bluegrass was birthed distant cousin

Of The Everly Brothers I grew up with music and I

Mean every kind of music but the poemed music that

Has sustained me all these years that has always and

Continues to save my soul to save me from death in

Life is The Master Bob Dylan's music which always

Directed me towards God as if music came from God

And every time I turned to Bob Dylan's music life

Became bearable again I thought about Resurrection

Again I thought about redemption again

 

And that thou bid'st me come to thee

O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

 Ron Whitehead

copyright © 2013 Ron Whitehead

Photograph © by Jinn; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5

and my Philosophy on Poetry and Music on Art? here you go:

Can Art Matter?

Published In Heaven: Blood Filled Vessels

Artist Manifesto by Ron Whitehead

The older I get the more I realize I don't know anything, no one does. We're all guessing, feeling our way, grappling for answers. But every day I have encounters with the spirit world. We are all in perpetual motion, in transition, even when we are still, silent, listening. Listening is the greatest art of all. Not-knowing is the fundamental plowed earth of our being, not-knowing. It is our life source. Embrace the wind. Embrace my heart. Born to die, there is no safety, all is demanded. Expose yourself completely. Accept the consequences of your successes, and your failures, as no other dare. Enlightened mind is not special, it is natural. Present yourself as you are, wise fool. Don't hesitate, embrace mystery paradox uncertainty. Have courage. Through fear, and boredom, have faith. Be compassion. Embrace the wind. Embrace your heart. Not-knowing is the fundamental plowed earth of our being. It is our life source. Not-knowing.

Can art matter? Why Published In Heaven?

Today 'Specialization' is sold on every corner, fed in every home, brainwashed into every student, every young person. We are told that the only way to succeed, here at the beginning of the 21st Century is to put all our time, energy, learning, and focus into one area, one field, one specialty (math, science, computer technology, business, government). If we don't we will fail. We are subtly and forcefully, implicitly and explicitly, encouraged to deny the rest of who we are, our total self, selves, our holistic being. The postmodern brave new world resides inside the computer via The Web with only faint peripheral recognition to the person, the individual (and by extension the real global community), the real human being operating the machine. The idea of and belief in specialization as the only path, only possibility, has sped up the fragmentation, the alienation which began to grow rapidly within the individual, radically reshaping culture, over a century ago with the birth of those Machiavellian revolutions in technology, industry, and war. And with the growing fracturing fragmentation and alienation comes the path - anger, fear, anxiety, angst, ennui, nihilism, depression, despiar - that, for the person of action, leads to suicide. Unless, through our paradoxical leap of creative faith we engage ourselves in the belief, which can become a life misssion that regardless of the consequences, we can, through our engagement, our actions, our loving life work, make the world a better, safer, friendlier place in which to live. Sound naive? What place does the Antinomian voice, the voice that, though trembling, speaks out against The Powers That Be, what place does this Visionary Outsider Voice have in the real violent world in which we are immersed? Are we too desensitized to the violence, to the fact that in the past Century alone we have murdered over 160 million people in one war after another, to even think it worthwhile to consider the possibility of a less violent world? Are we too small, too insignificant to make any kind of difference? The power-mongers have control. What difference can one little individual life possibly make, possibly matter?

Published In Heaven Titles make a difference. They are blood filled vessels racing to the heart.

Today the X and microserf generations are swollen with young people yearning to express the creative energies buried in their hearts, seeping from every pore of their beings. They ache to change to heal the world. Is it still possible? Is it too late? Is there anyone (a group?) left to show the way to be an example? To be a guide? A mentor? James Joyce, King of Modernism, said the idea of the hero was nothing but a damn lie that the primary motivating forces are passion and compassion. As late as 1984 people were laughing at George Orwell. Today, as we finally move into an Orwellian culture of simulation life on the screen landscape, can we remember passion and compassion or has the postmodern ironic satyric deathinlifegame laugh killed both sperm and egg? Is there anywhere worth going from here? Is it any wonder that today's youth have adopted Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Herbert Huncke, Gregory Corso, Neal Cassady, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Amiri Baraka, Robert Creeley, David Amram, Diane di Prima, Ed Sanders, Anne Waldman, Bob Dylan, Hunter S. Thompson, The Clash, Sonic Youth and all the other Beat Generation and related poets, writers, artists, musicians as their inspirational, life-affirming antinomian ancestors? These are people who have stood and still stand up against unreasoning power/right/might, looked that power in the eyes and said NO I don't agree with you and this is why. And they have spoken these words, not for money or for fame, but out of life's deepest convictions, out of the belief that we, each one of us, no matter our skin color our economic status our political religious sexual preferences, all of us have the right to live to dream as we choose rather than as some supposed higher moral authority prescribes for us.

I choose to be an antinomian warrior.

Can art matter? Is it merely a gold exchange for the rich? The crucible of Published In Heaven alchemical art blends the terrible beauty of the natural world with questions of global social conscience. Published In Heaven poems stories songs art films photographs defy categorization. They are original.

What is involved in the process of artistic creation? And how is that process related to space and time? What makes it possible for a handful of Nabi, of Druidhs, to maneuver in a molecular universe, where immersion at will into things and being other than self is readily accomplished, rather than the dreary chore of drudging through the thick cellular world? The answers are simply complex and like truth, time and water they constantly slip through fingers away, away but the past recalled becomes present again and in a sense when we look anywhere including back into the past we are looking with some form of anticipation which is an attribute of future time so where are we really? How do how will poets, writers, musicians, artists, filmmakers, photographers, inhabitors of the creative realms of the 21st Century respond to these questions? Some respond with ironic, comic faith, some with passion, with compassion, without which the intelligent sensitive creature will inevitably traverse the Valley of The Shadow of Death encountering Angst, Despair, Ennui, and possibly Suicide. The sensitive individual poet writer musician artist filmmaker photographer prophet, the empath whose natural ability is negative capability, ineluctably chooses the life-game quest of self-creation in the possibly infinite probability of possible realities in the self-contained inter-connected Ocean of Consciousness.

So, where are you going? Please answer the question. Can art matter?

There are no answers, only questions.

My argument for The Ocean of Consciousness reaches back to the early experiential understanding of holy while reaching forward beyond the limits of dialectical gnosticism to an alchemy that also transcends divisions inherent in the alienation the fragmentation of Deep Modernism and the superficial chaos of postmodernism. I agree to a point with Turkle's argument that "The goal of healthy personality development is not to become a One, not become a unitary core, it's to have a flexible ability to negotiate the many - cycle through multiple identities." Having multiple identities, being legion, may lead to the apparent conclusion that we are walking on quicksand, that there is no solid ground that all is chaos. Even if you are a cryptanalyst and are able to turn into "plaintext the coded messages of Lacan but also the utterances of French existentialists, deconstructionists, poststructuralists, and all the other sibilant schools that flowed out of postwar France" (McCormick) what leads you to believe that the deadly serious egocentric humor of postmodernism where theory is lauded as more important than text (whatever text might be: book, song, painting, film, life, etc) can possibly be the final word? Deconstructing a text does not designify does not make the text less than what it was before you playfully surgically took it apart and, if you're a good mechanic, put it back together again even if you gave it new features. No matter how much taking apart deconstructing you do there will always remain something, a meaningful essence that cannot be destroyed.

Lightninged Passion compassion filled art matters.

The poet writer musician artist filmmaker photographer prophet deconstructs realism. She employs the innovative technique of intercalation: the juxtaposition of scenes in time. She is Elus Cohen, Elect Priest of Expressionism, Cubism, Modernism, Dadaism, Surrealism, postmodernism but she is more. She is Master Alchemist, Master Magician. Her long slender hand reaches towards me, grabs my throat, and pulls me into the text, the book, the song, the art, the CD/DVD, the film, the photo. Manger du Livre indeed! I not only consume the book: the book consumes me. Now I, with her, am Elus Cohen juxtaposing scenes in time and space in her, in me, in the Published In Heaven Blood Filled Vessels Racing to The Heart Titles. Being Blood Filled my original perception, awareness, and senses are fractured, fractalled, and exiting the Blood Filled Heart Titles I find I am rearranged. I now have new perspective, awareness, senses. I look at others. Are their expressions different as they look at me? I must look different. I feel different. I am different. Me. And me now. I,I. Ha. Aha! Now as my hand moves this pen across this page I change. I am transformed. I am never the same. My molecules jump, sway, swoon, dance across the page, giggling, laughing, singing, happy to be new! It's spring again! They shout Yes Yes Yes!!!

Mythopoetic Published In Heaven Titles create newly resonant myths.

Knowledge, from the inception of Modernism and through postmodernism to The Ocean of Consciousness, is reorganized, redefined through literature, music, art, film, photography. The genres are changing, the canons are exploding, as is culture. The mythopoetics, the privileged sense of sight, of modern, contemporary, avant-garde poets, writers, musicians, artists, filmmakers, photographers are examples of art forms of a society, a culture, a civilization, a world, in which humanity lives, not securely in cities nor innocently in the country, but on the acocalyptic, simultaneous edge of a new realm of being and understanding. The mythopoet, female and male, returns to the role of prophet-seer by creating myths that resonate in the minds of readers, myths that speak with the authority of the ancient myths, myths that are gifts from the creative realms of being, gifts from the shadow.

Ron Whitehead

Copyright © 2013 Ron Whitehead

Photograph © by Jinn; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

My entire life is the most interesting period. I am thankful for every moment event person past present future.

I have no complaints only thanks. I love life and Life loves me. Hellyeah!!!!

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the music, poetry…and life?

From the beginning I chose to dive deeply, head first, into Adventure into Life. I have learned the secrets about

poetry, music, life by being completely open to all aspects of this Adventure: pain, sorrow, heartbreak, joy, happiness,

ecstasy, love. I embrace light and dark. I choose to be a son of light. and. We dwell in space. We measure space with time.

But if Time and Space were all then life would be metronomically boring. It's the 3rd element, magical rhythm that dances

life into a gift beyond measure. Poetry and Music breathe rhythm into time and space. Rhythm is the spice of life. I was

born with Rhythm pumping through my veins. Since I was a boy I've wandered the fields the forests in rhythm with nature

birthing words which i've forever spoken out loud and those words, gifts from the muse, quickly become song. I've forever

sung my poems.

Of all the people you’ve met with, who do you admire the most?

Those who give all they have all they are, and more, to the Adventure of Life.

What experiences in your life make you a good poet, writer, editor, publisher, organizer, scholar, professor?

All of them.

Photograph © by Jinn; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5

Why did you think that the BEATS continued to generate such a devoted following?

Because they chose to be themselves. They rejected the Status Quo. They went their own way. Regardless of

any and all odds. They broke out of prison. They built bridges from where society demanded them to be to where

they chose to be. They lived their dreams. I've been doing the same for 25 years now. Nothing compares to being your true self.

What do THE BEATS mean to you? What do you miss nowadays from the BEAT era of 50s and 60s?

The Beats are real people. They inspire others, who are trapped in the Status Quo, to find ways to be themselves, to be free.

I am blessed to be friends with nearly all The Beats. I've edited and published their works. I've read performed with them.

I've practices hangoutology with them. A Gift Beyond Measure.

Why did you think that Beat writers, continued to generate such a devoted following?

They are Real People.

Are there any memories of all these GREAT PEOPLE which you’d like to share with us?

Way too many. You'll have to check out my 29 books and 37 cds to discover the many many poems and stories.

If you go back to the past what things you would do better and what things you would avoid to do again?

I wouldn't change a thing. I have no regrets. Failure has been my greatest success. I listen and learn. Life is an

ever growing adapting adjusting adventuring into the unknown. I am thankful for all of it.

You have been traveling all around the world. What are your conclusions?

Travel is one of the greatest teachers of all. I have gypsy blood. I have wanderlust, combined with homesickness.

I love to travel. I love to return home. And I love to travel again. Beautiful painful joyful cycle.

Photograph © by Jinn; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5

Poetry and music can these two arts confront the “prison” of the spirit and mind?

If Poetry and Music don't confront the Status Quo prison then they are not real Poetry and Music. One of the primary goals

of Poetry and Music is to help oneself, and whoever else is ready, to break out of Status Quo prison to the freedom of

living and being one's own dream.

What was the relation between music, poetry and education?

If education doesn't include Poetry and Music then it's not education.

What would be your first decisions as minister of education…and culture?

Ah. Many folks have asked me to start a school, a university. I've considered it. But then I decided that wherever I am is my school

my church. I prefer Nature to the classroom. I'd have most classes in Nature and in Music Clubs and Art Galleries and Live Poetry

Readings and I'd have my students hang out with Nature with Artists with Musicians with Poets with Dancers with Filmmakers with

All Artists in All Genres. I'd have students learn the basics of how to survive simply in this world. I'd teach meditation. Listening is

The Greatest Art of All. I'd teach students that the real mind is in The Heart. I'd teach students to respect and honor all peoples'

beautiful differences while recognizing that we all have more in common than we have different. I'd teach my students that we're

all dirty potatoes floating in the same tub of polluted water and the more we bang into each other by openly honestly sharing

the poems and stories of our lives the more we come clean.

Some music styles can be fads but the blues and jazz is always with us.  Why do think that is?

Because The Blues are birthed from old Negro Spirituals that are birthed straight from the heart born of deep suffering of

tremendous trials and tribulations. Jazz takes lifts The Blues from earth to heaven. The Blues and Jazz touch deep emotionally

resonant chords in anyone who is open to heart soul spirit sex. The Blues and Jazz are real vibrant life force energies.

Photograph © by Jinn; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5

Happiness is…  Freedom is… Poetry is…  Music is… What are your DREAM and your nightmare?

I already faced embraced and released my nightmare: being part of the Status Quo. Did that 25 years ago. Everything after

my breakout is Happiness Freedom Poetry Music my DREAM.

How you would spend a day with Dalai Lama? What would you say to Gregory Corso? What would you like to ask James Joyce?

I wrote a poem with The Dalai Lama, Never Give Up. Corso and I hung out many times. I edited and published his works. I traveled

with him. I performed with him. His temperament was similar to my friend Hunter S. Thompson's. They were both emotionally extreme.

They were both near and dear to me. As is The Dalai Lama. I studied everything by and about James Joyce. Taught many of his works.

Presented a ULYSSES paper in the Jonathan Swift Theater, Trinity College Dublin, 13th Annual James Joyce Symposium.

Here's the Never Give Up poem I wrote with The Dalai Lama:

NEVER GIVE UP

by His Holiness The Dalai Lama & Ron Whitehead

Never give up

No matter what is going on

Never give up

 

Develop the heart

Too much energy in your country

Is spent developing the mind

Instead of the heart

Develop the heart

 

Be compassionate

Not just with your friends

But with everyone

Be compassionate

 

Work for peace

In your heart

And in the world

Work for peace

 

And I say again

Never give up

No matter what is going on around you

Never give up

Ron Whitehead

Copyright © 2013 Ron Whitehead

Photograph © by Jinn; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5

Are there any memories from The Official Hunter S. Thompson Tribute, which you’d like to share with us?

Here's my Tribute to Hunter which includes The Official Hunter S. Thompson Tribute:

Dr. Hunter Shaman Thompson Is Dead

A Tribute by Ron Whitehead

My friend and hero Hunter S. Thompson is dead. I followed his life and work from the release of Hell’s Angels till now. I will continue to follow it. My friend Gene Williams and I sold Hunter’s books we sold the first Rolling Stone magazines in the underground bookstore, For Madmen Only, and in the headshop, The Store, we operated on South Limestone in Lexington Kentucky. I never dreamed I’d eventually work with Hunter and with members of The Beat Generation: Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Herbert Huncke, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, David Amram, Diane di Prima, Amiri Baraka, and others. Their works changed my life. Dreams do come true.

Hunter shot himself. He is gone. He died in his kitchen in his cabin at Owl Farm Woody Creek Colorado. I read his Nixon obituary, “He Was A Crook,” and other works to him in that kitchen. I took my children to visit him. He loved young people. He loved his family. I drank and did drugs with him. We watched basketball. One night, years ago, in early May my son Nathanial and I arrived, driving 24 hours non-stop from Kentucky, just in time to watch the NBA playoffs with Hunter. Don Johnson called several times wanting us to come over. Kentuckian Rex Chapman was playing for the Phoenix Suns. The Suns were down by nine points with one minute to go in the game. I looked at Hunter and said I’ll bet you that Rex will hit three threes and tie the game, that the Suns will win by one point in three overtimes. Hunter looked at me and laughed. Rex hit three threes and tied the game. But Phoenix lost in three overtimes, by one point. I got damn close. Hunter paid closer attention to me after that. We talked about life about our families about literature. Hunter was a good kind man. He was full of life. He was tough. He was a real human being. He was spirit, holy spirit, no matter what anyone says.

Hunter is one of America’s one of the world’s greatest writers. He stands shoulder to shoulder with Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, all five America’s Best prose writers, bar none.

I had the honor of producing, with the help of Douglas Brinkley and many young people and friends, The Hunter S. Thompson Tribute at Memorial Auditorium on 4th Street in Louisville Kentucky in December 1996. We had a sold out standing room audience of over 2,000. I brought in Hunter, his Mom Virginia, his son Juan, The Sheriff of Pitkin County, Johnny Depp, Warren Zevon, David Amram, Douglas Brinkley, Roxanne Pulitzer, Harvey Sloane, Susi Wood & a bluegrass band, and many more. The Mayor gave Hunter the keys to the city. The Governor named Hunter, Johnny, Warren, David, Doug, and me Kentucky Colonels. It was a spectacular event.

Hunter is one of America’s one of the world’s greatest writers. He stands shoulder to shoulder with Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, all five America’s Best prose writers, bar none.

Jonathan Swift, George Orwell, William S. Burroughs, and Hunter S. Thompson are literary giants, visionaries who have much in common.

People continue to say that there will be no audience for Thompson’s work, that no one will understand or care. Yet as I travel across America across the world working with young people, of all ages, I witness a movement, amongst young people, away from the constraints of non-democratic puritan totalitarian cultures. I see a new generation that recognizes the lies of the power elite, a generation that is turning to the freethinkers the freedom fighters of the 50s and 60s, recognizing honoring them as mentors.

Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes her or him its instrument. The artist is not simply a person acting freely, in pursuit of a merely private end, but one who allows art to realize its purposes through her or his person. Artists have moods, free will, personal aims, but as artists, they are bearers of a collective humanity, carrying and shaping the common unconscious life of the species.

I have heard more than once that Hunter S. Thompson is a madman. That oh look at what he could have done if he lived a more sane life. Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel, pre-eminent Jewish author, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, in The Town Beyond the Wall, says: “Mad Moishe, the fat man who cries when he sings and laughs when he is silent...Moishe—I speak of the real Moishe, the one who hides behind the madman—is a great man. He is far-seeing. He sees worlds that remain inaccessible to us. His madness is only a wall, erected to protect us- us: to see what Moishe’s bloodshot eyes see would be dangerous.” In Jewish mysticism, the prophet often bears the facade of madness. Hunter S. Thompson stands in direct lineage to the great writers and prophets. And as with the prophets of old, the message may be too painful for the masses to tolerate, to hear, to bear. They may, and usually do, condemn, even kill, the messenger. Hunter stood as long as he could. He fought a valiant fight. He was a brave yet sensitive soul. He was a sacred shaman warrior. He saw. He felt. He recorded his visions. He took alcohol and drugs to ease the pain generated by what he saw what he felt. He lived on his own terms. He died on his own terms. Did the masses kill Hunter? Did he kill himself? He found the courage to stand up against the power mongers and the masses. At least thirteen times he should have died but, miraculously, didn’t. He chose to take his own life. He completed the work he came to do.

If life is a dream, as some suggest, sometimes beautiful sometimes desperate, then Hunter’s work is the terrible saga of the ending of time for The American Dream. With its action set at the heart of darkness of American materialist culture, with war as perpetual background, playing on the television, Hunter S. Thompson, like the prophets of old, shows how we, through greed and powerlust, have already gone over the edge. As Jack Kerouac, through his brilliant oeuvre, breathed hope into international youth culture Thompson shows how the ruling power-elite is not about to share what it controls with idealists yearning for a world of peace love and understanding.

We must look beyond the life of the artist to the work the body of work itself. That is the measure of success. Like those who have re-examined Orwell’s 1984 to find a multi-layered literary masterpiece, we must look deep into Thompson’s work and find the deep multi-layered messages. His books, especially the early ones and his letters, are literary masterpieces equal to the best writing ever produced.

Knowledge, from the inception of Modernism, and through post-modernism and chaos to The Ocean of Consciousness, is reorganized, redefined through Literature, Art, Music, and Film. The genres are changing, the canons are exploding, as is culture. The mythopoetics, the privileged sense of sight, of modern, contemporary, avant-garde cutting edge Nabi poets, musicians, artists, filmmakers are examples of art forms of a society, a culture, a civilization, a world, in which humanity lives, not securely in cities nor innocently in the country, but on the apocalyptic, simultaneous edge of a new realm of being and understanding. The mythopoet, female and male, the shaman, Hunter S. Thompson returns to the role of prophet-seet by creating myths that resonate in the minds of readers, myths that speak with the authority of the ancient myths, myths that are gifts from the shadow.

Ron Whitehead

copyright © 2013 Ron Whitehead 

Ron Whitehead - official website

Photograph © by Jinn; Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5

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