We love to define ourselves through artistic venues. It’s who we are, and we believe that listing off our current preferences provide our audience a concise definition. Our tastes in all of the art forms define us, of course, but the appreciation of music could be said to be more universal than all of the other art forms, and this provides us a more common denominator of what we are versus other fans of music. The question this idea spawns is: are we in charge of who we are, if music is this great barometer? In high school, our favorite music artists changed by the day, dictated to us by the prevailing winds of “cool”. We might believe that at some point in our lives, we leave that mercurial teenage mindset behind us, as our high school years become smaller and smaller in our rear view mirror, but some social scholars have stated that we never leave high school.
What this means, to some, is that it is almost impossible to reach such a level of confidence regarding our identity. It is possible to know thyself to elevated degrees as we age, but we are forever susceptible to getting this definition slapped around by the prevailing winds of cool and uncool. This spawns another question: Do we ever reach a point where this dimension of our identity is absolute and true? We would all prefer to believe we’ve made individual choices regarding who will listen to on a regular basis, but are those preferences ours, or have they been shaped by group thought, rebellion to group thought, and/or a rebellion to rebellious thoughts?
Research scientists often study animals to get to the root source of human psychology. The modus operandi driving that is based on their desire to locate the primal nature of actions and reactions. Humans are often more difficult to test in such groups, because human tend to project idyllic images of who they prefer to be, rather than what they are. Animals test much better because they remain closer to the primal state, and they may tell us more about our psychological base than a test of hundreds of humans in a test group might.
Animals do not have the mental capacity to sit around and contemplate greater questions about their identity, as most of the concepts involved are too foreign and complex for them, but how simple, and primal are their brains?
There have been occasions, on nature shows, where we’ve witnessed groundhogs watching one of their own being eaten, and we’ve assumed that this desire was born of simplicity. Could their desire to watch be more complex than we’ve ever imagined? Is this desire to watch similar to our complex desire to rubberneck an accident on the interstate, or is that a primal, base desire on our part?
We’ve all heard groundhogs screech and chatter when one of their brethren are being eaten, and we’ve always assumed that the screeches are a mechanism they use as one last, ditch effort to try and save their brethren. We also assume that they are attempting to warn other groundhogs in the vicinity, but could these screeches be similar to those that we engage in during horror flicks when we watch one of our fellow human beings being slaughtered in a slasher flick? Are groundhogs so fascinated by the greatest horror they can imagine that they cannot look away? Do they speak about the images they saw later, in the manner we do when walking out of a theater, and do they mourn the lives of former friends and family members in the aftermath?
When humans die, we attempt to minimize the individual so we can all live better lives in the aftermath. “Yeah, but he was old,” is something we might say to minimize the horror of death. Or, he smoked, or he had been running himself ragged for so long that it was bound to happen sooner rather than later. One has to wonder if groundhogs have similar comments for their deceased. We have to wonder if they feel the need to achieve some sort of distance from the deceased to help them deal with it better. Do they say, “Yeah, well Alfonso was slow. He didn’t work out enough, and all he ever did was build and rebuild his home. I knew he was going to die, and to be frank, I say good riddance.”
Do groundhogs like and dislike other groundhogs based on personality traits? If they do, how far do they take it? Do they ostracize other groundhogs that have strange growths on their head, or are they more accepting than we are? Do they castigate another groundhog based on that groundhog’s work ethic, his kids’ obnoxious behavior, and would one groundhog ever exclude another groundhog based on the fact that he gave them a titty twister?
I used to love to give titty twisters to other fellas. Don’t ask me why. I thought it was funny. There were no sexual motivations, and I didn’t consider titty twisters a proclamation of dominance over a titty twistee. I just thought it would be a funny thing to do that to that guy that was just standing there being far too normal. I liked to shake people out of having too normal a day. It’s who I was, and who I will probably always be. I don’t force people out of the norm with physical actions in that manner anymore. I’m more subtle now. When I gave a titty twister to this one guy, however, he punched me in the chest for it. I twisted his titty. Things were too normal for me. The people around me were too normal, their conversations were too normal, and I thought we all needed to be shaken out of it.
I would’ve been doubled over with laughter at such a reaction, on a normal day, for I loved unexpected reactions. This guy’s reaction carried a mean face with it though. I thought we were friends. His mean face told me that the punch was meant to reject everything I hold dear, and our friendship never recovered. I’m sure groundhogs reject other groundhogs’ over over-the-top attempts at humor, but do they hold grudges? This guy told people he hated me after that.
Does a groundhog ever do anything to shake up the norm, or is his existence so primal that he’s happy to be alive for another day? Does that attribute say more or less about the human being that we take life for granted to such a degree that we’re no longer happy to just be alive? Is this desire to shake our lives out of the norm a complex desire, or is it a simplistic, biological need we have to keep our brains firing at a rapid pace?
If a groundhog decided to perform a sexual act in a different position, for example, would this decision be documented as simple or complex? What if test results revealed that the groundhog performed his act in a listless manner for a couple days before trying that new position? What if the groundhog began performing his act on other groundhogs when his selected mate wasn’t around? Would this adulterous act be viewed as complex or simplistic? If we could see inside the groundhog’s brain, and we saw him fantasize about being shackled to a wall by an army of alien invaders with the aliens suckling on his reproductive organ for the semen nutrient these aliens needed to survive, would we consider this a complex fantasy for a groundhog or a simplistic, base desire?
This titty twistee, former friend was a heavy metal dude, and I was a heavy metal dude. I thought this would be enough for some sort of lifelong association. I was wrong. Most of the people I grew up around were heavy metal dudes. Hessians is what we called ourselves. I wanted to be a hessian so bad I was willing to do just about anything to make that happen. I had a tough time getting in. I didn’t like Rush or Iron Maiden, but I did like Kiss. Kiss was not enough to get into those circles. Kiss was too popular by the time I became a teen. They were too mainstream to be cool. I had to like an outlier group, and if it wasn’t going to be Rush or Iron Maiden, then I was offered Slayer or Megadeth. Sorry, I said. I wanted to be a hessian, but I couldn’t appreciate any of these groups. They had cool monsters on their albums and all, but their music was beyond me. I wore the mandatory jean jacket, and I had the mullet, but for some reason I was on the outside looking in for most of my young life. It may have had something to do with the fact that I didn’t say the word ‘dude’, but I didn’t give a durn about nothing, and I thought authority figures were laughable. I thought that would be enough.
One thing I learned in the beginning of my public square humiliation, was that calling my grandma “My Nana” would be out, if I wanted to be a hessian. I didn’t have to hate my grandma, that trait was reserved for punkers, but I didn’t have to like her so much either. A hessian greets their Nana in a nonplussed manner. He may want to consider shaking her hand, and greeting her with a “hello ma’am!”, but he should then go on about his business after that, as if he’s not so concerned with her existence. A hessian does not run across a room and hug his Nana. That’s something for people who listen to Genesis and the B-52’s.
Genesis lovers valued simplicity over analytical pragmatism, so we hated them, and we gained a lot more mileage hating something than we did expressing any kind of love for anything. Hatred gives a hession character and complexity. “You don’t like Phil Collins?” “No, I think he’s gay.” Loving something gains one scorn. Loving something gives other hessians license to hate another for, whether it’s loving Kiss, Happy Days, or their Nana. Loving something gives hessians a weakness to poke and prod, until the recipient of such scorn is too embarrassed to love anything, unless it’s Metallica. One can say that they love Metallica and still be a hessian, but that’s it.
If the scorned has never heard the music of Metallica, they will be instructed to run out to the store tomorrow and buy Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning, or And Justice for All… If that listener stubbornly refuses to worship these three albums, after repeated listens, they run the risk of being called a poser. They may as well take the jean jacket off, cut their hair, and start calling their grandma ‘My Nana’, because they’ll never be permitted entrance into the hallowed halls of the hessian.
Hessians can smile, and they can laugh, but they need to reserve that for moments when someone is being subjected to scorn or ridicule. A hessian can like Kiss and Van Halen, but as I said that’s not enough, and they cannot (I repeat cannot) like Poison, Cinderella, or Faster Pussycat. I assume that Facebook has made life for teens in America easier by comparison, for a person can now block those people that question the constructs we have about our personality on Facebook.
This complex world became a lot easier for me when I became a Zeppelin guy though. Most of the fellas I knew wanted to befriend Zeppelin guys. They wanted to talk with us, be us, and accept us into their community. I could hang out with Zeppelin guys, I could talk with them about the band’s folklore, and I could even create other Zeppelin guys when I wanted another friend. I could just play Zoso, or II, and create a friend with all of the shared associations and memories that came along with that. After becoming a Zeppelin guy, and creating other Zeppelin guys, I decided I needed to progress from a Zoso and Zeppelin II guy to a Physical Graffiti and Zeppelin III guy. I learned every lyric, and every beat, to those two Zeppelin albums, and to some Zeppelin guys I progressed from being a Zeppelin guy to the Zeppelin guy. I was assigned complicated and mysterious Zeppelin guy characteristics for loving those two albums as much as I did.
“Yeah, II and Zoso are great,” I would say to beginners. “But wait until you get to the point of loving III and Fizzy Graph.” (Fizzy graph is what the Zeppelin guys called Physical Graffiti.)
It was a glorious world to step into. It was a world of opportunity, a world where girls existed, and a world where one could taste forbidden fruits, and still be a fella. It was a world where hessians, punkers, and even some Genesis guys could stand side by side in a mutual admiration society. It was a world where musicians and music lovers of all stripes could talk and laugh and listen to the greatest music ever produced, for as all Zeppelin guys know, all music stems from Zeppelin.
Zeppelin guys still had to avoid giving a durn about most things, however, it wasn’t a cloak against being ostracized. A Zeppelin guy still had to hate Beverly Hills 90210, Michael Jackson and Tom Cruise movies, and Zeppelin guys were still not able to say ‘My Nana’ in public.
A Zeppelin guy still had to fortify their Zeppelin guy status, then the Zeppelin guy status if they were lucky enough to achieve it. A Zeppelin guy still had to guard themselves against complacency in the Zep guy world, or they could lose their status. It was right to enjoy the music on the album In Through the Out Door, for example, but a true Zeppelin guy could not love it. There were far too many synthesizers on that album. John Paul Jones had far too much influence on that album. It lacked the raw, Page/Plant magic of the first six albums, and if a fella wanted to maintain their The Zeppelin guy status they had to know that.
We all realize that the brain of a groundhog is less complex than that of the human’s, but we also know that even the most simplistic, primal minds react to music. If a groundhog listens to the same music, over time, will they develop an affinity for certain kinds of music? Will certain groups of groundhogs break out of the pack and develop discerning tastes? Will these groups begin to develop an affinity for Zeppelin over Genesis, and will they begin to ostracize Genesis lovers for the mileage it gains them in their group? And would they reach a point, in their progression, where it was no longer about the music for them but the iconography and complexities they developed in their particular group in the groundhog community for the music they chose to love? Would their love for the music strengthen over time, and if it did would it reach a point where it could be characterized as complex? Or, would it forever be deemed a simple desire to belong to that group of groundhogs that listened to that form of music, and would the groundhogs ever begin to see the distinction for what it was?