Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, January 25, 2004


The amount of visual and aural stuff that one encounters in a two minute walk down the street is astounding. If you’re like me, you tune out well more than 90% of the detail almost all of the time, but you also, sometimes, experience moments of lucidity where seemingly everything appears to you in vivid clarity. And such moments of clarity are usually accompanied by a feeling of awe for the complexity and detail of existence, often a happy awe.

For me, these moments are sometimes precipitated by seeing something that makes me happy -- a tender moment between people, or people playing sandlot sports, or a pretty person. Socrates in Plato's “Symposium” talks about how contemplation of beautiful bodies can lead one to a finer understanding of reality. For me, happy contemplation of a pretty person can make the surrounding phenomenal world more vivid. And that’s reality -- the vividness of the world and its particulars. I don't know that these experiences give me a finer understanding, but it feels like they give me a finer perception of reality. (According to "The Symposium," the finer understanding of reality entails contemplation of the eternal Forms [capital F!], of which the phenomenal world is but a shadow play -- but I don't feel the urge to follow Plato down that path.)

On Thursday afternoon and then again on Saturday night I heard an old pop song from the late ‘60s (I’m guessing) on the radio. The first time I heard it, when the bell-like tone of the keyboard arpeggios and the glistening harps came in, I realized I knew the song, but not its name or the musician. Here it comes, I thought, the part where three voices come in, one after the other, in harmony, singing, “Happy! / Happy! / Happy!” The (male) singer sees a pretty woman. (Or, I hope and assume she's a woman, even though he says "girl"; I hope she's a woman because the song implies sexual attraction.) She has “flowers in her hair / Flowers everywhere.” Were flowers ubiquitous before he saw the female? Did she make them appear? Sounds like a metaphor for ecstatic vivid perception. Joyous chorus, harmony singing, pretty voices, harps and bell-like keyboards, flowers in the hair, flowers everywhere, happy happy happy!

The first of the two times I recently heard the song, the DJ didn’t tell its name or who sang it, but the 2nd time I learned it was “The Flower Girl” by a group called the Cowsills. All I know about the Cowsills is that the Partridge Family is based on them, and that the TV production company invited the kids in the band to be in the show on the condition that Shirley Jones play their mom, and the kids refused. (I've even heard that there's a Partridge Family episode based on this true story. Exploitation knows no irony.) I don’t knowingly know any other Cowsills songs, but this one sends me. The song argues and beautifully exemplifies something I’ve experienced. An encounter with vivid beauty reveals the bloom of the world.
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