Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Todd Walton: Being Gotten

In Todd Walton on December 13, 2013 at 9:03 am

tCat and Jamming photo by Marcia Sloane

Under The Table

You remember, I’m sure, that time you went to a party with no great expectation of anything beyond munching and drinking and blah-dee-blah, and you met someone with whom you had phenomenal rapport, so much so that your time with them was an amazing emotional and intellectual pas de dux that made you feel better than you’d felt in a long time. And the next day, when you thought about the connection you had with that person, you realized that what made the experience so special was that this person really ­got you, and you really got them, which is to say, the person truly madly deeply heard you, saw you, grokked you, dug you, liked you, and resonated powerfully with your feelings and perceptions, and vice-versa, which made you feel less alone and more…gotten, which is to say you felt less isolated on your own little island of self and more connected to the great big everything.

I know what some of you are thinking; this is another pile of Todd’s hackneyed psycho-spiritual crap. And I know what some others of you are thinking; that being gotten is exactly what you’ve been thinking about lately and you’re thrilled I’m writing about this. Put another way: you get me or you don’t.

What’s your point, Todd? That’s one of those questions I am frequently asked by people who don’t get me. I’m sure that happens to you, too. You’ve done your best to say what you mean, and you’ve said what you’ve said because you really want to communicate those thoughts and feelings, and someone responds with, “What’s your point?” which always reminds me of those angry, humorless literalists I have known and wasted my time trying to placate, except such people cannot be placated because…psychology.

If you’re over fifty, you know the song Alfie by Hal David and Burt Bacharach that opens with “What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live?” Those lines remind me of Joseph Campbell saying, “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” Beyond merely surviving, I think the point of our human lives is to find and commune with people we truly deeply get and who truly deeply get us, to engage in mutually supportive emotional, intellectual and, yes, spiritual exchanges and dances and meals and drinking cups of warm liquids and having conversations and taking walks and experiencing simultaneous epiphanies that make us feel meaningfully connected to each other, which in turn connects us to the great big everything.

Ah, good. Now that you-know-who has stopped reading, I will continue.

I recently came out with a CD of my original piano music called Incongroovity, my fourth piano album (I still call them albums.) If you’re an artist or a musician or a chef or a designer or any sort of creative person and out-of-the-box thinker, which I’ll bet most of you still reading this are, then you know about those moments of doubt and wondering and hope and fear and excitement and dread and exaltation and despair and curiosity and girding your loins for disapproval and dreaming of passionately positive responses when you present a new creation or thought or feeling to the world. Your hope, your desire, your fervent wish, is that someone, and maybe more than one someone, but at least one someone, will really get what you’re trying to communicate, and that they’ll let you know they got you.

Why do we need someone else to validate who we are and what we do? I think we’re hardwired that way. We can learn to need less validation from others and to heed our own counsel and judgment more than we heed the cawing of cynics and emotionally stunted self-righteous know-it-alls who never have anything nice to say, but because being human is about communing with others of our kind, about hooking up with those who get us, we crave being gotten by others. Why? Because being gotten is an elixir, a cure for the blues, the antidote to doubt, the source of inspiration, and possibly what it’s all about, Alfie or Jane or Akbar or Kyle or Myra.

To be an original artist of any kind in America, as Joseph Campbell said, is to travel a path of great danger. What makes the path of original thinking and making original art so dangerous? Aside from little or no financial support for such independent and daring behavior in a society that demands we have money to survive, most original artists run the terrifying risk of never being gotten. By anyone. As Conan Doyle famously said, “Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself…” and truer words were never spoken. He goes on to say, “…but talent instantly recognizes genius.” Aye there’s the rub. How do we find those with the talent to get us, while they, too, are busy fighting to survive the slings and arrows of outrageously mediocre imitators who rule the cultural roost and brainwash the masses with redundant poo poo?

Joseph Campbell continues (and I paraphrase), “Yes, the path of the artist is one of great danger, but if you stay on your path and trust your intuitive wisdom, doorswill open for you.” You will find people who get you, and then, truly, you will know you have not lived and worked in vain. As a wise woman once told me, “There’s no point in waiting for your ship to come in if you haven’t sent out any ships.”

So even though I love Incongroovity more than any of my previous albums, and though I know in my bones the music is good, when I sent out the first batch of albums to friends and the handful of DJs around the country who give my music air time, I was in a state of high anticipatory anxiety waiting to see if anyone would get Incongroovity. I knew my friends would say they liked the album, but would anyone really get the tunes and communicate that getting to me?

Who cares? That’s another of those epithets disguised as a question that bitter, disapproving, closed-minded people like to throw at people they don’t get. However, I much prefer “Who cares?” to the merely dismissive “What’s your point?” because “Who cares?” succinctly elucidates the existential dilemma underpinning anticipatory anxiety. Will anyone care about what you’ve worked so hard to write or play or draw or invent? Who is there among your fellow earth beings, and that includes stones and trees and rivers and dogs and cats and people, who will get you—such getting intrinsically bound to caring about what you’ve done and who you are.

Did I say cats? Yup. I had a cat who totally got my piano playing, and I don’t mean a human cat, but an actual feline. Her name was Girly Girl, and whenever she saw me heading for the piano, no matter what she was doing, she’d skip to the piano bench and wait thereupon for me. I would sit down beside her and begin to play, and after a little while, she would hop from the piano bench to the nearby armchair where she would sit and listen attentively for as long as I played, for hours sometimes. And I felt she was the ears of Universe digging my tunes, and her listening kept me practicing for days and weeks and months when I had no other indication that anyone else was getting me. Blessings on that musical cat!

So now I’ve heard from a few peeps telling me they love Incongroovity, and seven DJs so far on itsy bitsy community radio stations have blasted my tunes into the airwaves of Maine and Indiana and California and Idaho and Oregon and Vermont. And yesterday I heard from my pal Max Greenstreet, a daring musician and artist and delightfully original freelance human being. He downloaded and listened to a few tunes from Incongroovity in anticipation of receiving the entire actual disk from me, and this is what Max had to say about the title cut.

“I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to come to that area in the middle of “Incongroovity” where the magical thing happens in my body every time, and then to be carried along in that state to the final notes of the song.”

Which is exactly what happens to me, every time.

(This article appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser December 2013)

  1. Todd.. we like your writing, a lot, but we don’t like the cloaked sales plug
    for your self published piano cd.
    try craig’s list or iTunes..and leave the blog space for important and relevant
    issues, that are in URGENT need of space and discussions. Got it?

    • Tom: You seem to have a personal ax to grind. As Todd says, I make the decision to run Todd’s articles, which I do with full support. You are bordering on being a troll and I ask you to please discontinue your unwarranted negativity or I will spam you off the comment section.

      • Hi Dave…..ok…you tell me, don’t we mendo’s have some pressing issues…
        Bypass, Dairy farms being closed down, local producers needing help,
        the awful ocean situation, etc..and Todd is selling cd’s?
        We like Todd and his writing, I said that in the get-go…
        Troll? How about a very concerned citizen, who goes to this
        blob, along with my wife almost everyday to see what is new in the locale.
        So take our comments are they are intended…to help fine tune
        this new growth that his is already rising from the ashes of a fallen ( falling ) society.
        thanks for your Blog….

        Tom / Craig / Savanna and the crew
        The Wildlife Center

      • Tom: First, I’m offended you calling it a “blob” ;)
        Second, regardless of how many problems there are in the world, some of us have to make a living, and doing so as a local artist is more difficult than most. You seem to think that a talented artist hawking his wares will somehow delay solving the world’s problems through the limited space of a blog? Well, that’s just silly. No, Tom. There is something else going on here… and there is history. I had to spam you off Gene Logsdon’s blog because you were offended by his discussions around killing animals for meat and became abusive in your comments.

        I’m not sure what your deal is, but if you continue in your insistence to go after Todd, you will be banned.

    • I have difficulty with laid back prose myself. It feels like someone sitting in a burning theater and scowling at anyone excited enough to yell fire, lest the enjoyment of the entertainment is disrupted, not by the fire, but by folks trying to raise the alarm. Ours is an exponentially increasingly insane world where those raising alarm are attacked and those ignoring the alarming situation are praised. That said, I support Dave. It is his responsibility to run this thing as best as he can. I do think it is good for him to set limits on how people participate and the tone he is willing to tolerate. Personally, I reject the idea that ad hominem remarks are part of a legitimate discussion.

      It could be a lot worse. The running of the blog could be turned over to a committee.


  2. As I told you before, and which you seem not to have gotten, I do not ask to have my articles on this web site. Dave Smith makes that choice. I write my articles for the Anderson Valley Advertiser and for my web site blog, which is a part of my business. If you do not like what I write about, don’t read it. My sales pitches for my CDs and books are not cloaked. I am a working artist, proud of my work, and I depend on the sale of my art to pay my bills. Your response to my article is precisely what my article is about, and my article to run next week further speaks to what I and other artists in this country are up against. Whether or not Dave chooses to run my next article is entirely up to him.

  3. Extraordinary and soulful article from start to finish; extraordinary because it resonates so deeply within my heart and my life experience. Decades ago I had a subscription to the Discover Magazine. I realized after a couple of years that the “juicy, thought provoking, big picture” articles I had been pulling out and saving were all written by the same person: Jared Diamond before he wrote, “Guns, Germs, and Steel.” It is interesting to me, that with the deluge of reading material that flies across my desk and screen unattended, that repeatedly your articles which are of the same calibre and magnitude, catch my attention and have me reading every word and finding comfort, taking nourishment. Lovely. Time to start a file with all the Todd Walton articles I have printed out. Thank you!

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