Fish Are Rising Up Like Birds

faring thee well now
let your life proceed by its own design
nothing to tell now
let the words be yours i'm done with mine

—John Barlow

John Barlow has moved on. His health had been shot to shit over e73cdcfc577a3107e8477f5464ee1822--john-perry-s.jpgthe past several years, and Wednesday he at last vacated the corporeal container.

Barlow spanned worlds from Neal Cassady to Aaron Swartz. He was born into a wealthy Republican Mormon Wyoming cattle-ranching family; it took all of his life to shake off that imprinting, but in the end he managed all of it. A key moment came when, in conversation with Mardy Murie, he understood that money is an illusion, while the planet is very Real indeed. "Environmentalists can be a pain in the ass," Murie told him. "But they make great ancestors.” Barlow decided: "I want to be a good ancestor."

Cyberpioneer, co-founder of EFF, Barlow was forever a fierce defender of free and open tubes, but recognized they are too often a form of onanism:

I’m discouraged with the role of the Internet in the antiwar movement. Because so far what I see happening is that cyberspace is a great place for everybody to declaim. There are a million virtual streetcorners with a million lonely pamphleteers on them, all of them decrying the war and not actually coming together in any organized fashion to oppose it. And so right at the moment it would strike me that the Internet is counterproductive to peace. You vent online and then you dust your barlow.jpghands off in satisfaction and that’s the last you do.

When Robert Hunter could no longer write songs with Bob Weir, because what Weir did to his lyrics made Hunter want to stab and shoot, Weir was passed on to Barlow.

It is true that Barlow sometimes fondled weapons while writing with Weir, but no damage was done, because their collaborations most often occurred over the phone, their physical bodies thousands of miles apart. For Weir, Barlow turned many a fine phrase. A favorite is his succinct summation of the relationship between North and South America.

shipping powders back and forth
black goes south and white comes north

He also wrote love songs, before ever he was in love. This is what he says about "Looks Like Rain."

When I wrote “Looks Like Rain,” I had never fallen in love. I had certainly heard a lot of love songs. I was not unfamiliar with the huge literature of amorous helplessness. But I remained skeptical. I secretly believed that “falling in love” was a conceit that people had made up in order to make themselves even more miserable for their perceived insufficiencies. People do stuff like that. Nevertheless, there this song was on a winter day in Wyoming, and I didn’t try to stop it from coming into existence merely because it trafficked in emotions I hadn’t quite experienced. I didn’t know who these people in the song were or, really, what they were experiencing, but as it arrived, it seemed as genuine as any other love song.

That was in 1972. Twenty-one years BldFcUmCIAAJl-X.jpglater, I fell in love for the first time in my life. I looked across a crowded room and saw somebody’s back and knew. Don’t ask me how I knew. Don’t even ask me what it was that I knew.

Now, mind you, this was after I’d had about two hundred people come up to me in various contexts and tell me that “Looks Like Rain” was the song they fell in love to, or was the song that was played at their wedding, or was the song that changed their lives and helped them feel like one person. I would nod and smile as if I knew what they were talking about.

In any event, I was instantaneously in love with some person whose face I hadn’t seen yet. She turned around and fell in love with me.

After we’d been together almost a year, enjoying a relationship so radiant that others would gather around it like cats to a fireplace, we were at a Dead concert in Nassau Coliseum (of all grim places). Bobby started to sing “Looks Like Rain,” and I started singing it to her myself so that she would get all the words. About halfway through, I realized that I was getting all the words for the first time. I finally knew what the song was about. I finally meant it. Or perhaps one could say more accurately that it finally meant me.

The Nassau "Looks Like Rain," where Barlow finally understood what it was he had channeled, can be heard here.

Faring thee well, John.

up
26 users have voted.

Comments

joe shikspack's picture

up
11 users have voted.
hecate's picture

up
10 users have voted.
Steven D's picture

@hecate but now I will definitely check out his songs by whoever sings them.

Thanks for expanding my musical horizons and for the great tribute to a great human being.

up
3 users have voted.

"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

Pluto's Republic's picture

I really liked the video clip of Barlow describing the emotional essence of existence. There is something comfortable and eternal captured therein.

up
13 users have voted.
hecate's picture

@Pluto's Republic
I really like that clip too. Desire.

Neglected to mention he also wrote songs with Brent Mydland.

up
3 users have voted.
thanatokephaloides's picture

(Nothing is ever forgotten.)

Thank you, John Barlow, for everything!

Sad

up
8 users have voted.

"I say enough! If Israel wants to be the only superpower in the Middle East then they can put their own asses on the line and do it themselves. I want to continue to eat."
-- snoopydawg

Cassiodorus's picture

A key moment came when, in conversation with Mardy Murie, he understood that money is an illusion, while the planet is very Real indeed.

Money is one of those illusions we call a "social convention," a shared illusion, part of what constitutes the social imaginary. The social imaginary is not going away, nor will it be fulfilled if we decide that every aspect of our lives will be adjudicated with the solid realisms of physics and chemistry. So illusions will continue -- the question being one of which illusions are appropriate illusions for us. Money is an illusion we could improve upon.

At any rate, nice obit.

up
6 users have voted.

"The Democratic Party is better than the Republican Party in the way that manslaughter is slightly better than murder: It might seem like a lesser crime, but the victim can’t really tell the difference." -- Michael Harriot

hecate's picture

@Cassiodorus
had eddied into finance, thinking "wealth creation" was the answer to something or other. Murie returned him to the flow.

Social conventions are most often looney tunes. To wit: marriage is between one man and one woman. USA! USA! USA! Nakedness is nasty. Let's have jobs! Animals feel no pain, and plants are not sentient. Men afraid that taking a bath would kill them wrote a Paper that should govern the Americans for all time. You sailed over a shit just made up line out there in the ocean and that white_crowned_sparrow_2.jpgmeans you invaded my "nation" and so now I am shooting! Etc.

A piece of paper or a flake of metal is "worth" something only because a couple billion Joey Doaks group-agree it is. Nutso.

I like these sparrows out here on the front-porch railing having their morning feed. Maybe they should be the money.

I find physics most fun where it isn't what is commonly accepted as "real": like being two things at once, or in two places while really nowhere at all. As for chemistry, why aren't Hoffman and Owsley in the Chemistry Hall Of Fame yet? They should at least be awarded a The Faster We Go The Rounder We Get medallion.

up
7 users have voted.
Citizen Of Earth's picture

That's one of my favorite Barlow lyrics. So dam true.

He did humanity a great service by co-founding the EFF. If not for EFF, the Web would already be run under China censorship rules. Although it appears that President Shithole's FCC may finally achieve that Neoliberal Nightmare.

RIP John Barlow.

up
8 users have voted.

Donnie The #ShitHole Douchebag. Fake Friend to the Working Class. Real Asshole.

QMS's picture

gotta smile with John's take. Pretty clean for a long-termer.

up
7 users have voted.
hecate's picture

@QMS
a good ancestor, wrote: "Go into the darkness as clean as you can."

up
5 users have voted.
Citizen Of Earth's picture

hecate, that MJ interview link (form of onanism) was worth the read. Thanks for posting it. I actually only clicked on it to see what the definition of "onanism" is. Hahahha.

JPB: Actually I’m discouraged with the role of the Internet in the antiwar movement. Because so far what I see happening is that cyberspace is a great place for everybody to declaim. There are a million virtual street corners with a million lonely pamphleteers on them, all of them decrying the war and not actually coming together in any organized fashion to oppose it. It strikes me that existing political institutions — whether it’s the administration or Congress or large corporations — only respond to other institutions. I don’t care how many individuals you have marching in the streets, they’re not going to pay attention until there’s a leader for those individuals who can come forward and say I represent the organization of those individuals and we’re going to amass the necessary money and votes to kick you the hell out of office. Then they pay attention. But not until. And so right at the moment it would strike me that the Internet is counterproductive to peace.

up
7 users have voted.

Donnie The #ShitHole Douchebag. Fake Friend to the Working Class. Real Asshole.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Citizen Of Earth Or in other words, it's generally difficult to organize actions online. There are exceptions, but mostly online is for talking or learning.

Early on, it did not seem like that. And certainly Occupy used online to great advantage. I wish we had better retained and disseminated some of their tactics. I don't have any idea how they did a lot of what they did. Or, to put it better, why it worked.

up
7 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

hecate's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal
might say it url-5.jpgworked because "it steam-engines when it comes steam-engine time."

And as for how they did it: "Witchcraft always has a hard time, until it becomes established and changes its name."

up
4 users have voted.
Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@hecate That's a great quote about witchcraft. Who said it?

up
2 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

hecate's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal
He also said the thing about the steam-engines.

up
2 users have voted.
Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

Barlow, Robert Parry, Ursula LeGuin...

up
5 users have voted.

The part of John Edwards could easily be played by a burnt out light bulb.
--strollingone

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Morire de cara sol.
--Jose Marti

QMS's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

up
5 users have voted.
gulfgal98's picture

to John P. Barlow. Beautifully written.

up
4 users have voted.

"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West "...isn't the problem here that the government takes on, arbitrarily and without justification, an adversarial attitude towards its citizenry?" ~CantStoptheMacedonianSignal