Talking Heads Dharma

More Songs About Buildings and FoodA straight line exists between me and the good thing.
I have found the line and its direction is known to me.
Absolute trust keeps me going in the right direction.
Any intrusion is met with a heart full of the good thing.

– “The Good Thing,” Talking Heads

I discovered the Talking Heads my freshman year in college. It was “Artists Only” that I fell for first. I’d heard “Psycho Killer” as a senior in high school, but I didn’t know what to make of it. It was that moment hearing “Artists Only” that got me. I borrowed the album from Marco down the hall in my dorm. I took it to my room and dropped the needle on my turntable on track one. In “I don’t have to prove that I am creative” I found an affirmation of something I was wrestling with at the time and I used that lyric to bolster me and remind me of who I was during a difficult year.

It’s often been like this for me, that a lyric could give me strength and such a strong sense of security that I’d cling to it like a potent totem, playing it over and over until it was squeezed dry of inspiration and power. Many songs have hit the discard pile after dutifully serving their purpose-at-the-time.  Too many to list and so many I’d be too embarrassed to list… Like “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman or the Kinks’ “Low Budget” or more recently Stuart Davis’ “Karma Pyre.”

So there’s something really great about a song that has stayed fresh over decades. “Artists Only” faded in relevance years ago, but later that year I fell in love with “The Good Thing” and it has been a consistent favorite for 34 years. I’m discovering that it’s one of my basic creeds, a simple statement of beliefs that I hold true. I really can’t find fault with what it says, nor are there any words that have mixed resonances for me. I just say “yes” to the basic message:

A straight line exists between me and the good thing.

To me, this is a reminder and an affirmation that I am connected to Spirit. By whatever name: God, Holy Spirit, Buddha Nature, Ground of Being, Jesus, … I affirm that I am connected. When I turn my attention, Spirit is there and I am connected. If I’m not perceiving it, feeling it, it’s not that God isn’t present. There is a straight line, it’s not hard to find.

I have found the line and its direction is known to me.

Do I get lost? Do I forget the way? Do I lose awareness of my connection and declare myself abandoned and forgotten? Ahem, sometimes still yes though not as often as before. When the tantrum dies down, I know “where” to go, how to reconnect.

Absolute trust keeps me going in the right direction.

Whether Spirit’s communications are coming in the form of giant letters writ big across the sky (I keep wishing this would happen) or comes in the form of subtle communications, bodily senses, and direct knowings (my more usual ways of receiving information), I can keep moving ahead. I affirm that I am being guided, I affirm that I am connected, I affirm and remind myself that the matrix in which I’m walking is completely saturated with God-Presence. Like a laptop in a wireless network, I connect, I tune in, and I walk on in faith that I am on the good path.

Any intrusion is met with a heart full of the good thing.

And should difficulties arise, I will try, I will do my best to greet difficulty with a heart soaked in love. This is where practice meets real life, where the fruits of the Spirit are tested and new areas for growth are identified. But difficulties also help us see how we’ve grown when we see that we’re not getting tripped up quite the way we used to.

It’s a beautifully simple and powerful statement of truth that flows into a recipe for Spirit-inspired living:

As the heart finds the good thing, the feeling is multiplied.
Add the will to the strength and it equals conviction.
As we economize, efficiency is multiplied,
To the extent I am determined the result is the good thing.
So I say:
I have adopted this and made it my own:
Cut back the weakness, reinforce what is strong.

Add the driving rhythm, melody, and high-energy voice of David Byrne and it becomes an urgent reminder of the good that is right here, right now and a call to right action. Thank you, Talking Heads.

Watch me walk.

There are lots of other lyrics that have worked their way into my being and have become part of my personal cannon. Perhaps I’ll share others down the road. If you have a lyric you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s to our awakening!

4 Responses to “Talking Heads Dharma”

  1. claire November 24, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    I’ve always loved the Talking Heads, but never fully appreciated “The Good Thing.” Thanks for the analysis Bill. One song that’s been consistently important to me, and I think is profound and spiritual, is also by the Heads – “This Must be the Place (Naive Melody).” A few of my favorite lyrics:

    Home, is where I want to be
    But I guess I’m already there

    I can’t tell one from the other
    Did I find you, or you find me?
    There was a time, before we were born
    That someone said, this is where I’ll be, where I’ll be

  2. Jim Cox November 25, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    Claire, Yes! I love that song… David Byrne described it as a love song, one of his most vulnerable and honest, and it still brings me to tears.

    The 1984 movie _Stop Making Sense_ left me in an altered state for days. I received some sort of Transmission from Byrne’s wild eyes as I tried to grok the lyrics and the mad genius behind them. I’ve watched it again every few years to gauge my spiritual growth, checking for any new messages directed my way. I intuit a force that moves, unites and transcends the band beyond its individual members.

    The 1975 song _Loving You is Easy (‘Cause You’re Beautiful)_ by Minnie Riperton had its own spiritual Transmission for me, triggering an awakening to sexual/spiritual/divine/human love when I was 13. The song still haunts me, inspiration of a tragic angel just 4 years before her death from breast cancer.

    I’ve found it helpful to treat song lyrics as hints from my unconscious to my conscious self, especially when the lyrics are stuck in my head. Only by noticing their personal meaning in some current context can I get the needle unstuck.

    Great topic, Bill, thanks!

  3. Lisa November 25, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    Since coming to Korea, I find Nina Simone’s lines from “Ain’t Got No” keep coming to mind:

    I’ve got life
    I’ve got my freedom
    I’ve got life

    There’s a slight disconnect, because I feel that I don’t “got life” rather that I am life, but still the words work for me. I’ve got my freedom. I carry it with me.

    • Bill Epperly November 25, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

      Lisa, I love it. Sometimes I misunderstand the words and make up what I learn later is my own version (but one that works for me and wouldn’t if I got the words right).

      One example: I used to sing, “I am the sun and the air,” as an affirmation of my sense of oneness with the sky. Later, when I figured out what the song, “How soon is now” was really about, I had a good laugh. But my affirmation had its good purpose! 🙂