One of the keys to maintaining a supple mind and outlook on life is to avail one’s self to new experiences. Just say yes is our mantra here. About a month ago, I went to see an on-stage conversation between Malcolm Gladwell, 56, and Flea, 57. Unlike most of the rest of the rock-and-roll crowd, I went to hear Gladwell, who is one of the smartest, funniest people I know of. Flea is someone I see around the neighborhood from time to time, and of course I have heard of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but somehow that band never made it into the forefront of my consciousness.
Flea Is Articulate and Emotionally Present
The experience was shock and awe. Flea is an incredible human being. Articulate, extremely well-read, and emotionally present in a way that almost no one ever is on stage. At one point he started crying when speaking about his childhood and his love for his bandmates. That just does not happen. Maybe on Oprah, maybe on daytime TV, but a well-established rock star who starts leaking on stage in front of a thousand people? Wow. It was a moment.
Acid for the Children
The talk was to help promote Flea’s new book Acid for the Children, about him growing up as a super-sensitive street urchin in Hollywood. That Flea made it out of his teenage years alive is somewhat of a miracle and a testament to his incredible lifeforce. One of the interesting points that Gladwell brought up was the relative nature of what Flea described as his truth. Keith Richards, it seemed, hired a team of researchers to help him get his facts straight. No wonder, considering what state of consciousness he may have been in back then. Flea took a very different tack.
“The limits of my memory are their own reward”
“The facts and figures aren’t important to me, the colors and shapes that make the world are; they are who I am, right or wrong. The limits of my memory are their own reward. Like Rashomon, the same thing looks different to everyone from their angle. The greatest fault of humankind belongs to those who think their view of what’s real is the only truth.” In other words, the actual facts are not that important. What is important is how his version of them affected him. This is not a history book so much as a journey into the mind of a wild-eyed, wondrous teenager on the loose, filled with energy and drive; a book close in its spirit to Kerouac’s On The Road.
Memoir Reads Like a Book of Poems
Acid for the Children has been on my night table for a few weeks. Normally, I am a linear reader. I finish what I start, and I always go in order of the pages. This book I am consuming in bites, more like I would a book of poems. There is a linear time element to its organization, but it doesn’t seem that important. It is the spirit of Flea, as he tells his poetically colored tales of what it felt like to be him back in those running wild days that, to me, is the value. I am charmed.
Mr. Gladwell, I owe you for bringing this very special person onto my radar. Good things happen when we leave the house and say yes to whatever. Flea, I don’t know you, and probably never will, your gift for communication extends far beyond the magical playing of your instrument. You inspire me. Don’t stop.