Friday, July 15, 2011

The Rick Ocasek Rule

Why does any young man want to play in a band?  This was an easier question to answer in the days before MTV.  Most young men would probably answer that the reason was "to meet girls."  Hot girls.  Girls you would have no business being with otherwise. 

For me, the reason was the Ric Ocasek Rule. 

Like many rock stars (especially pre-MTV), Ric is not a handsome man.  He is abundantly cool, however.  He was the co-lead singer and principal songwriter of the Cars, who were together from 1976-1988.  You may not have heard of them, but if you ever listen to classic rock stations, many of his songs will be familiar to you.  "Just What I Needed", "My Best Friend's Girl", "Shake It Up" and "Let the Good Times Roll" are all theirs.  He is also cool because he was the producer of Weezer's first album (the Blue Album) and if you listen to it now, it definitely has a Cars-like sonic quality. 

Ric Ocasek at his peak - not a handsome man.  Even in a press photo.

But that is not why he is important to us, dear readers.  Put yourself into the mindset of a 13 year old boy.  You are just beginning to discover those pangs of puberty.  The girls in school suddenly have growth in the chestal area.  You listen to popular music all the time and one day discover that nearly every song is about meeting a girl, getting a girl, or breaking up with a girl.  You find yourself in class staring at a girl's neck, or wrist, or ankles even (preferably skinny ankles) - and being aroused by just those simple features.  Yet she seems impenetrable.  So close and yet so far.  How to bridge the gap? 

I was a dork in school.  Never smoked or drank, never in detention.  I studied and got A's.  The only time I was punished was in the 2nd grade, when I accidentally poked Catherine Olsavsky in the arm with a pencil.  Total accident.  The teacher, a nun named Sister Theresa, said to me "Don't do that, son, you could give that little girl lead poisining!"  To which I retorted, "Duh, there's no lead in pencils!  It's graphite!"  Detention.  Take this conduct slip back to your parents and have them sign. 

I played a lot of sports though.  And when you hit puberty when I did and your dad liked sports, that means he had a subscription to Sports Illustrated.  And if that is the case, then the week after the Super Bowl was the week you looked forward to every year with salivating mouth and watering eyes.  Because it was then that the coveted Swimsuit Issue would arrive. 

You would hope Dad wouldn't get home early the day it arrived, so you could have a good look at it before he even knew it was there.  Maybe you would have two days before Dad would ask Mom, "Honey, where is the mail?  Did the Sports Illustrated arrive yet?"  Then the window had closed.  You have to understand that this was pre-PC, pre-internet, pre-DVD, and VHS was barely out there.  We were the last people on the block to get a VCR besides.  Porn stars were not household names, especially in suburban Catholic areas.  To look at porn videos, you had to walk into a video rental store (which was full of people you knew) and go to the back of the store where there was a red curtain.  Look around to make sure no one is watching, then slip through.  Behind the curtain was the wall of porn videos.  And all you could do was look at the cover photos.  How could you rent a porn video with all those other people around?  Your other option of course was to somehow obtain a Playboy, Penthouse, or Hustler at a magazine store.  But at 13, this was a totally impossible scenario. 

Nevertheless, for me, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue was it, baby - full sexual excitement, beauty personified in nubile athletic women in their early 20s on the beach in bikinis.  And Paulina was, to me, the most beautiful of them all.  Something about her was so exotic, yet so vulnerable.  Amazing what a teenage mind can conjure from a good photograph.  I could stare at the cover and be completely satisfied.  But what lay within...

The Ric Ocasek Rule, simply stated, is this.  Ric Ocasek filmed a video for the Cars' last, great hit - "Drive" - and in the video, Ric pretends to have a romantic fight-and-make-up with Paulina Porizkova.  This is 1988.  Ric's band is breaking up at the time and this was their last hurrah.  Ric and Paulina hit it off big-time on the set.  Paulina told Ric that she had loved him through his music from afar for some time before meeting him there.  They got married a year later.  She said later that Ric was "a combination of Mr. Spock, David Bowie, Jesus Christ, and Chopin."  They have two sons, and are still married - 23 years later.  The calculus in a teenage boy's mind is this: "Ugly dude gets hottest girl in universe!!!  How is this possible?  He sings in a band.  OK - so if I sing in a band, I can somehow get hot girls like Ric?  I need to get a guitar right away."   

Married 23 years.
From a young age, I was attracted to Beauty with a capital B.  I didn't quite understand what I was searching for, but I think I do now.  Not really understanding back then led me to a lot of mistakes.  So as a public service, I will bestow on you my Codicil to the Ric Ocasek Rule... How to Find Beauty In Life.

  1. Don't look at Internet porn.  It damages your perception of what a woman is supposed to be.  You begin to view women as participants in the athetic event of sex, rather than delicate human souls capable of intense personal friendship, love, and intimacy.  And that's just from staring into her eyes.  Additionally, it can become an addiction, in the same way as gambling, booze, and drugs.  Porn is very bad, and it leads to men thinking cheaply of women.  Porn basically turns men into animals.  What separates men from beasts is free will.  We can freely chose to ignore our instinct if we think it harms us.  Porn harms us.  A monkey can't stop - a man can.  Choose to be a man! 
  2. Deny yourself certain desires for extended periods.  You need to learn to control yourself, your emotions, and your desires in order to harness your creative power.  This is textbook Art 101 stuff, though since the sexual revolution it has become passe.  Let me give you an example.  Many modern art historians think that Michelangelo was gay, in part because of the very muscular female bodies he painted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.  Personally I think it is not important.  But let's just say that it was actually true that Michelangelo was gay.  According to historical records he never acted on this impulse.  Never.  He was absorbed in his work.  If you make that argument, you can also conclude that he focused all that sexual emotion and frustration with great intensity into his art: the Sistine Chapel, the David, the Pieta.  Work of such immense longing... God gives us talents and challenges.  We must learn to deny ourselves in order to truly unleash our potential. 
  3. There are two kinds of Knowledge.  There is knowledge through Instruction - such as that which can be read from a book or watched on TV.  Knowledge like this remains second-hand and does not really connect you with reality itself.  My adolescent deduction of Ric Ocasek bagging Paulina is this kind of knowledge.  The second kind is knowledge through Experience.  Experiential knowledge involves being struck by the arrow of Beauty which wounds a man (i.e. pain and suffering in your life), and you are thus moved by reality.  You learn more from what happens to you - especially painful experiences - than you can ever learn from a book.  According to a 14th century theologian named Cabasilas, "When men have a longing so great that it surpasses human nature and eagerly desire and are able to accomplish things beyond human thought, it is the Bridegroom [Jesus] who has smitten them with his longing.  It is he who has sent a ray of his beauty into their eyes.  The greatness of the wound already shows the arrow which has struck home, the longing indicates who has inflicted the wound."  Re-read that one & let it bake your head for a while. 
  4. There are two kinds of Beauty.  One is False Beauty.  You see a picture of a beautiful woman naked, your body responds.  It's never as good as the first time.  You do it more & more, but it is less and less satisfying so you continue to do more and more.  And so on.  Pretty soon you have a problem.  False beauty is dazzling, but it fails to bring a human being out of himself into the larger world or open us to the ecstasy of rising heights.  It locks you entirely into yourself.  Advertising is another example of false beauty - it tempts us with images crafted with supreme skill to get us to separate ourselves from our money. 
  5. There are two kinds of Beauty.  One is True Beauty.  I was struck by the arrow of suffering.  It inflicted a nearly mortal wound upon my heart.  It really hurt!  After a time I recognized what was happening to me.  Through my own Dark Night experience, God was saving my life from destruction.  I discovered True Beauty in that sweaty, bloody, humiliated man nailed to a cross.  How can such violence, such pain and suffering, be beautiful?  Because of who he is, and why he did it.  This is reality - this is the Truth.  In finding that out I discovered what True Beauty is. 
Do not dismiss me for what I believe.  My entire life - my happiness - relies on God alone.  To be without God is to be without the only One who can satisfy your soul.  God is the Sole Satisfier.  To be with God is to understand we are all One - we are not alone.  But again, as I learned - you have to figure this out for yourself and make your choice.  That's what free will is all about. 

After God mercifully pointed me toward True Beauty, I soon discovered a woman who would become my wife.  She was born in Poland and came to the US as a teenager.  Paulina Porizkova is from Czech Republic and came to the US as a teenager.  I have heard that the two places to find the most beautiful women in Europe are the Czech Republic and Poland.  I am here to testify that I can vouch for Poland as one of those countries.  And meeting her had nothing at all to do with Ric Ocasek. 

Mahalo ;)=~

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