Tag Archives: integrity

Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys & Artistic Integrity

Emerging from a serious Beach-Boys binge recently, during which I listened to albums, read books and watched biographical films, I was amazed at the revivifying impact my short sojourn with summer, surfing, California, road tripping, fun, lucid tones and Brian Wilson’s favorite or “pet” sounds had on my countenance.  The world was good again.

The Beach Boys hold a special place in my heart as theirs was the first vinyl album I was allowed to drop and spin on my parents’ brand new Zenith all-wood, stereo console when I was three-years-old. I prepared for these sound and motion events by strategically placing three jersey-cotton. Buster-Brown skirts—in tiered formation— down my little-girl, string-bean body. Stepping onto the living-room rug, I would spin, dance and jam under the intense sound of the beating, California sun, singing along with Brian, his brothers, one cousin and a good friend—mashing motions with their incredible harmonies.

“You’re so good to me. / How come you are? …La,la, la, /La, la, la… And, I looove it, looove it.”


Then, with all of that rocking, spinning and singing, at some point, I would land in a sweaty heap next to one set of wood-encased console speakers with my lungs still working to wail about the pain gained and love lost over Wendy. We had come to the end of the second side of that album. (And, yes, vinyl is still better than digital; and, yes, wood is still better than anything for conveying a smooth, mellow wave of sound.) These whirling events were shear sound-movement bliss—my ecstatic quest was always fulfilled.

Until the British invasion, The Beach Boys remained unsurpassed on United States pop charts and in American hearts. And, as it is with all people who create, there came a tipping point in the creative process for Brian Wilson, when he really wanted to express—in both lyric and score—a more nuanced vision for Beach-Boys sound. The recording-studio executives hiccuped and coughed about and over titles like “God Only Knows”. But, how else can it be expressed— what it is like to be in awe, in gratitude, in wonder and truly in Love?

I think about this sometimes, when I break up my sedentary, quiet writing spells with a little in-home, Beach-Boys mania. What would I write about in an ecstatic state? I fear it would come out in seed phonemes—like scat singing, or it would appear to be some Dadaist poem. This spiritual ecstasy is that T H I N G from which “words turn away”—as it is discribed in The Upanishads.

Thank you, Brian, Carl, Dennis, Mike and Al—and everyone who has ever sung or played to make the Beach-Boys music.  Your work remains—always—in our hearts.

With love.

An Economy of Trust II

Connections.  The connections I see when I drive over a newly constructed bridge in the United States have to do with pride in workmanship, integrity in professionalism—no matter where one stands on the socio-economic ladder—and an adherence to values as a culture that we, in general, strive to live, build, create and sustain not only for ourselves and our immediate needs but for the greater good of our posterity.  This is why the newer bridges I drive over are higher, wider and stronger.  We are thinking not only about ourselves and our immediate needs, but also about what is best in the long-term.


In contrast, when an economy is fractured by corruption and moves into a state of duality—or another more complex configuration—(and I am unsure of the cause-effect relationships here) the very nature of base-line social connections at work, to one another and our concepts of integrity begin to change radically.  And, when an economy continues to function with a shrug or a nod toward petty theft and corruption, ethical numbness sets in.  In my experience, trust is lost in these cultures—trust in the economy and trust in social relationships.  Social connections in cultural contexts with active black markets are about making “friends” for purposes of personal economic survival or gain because what is needed–on a material level—cannot be procured reliably at a store or through official means of work.

Ethical numbness is a disquieting set of two words.  As things stand now, in the context of my regional backyard, I still hold trust that you and I will both stop at the next red light,  follow safety codes governing new construction, that the large collection of library materials, we hold in common, will be available for check-out and that the average person remains steady in honoring the principles of pride in workmanship, integrity to use work materials for and at work and that our commitment to service is genuine.  This is why I feel safe driving across a new bridge.

Ultimately, the only thing we as individuals may truly safeguard in any market is our personal integrity.  And, personal integrity has the opportunity to travel to work with us in our lunch pails every day.  Integrity means that the sausage, should I choose to purchase meat, is made of up of what is on an accurately labeled product.  Integrity means that the requisite cement bags and steel at a work site remain at the assigned location to be used in the designated building project.  Integrity means performing with professionalism for the hours we have clocked in to work.

Functioning in this way, with attentiveness to professionalism and integrity, often produces spontaneous purple waves of gratitude and amber waves of awe while driving down some new and beautiful stretch of road.

An Economy of Trust I

Driving across a new four-lane bridge, I feel an overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude for the solid safety and engineering of the structure.  Forty feet below and off to the side, I see the old retired bridge, a narrow, two-lane affair, which has stood for about fifty years.  The new bridge is one of many structures being upgraded and expanded on this stretch of highway.  The entire road is being upgraded through a general widening, heightening, as well as the systematic replacement of older bridges which are being improved as a public safety measure in order to better handle additional traffic and potential flood waters.


Generally, when driving across new bridges, I do not experience purple mountains of gratitude or amber waves of awe.  These emotions are conjured because of my experiences of living in foreign cultures with alternate economies.  Academics and theorists might have us believe that economies are cold-blooded constructs devised for the discussion of resource acquisition, distribution, manufacture and the consumption of goods.  Yet, economies are created, shaped, upheld, corrupted or sustained by people and their behaviors.  Economies are in fact warm-blooded.

In countries where there are dual systems of economic distribution—both the official and the black markets, the black market often pulls its resources or goods from the official system.  There was a running joke in one of the countries, where I was a student that addressed this very issue:  Do you know why there are no stray animals around a sausage factory?  They have to get the meat from somewhere.

The “official cuts of meat” slated to make it from farm to factory to table were frequently commandeered through petty theft by workers along the official chain of production, transportation and manufacture.  Thus, the “sausage” making its way to the official supermarkets apparently had substantial portions of unofficial fillers—stray animals, paper and who-knows-what.  One close friend, living in this economy full-time and preferring to purchase imported sausage when it was available, noted that even her dog would not eat the domestic sausage from the grocery store.

Issues of petty theft and corruption, inherent in economies where the black market is strong, do not stop with sausage production.  Where there is an active, dual-system economy in operation, construction sites also might see a few bags of cement disappear or several lengths of steel go missing.  These materials then show up in personal building projects or on the black market to be traded or sold for other goods or services that the average person might not otherwise be able to access (e.g. tickets to a cultural or sporting event).  And, the bridge or high-rise building being constructed goes without the structural benefit of these materials.  The appearance of the bridge or high-rise might match the proposed completed structure on a set of blueprints, but the reality is that these projects are not necessarily complete or structurally sound.

To be continued.