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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 3 24 23 – The Big Ol’ Bug Is the New Baby Now

Try to be happy within the context of the life we are actually living. Happiness is not a situation to be longed for or a convergence of lucky happenstance. Through the power of our own minds, we can help ourselves. - Wayne Coyne

Some background on the title is in order here. The Big Ol’ Bug Is the New Baby Now is a song by The Flaming Lips, part of the album Zaireeka. The album consists of four CDs engineered so when played simultaneously on four separate audio systems, they would produce a harmonic or juxtaposed sound; the discs could also be played in different combinations, omitting one, two or three discs. The album's title is a portmanteau of two words: Zaire, chosen as a symbol of anarchy after Wayne Coyne heard a radio news story about the political instability of the African nation, and Eureka (literally: "I have found it"), an expression of joyous discovery. I don’t think it made the top 40, but I do recall it 25 years later.

I have been thinking about this song lately and the first time Julie and I heard it played. It was surreal. We were on a vacation in Scotland on the remote Island of Islay listening to a BBC interview with Wayne Coyne and the concept of the four set CD that plays as one composition described above. The year was 1998 in what seems now like a different world. He was talking about how the group was experimenting with the idiosyncrasies of Compact Disk (CD) technology (now outdated but then the leading-edge tech) and having fun with it. He was playing with the delays that would occur by attempting to play all tracks at the same time and that no matter what, each time would sound differently.

He talked about the song; the Big Ole Bug is the New Baby Now. It about their dogs and how they had toy preferences. The dogs seemed to be saving one from being shredded, until one day they shredded the favored toy and selected another toy to baby. It was of course, the Big Ole Bug. 25 years later, I can still recall the interview, it was fascinating. And then, Wayne said that for the first time, the song would be played live over the air on four CD players in the studio.

He got all four CDs playing and we listened while driving across a big open stretch of the remote Scottish Island. As Julie and I listened, we started laughing uncontrollably. It was one of the funniest things we had ever heard, in part because we have seen our dogs behave in this way. I forgot which side of the road I was driving on we were lucky to be the only car on that long stretch of desolate and beautiful land. The song and the sounds of the four CDs playing incongruently was absolutely hilarious to the point I had to pull the car over to avoid driving it into a ditch.

All these years later, I have a vivid recollection of the moment. It was so unexpected and hilarious. We were both hyperventilating from laughter. Neither of us were thinking it would strike us as so amusing. It also was a brilliant artistic experimentation with the technology of the day. I admire people who can see things in a new way and do something that has never been done before. This lead singer who started as a “fry chef” at Long John Silvers and the band were innovating music in ways that no one had ever done before them. That is cool. That we experienced the song in our relative youth when we were exploring a place we love probably makes the experience resonate even more deeply.

I think of the song as our dogs have this same tendency to carry around a stuffed animal gently and lovingly, sometimes for weeks or months at a time before shredding them. I also wonder what is going on. Why that particular toy until some moment when it becomes shredded bits on our carpet. I am not sure what they consider, but I am certainly curious as to what happens inside those fur covered heads!

In recovery, we learn to take one day at a time. It is important to keep looking at the world with fresh eyes and a spirit of lightheartedness, perhaps especially when times are rough. I can at times get jaded and stop looking at the world around me as fresh and new. It is a miraculous world we live in! Something this article expands on as looking at the world though child’s eyes. As we get older, we probably need to work on seeing the world in this way, I know I do. A way that came to us naturally in our early years. Dogs live in the moment and help remind me to do the same.

In writing this piece, I ran across a Rolling Stone interview with Wayne Coyne he gave at the height of the pandemic when musicians were out of work and things seemed particularly grim. His view then was quite optimistic. I wonder if having the mindset of exploration is part of such optimism. I suspect strongly as he suggests in the quote above that they are linked. Our attitudes about what life throws at us matters a great deal to how our lives unfold.

I hope for many new moments that take me by surprise and result in gut heaving laughter. Those moments are healing. I am grateful for people who devote their time and energy into doing things that bring us such moments. They are not frivolous; they are essential to the human condition. I am grateful for artists and innovators who spend their time experimenting with things the rest of us pass by.

What are you grateful for today?

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