Display Some Adaptability, Mister Jones

For a bona fide rock star, I’m a man of surprisingly simple tastes. I like electricity. And amplification. I like wielding both of those things with fearsome power and sublime glory, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. I love shaking up the citizens with a serious lightning bolt every once in a while, just to see them flinch. It’s one of my absolute favorite things to do. I mean, it’s one thing to be able to take a shock, but the ability—and willpower—to give a shock, to inflict a pure synaptic jolt of raw power upon someone else, well…that’s a whole other frequency, dude. That’s a level where only snow leopards play, ladies and gentlemen, and not many people truly comprehend what goes on up there.

Oh, there are guesses, for sure—endless and breathless speculation, accusation, and misinterpretation—but those guesses have a predictable tendency to fester and mutate into quasi-answers that ring seductively like chimes of truth, and that’s where the trouble starts. Because no one has all the answers. Because evidence and facts and reality and all those silly shibboleths that people desperately cling to are as amorphous as any other intangible uncertainty. Nothing is for sure—even that canard about death and taxes doesn’t apply to immortal rock stars and the very rich, who are very different from everyone else.

So no, nobody but nobody has all the answers…except for this one guy, but we all know what happened to him, right? Yeah, he got chopped down to size all quick and brutal-like, didn’t he? And why? Because silver is so, so shiny. Because someone’s always a trifle too consumed by their own envy and greed, a little too enthralled by their own puffed-up, bloated wisdom. Too enamored of the literal, us-against-them, right-and-wrong false dichotomies all done up cute and pretty in straw-filled Armani style, yo. Or at least that’s what the bitchy, do-goody little bastards would like you to believe—that the truth is absolute, that either/or is the only option. With us or against us. Reality-based. Credible and critically-thought out.

And if you dare step outside, work around, or question it? Ho ho, well…that’s when you find out the hydra-headed nature of righteous anger, man. The way its half-life can be measured in milliseconds, its impotence in metric tons. The way that ordinarily peaceful, happy, live-and-let-live folkies devolve into monstrous museum pieces, into humorless, stodgy golems of ossifying irrelevancy who boo at something that’s already way over their heads. The way that proper, polite pillars of our brave new world erupt with empty farts of impotent anger, crying “Judas!” in petulant pyrrhic fits of mixed-up confusion. Blind-sided, bruised, and bummed-out under an avalanche of rolling stones.

And what if, in the white-hot pressure of the moment, the target of their righteous wrath fearlessly looks right back into their eyes, into their very souls, and sneers:

“I don’t believe you. You’re a liar.

Not everyone can handle a trip like that, of course, because the accepted laws of physics don’t apply at that speed. Scrambling, reactionary desperation takes over very soon after, when the ghost of electricity crackles through the oldest, hoariest clichés, reanimating them in new and terrifying ways and exhuming all the old uncomfortable questions. Because really, where would we be without Judas? Who would we hate and fear, without any of that pesky doubt or guilt getting in the way? How could we know the definitions of words like “treason,” “betrayal,” or “evil,” or ever presume to nail down other slippery concepts of interpersonal metaphysics?

There are two sides to every double-cross, after all. Two sets of assumptions and priorities and eleven-dimensional agendas, all set to explode on contact if the insecurity gauge senses too much unexplained pressure. Someone will always project and then get burned and embarrassed. Someone will always self-immolate in a horrible inferno of shame, and protesteth a bit too much at the horrible wrongness of it all, ranting helplessly about the all-too obvious and predictable outcome. There are all these nice little boxes that life is supposed to fit into, boxes with names like “freedom” and “justice” and “truth”—fragile, meaningless ciphers ripe for shattering as soon as someone figures out how to curve those corners. How to improvise and tease and tweak and bend reality however they see fit. To warp it in their own image. To be the change they wish to see, as it were.

Everyone will act surprised—cursing the light as they had cursed the darkness—although if they had been paying attention in the first place, such seismic shifts of space-time wouldn’t seem like quantum leaps. No, because every electric charge begins with one electron—when it senses a vacuum and does what any electron will do in that instance. It jumps—and then the next one does, and the next, and the next after that…and suddenly the speedballs take hold and Robbie’s shredding his way through “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” and the kick-drum pounds your mind to mush and the band flattens all opposition with an almighty roar like a freight train and you just know something is happening, but you have no idea what it is, do you? How does it feel? How does it fucking feel, Mister Jones?

Think about that for a second, and maybe the next time it happens you won’t be so caught by surprise. And look, I realize that people can be very frightened of change. A degenerate starship captain said that, so it must be true. Yeah, change will freak ’em out for sure, especially if it doesn’t look like any kinda change they recognize, but things are rarely what they seem, so please, display some fucking adaptability, man. Evolve or die.