Jan Cox Talk 3119

Your Brain on Country Music


The following recordings are from Jan’s final years, when his voice was diminished and he spoke in a low whisper. Some listeners may find these tapes hard to listen to, or difficult to understand. Thus, as another option, read the transcript below.

Otherwise, turn up the volume and enjoy! Those who carefully listened to Jan during this period consider that he spoke plainly and directly to the matter at hand, “pulling out all the stops,” as he understood that these were to be his last messages to his groups, and to posterity.

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Summary = See below
Edited Transcript = See Below
Condensed News = See below
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Notes by TK

The amazement of being conscious = the awakening of enlightenment. We cannot know what consciousness is or anything about it, but we can be amazed by it. What is taken to be original thinking is merely a reworking of previous material having emotional resonance in the brain. An example: the song ‘Hillbilly Heaven’ which after the original line of ‘I dreamed I died and went to hillbilly heaven’ is just the review of past artists and their hit songs. (66:13) #3119

Notes by DR

When you listen to someone talk you don’t hear their words. You hear your words commenting on those words. That’s thinking.


3/10/04 # 3119
Edited by SA

Nobody enjoys aging. But hey, you can’t stop it. I can’t resist pointing out that it certainly is a shame, if you’ve ever been interested in the idea of waking up, not to take advantage of age-related hormonal changes. I hope that until the day you die, you still enjoy all the physical pleasures of life—food, sex, physical activity. But as part of aging, hormonal changes gradually alter what you can do with consciousness. The result is that when you’re fifty or sixty, you could devote more energy to the process of trying to see what’s going on then you did when you were twenty. Even though in a sense I got what I wanted out of This some years ago, I’m enjoying it more now than I did before I turned the royal corner. It’s a whole different game, and it’s more fun every day.

Now back to what I covered last time. I pointed out that consciousness is fueled, is nourished, from two sources. The internal source, what is going on in you physiologically, produces your general state of consciousness, your mental moods. What you’ve been eating, your age, any sort of genetic problems you have, the daydreams you’re having, those all fuel consciousness. But if something external to you demands your attention, then your consciousness is fueled, at least in part, externally.

Of all the descriptions that I have offered of waking up from a dream, one description that spurs me is “the amazement of being conscious.” If someone had told me, or if I had read when I was seventeen, that there was a thing called “enlightenment” or “awakening,” and it immediately caught my attention, but then rather than saying that everyone is in a dream and some men find it quite annoying and want to awaken from the dream—if instead, the description had been that some people are so smitten, so astounded by being conscious that they spend the rest of their lives caught up in the amazement of it, I’m sure that description wouldn’t have caught my attention at all. But now I find that description more precious, more pleasing, and funnier than “waking up from a dream,” or “coming out of the dark into enlightenment,” or “leaving captivity,” or “the great liberation.”

“The amazement of being conscious” is a very valid description, and perhaps more accurate than any other I’ve pulled out of my pocket. Because in the beginning, it seems like what you’re after is the answer to all sorts of questions. I’ve had all the questions that you ever heard of, that you’ve ever thought of, and now they’re satisfied. So it’s not like I’m looking for an answer to a question, but rather it’s the amazement of having been through all this, and specifically, the amazement of being conscious.

To put it another way, the only question left is, is there anything that you can make out of consciousness? Is there anything you know about being conscious? Because I assure you, you don’t know anything about it. Ordinary people say they do. But you need to really consider the question, “What do I know about consciousness?”

I’m talking about your own consciousness. Not some theoretical thing that is a function of the brain. Just—are you conscious? Ask yourself while you’re driving home tonight, “Am I conscious?”

I say something’s wrong with you if it doesn’t make you laugh and chuckle every time you do it.

You think, “Yeah, I’m conscious. But what is consciousness?” You think, “I don’t know! I’m amazed!”

Consciousness is everything to you. Without consciousness, what is there? We don’t know. If you weren’t conscious, you would either be dead, or you’d be some lumpy body lying in a hospital bed in a coma. You look at somebody in a coma and you say, “What are they?” Nobody knows. You know they’re not conscious, though. So if you’re not conscious, you don’t exist. What could be more amazing than not to know anything about consciousness? You know all kinds of things about your body. But what do you know about your own consciousness? Zip.

Regarding the external nourishment of consciousness, there is a great example I want to present to you. This example may sound serpentine at first, but I give it to you with my highest regards. Don’t make an instant judgment when I describe this. Don’t just go, “Well yeah, I got that,” because even if you immediately are struck by it, you haven’t squeezed all of the juice out of it regarding what waking up is about, and what being asleep is about. There’s something in this example that is—I usually say “singular,” but I’m tired of that word. How about “precious?”

Here it is: I heard a country song. And that part doesn’t matter. I could change it to a rock song. But let’s just use this particular country song. We’ll call it “Country Music Heaven.” It was written by—let’s call him Joe Greenleaf. And it was a hit. This guy wrote a song, got a recording contract, they’re playing it on the radio, and people are buying it. He made money off of this original song.

The opening line was, “I dreamed I died and went to Country Music Heaven.” That line was original, I’ll give him that. Then he sings, “I look over here and at first I saw,” and he starts naming singers. “There’s Johnny Cash in his black suit. And I hear the music to ‘I Walk the Line.’”

Between each of the singers’ names, he waits a measure or two. “There’s Patsy Cline sitting there. And she’s humming to herself, ‘Walking after Midnight.’” He waits another fifteen seconds, then, “And over there it’s Ernest Tubb in his big ten-gallon hat, and I see his boots, and it reminds me of ‘I’m Walking the Floor over You.’”

Imagine you’re sitting there listening to this “original” song. Listen to me, and simultaneously look into your brain. You hear, “I dreamed I died and went to Country Music Heaven.’” Then for three minutes the singer mentions twenty names, and the song they’re most identified with. And if they were known for a particular form of dress, like Ernest Tubb’s ten-gallon hat, or one of Porter Wagoner’s flashy Nudie of Hollywood suits with the sequins, he’d throw that in. And in between each of these names, he pauses and gives you time for your brain to do what I’m telling you to look at.

He says, “I see Johnny Cash standing there in his black suit, and there’s the music of ‘I Walk the Line.’” Look into your brain. “And there’s Miss Patsy Cline, and she’s humming ‘Sweet Dreams.’” Look into your brain. Then he mentions Ernest Tubb and “I’m Walking the Floor over You.” Look into your brain. He’s singing about Ernest Tubb, and suddenly you picture Ernest Tubb because either you saw him in person one time, or you saw his face on an album cover. Now the singer says, “I thought of ‘Walking the Floor Over You.’” And in your mind, you start singing, “I’m walking the floor over you.” Wow!

If Joe Greenleaf was out in person singing this song, the audience would be full of people who love country music. When he says, “And there’s Ernest Tubb in the ten-gallon hat,” you would hear people in the audience going, “Oh, oh, oh, oh!” and clapping like crazy.

Or the audience could be just your brain. Let’s say you’re a fan of country music. You could be listening to the radio alone, and your brain would do the same thing. “Oh, oh, oh!” Swooning. Applauding.

What’s going on? This is what passes for thinking. It’s astounding. It’s as simple as duck manure, which is very simple. Duck manure can’t even be shoveled. It can only be run from, like a leaky, toxic dam. At any rate, I hope you can feel what I’m talking about. And it will surely blow your mind apart, because what I’m describing is what’s almost impossible for thought to grasp.

This is not a criticism. I am not picking on country music or the song writer. Remember, these are just examples, and the specifics aren’t important. He could have been in Rock and Roll Heaven. “I look over there, and I see John Lennon, and I hear the music to ‘Give Peace a Chance.’”

But that first line, “I dreamed I died and went to Country Music Heaven,” was the only thing Joe Greenleaf wrote. It was his one piece of originality. One day he heard an announcement that some country music star had died. And he thought, “Man, almost all the great ones are dead. I wonder if there’s a part of Heaven devoted to country music people. Wow! There’s a song!”

When you listened to that song, that first line is all that you actually heard. You did hear the names of the twenty people he called out. You did hear him say, “Ernest Tubb.” But of course, he didn’t write the name Ernest Tubb. All he did in your brain was, he said “Ernest Tubb.” Your brain wrote the next fifteen seconds of the song. It’s like he said the name and then stood back and gave you fifteen seconds—and the audience all went, “Aaw, Ernie! I’m walking the floor over you!” And you suddenly hear it.

Then he says “Patsy Cline.”

“Aaw!” And everyone applauds.

He shuts up for another fifteen seconds. You picture Patsy. Some of her fancy dresses. Her songs, “Walking after Midnight,” or “Crazy.”

“Aah!” The audience is clapping again.

Suddenly he’s mentioning Johnny Cash.

“Johnny Cash! Aaw!” Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap.

Remember, he and you are not important. As always, I am not talking about people. I’m talking about consciousness. What goes on in your brain that you call consciousness and thinking.

Do you understand how you’ve been cheated? Do you understand what a trick that is? Of course, it’s not done on purpose. Joe Greenleaf has got no idea of what he’s doing.

Life has people doing this. They don’t understand it, but they know something’s good about it. Some vocalists will do it before they start a song, but comedians are the main ones who do it, since their whole act consists of talking anyway. They walk out to an audience of strangers, and they’ve learned that it’s good to get the people to approve of something. They’ll come onstage and say, “Hey, it’s great to be back here in Chicago.” And immediately the audience claps and cheers. Then the comedian might say, “How about this weather? Yeah, spring is here. Is this a beautiful day or what?”

“Yeah! Yaaaay!”

Do you understand what’s happening? When you applaud for Chicago, you’re applauding the comedian. He got you to applaud him. And it’s more than that. He’s instantly got you partly on his side.

Ministers on TV do the same thing. They get to the end of some tirade, and they’ll say, “Give the Lord a hand.” And the audience claps and claps. The preacher doesn’t know what he’s doing. It’s not a conspiracy. Well, it’s Life’s conspiracy.

Now I’m using everyday language, but follow me and remember, we’re not talking about country singers or comedians or TV ministers. I’m trying to point out to you what consciousness is, the basis of its operations that no one sees. If you see it now, you’ll be amazed that you never saw it before.

What happens to the audience also goes on in your brain. Joe Greenleaf, the songwriter, has got everyone in his pocket when he mentions Ernest Tubb and “I’m Walking the Floor over You.” And people love “I’m Walking the Floor Over You.” It was one of the biggest country hits of all time. So in a sense, Joe Greenleaf is reaping the benefit of Ernest Tubb’s whole career, of Tubb’s sixty years in show business, singing his little Texas heart out. Joe Greenleaf now has cashed in on Ernest Tubb’s whole life.

What about you? You’re participating. You hear the words, “Ernest Tubb” and “I’m Walking the Floor over You,” and what happens? Instantly, something starts happening in your brain, with words and even sounds, because if you’re musically inclined, you will even hear the tune to Ernest Tubb’s song. You’ll hear it and you might even get a glimpse of Ernest Tubb, if you ever saw him before in person or on TV or just saw a photo of his face from an album cover. Joe Greenleaf is reaping the benefit not only of Ernest Tubb’s hit song, but of you loving it. Because in your brain you go, “Aaah! Ernest Tubb!” And you’re also applauding Joe Greenleaf’s song.

That’s called “thinking” in the ordinary world.

“Yes, I’m thinking.”

“What were you thinking about?”

“I was thinking what a great artist Ernest Tubb was.”

You call that thinking? I don’t mean that as an attack. That is thinking to your ordinary brain. But if and when what I’m describing hits you like a frying pan between the eyes, your brain will explode.

I tried to describe this on and off for about a year, using the symbolism of the dog in your yard chasing cars, which is the same thing. But this new example bypasses all metaphors and symbolism. I don’t know whether you’re going to find this example more obscure, more oblique than metaphors like dogs chasing cars, but with this example, you can skip all the metaphors. This is literally what goes on.

I could have framed it more intellectually. You could be reading a book about the history of Britain, the history of psychology, the history of psychiatry, something that might appear to ordinary people to be at a much higher intellectual level than a country music song. But it’s the same thing. Under all ordinary conditions, if you are listening to someone else’s words, if you are reading their words, you are not thinking. Even though that is thinking in the ordinary sense.

It doesn’t do you any good for me to say, “That’s not thinking.” If you tried your best, if you thought, “Well, you sound intelligent. You must mean something so I’ll figure it out.” You can go “hmmm” and grunt and strain your brain, your ordinary brain, from now until eternity, and what good does it do you if I say, “You think you’re awake and conscious, but you’re actually in a dream right now. And you’re not really conscious. You just think you are.” Bang your head on a table. Put it in a vise. It still won’t do any good.

You sit and read a book. Perhaps you consider it a serious book. You tell yourself, “I’m reading this book, an original history of psychology by Dr. X. I’m reading his thinking. I’m reading this original work.”

You are not. In one sense, you are reading your words.

When you listen to someone talk, you’re not listening to their words. You hear their words and then, faster than I can talk, your words comment about the words you heard. Someone says, “Here is my idea of why people have phobias.” Think of the number of things that are going on in your brain as soon as you hear the word “phobias,” or the word “psychology.” Whatever it is, if you’re interested in it, which is the only reason you would be giving it any attention, your brain encounters what ordinary men say is an idea, which is a bunch of words strung together. But you don’t hear the idea. Can you even say the idea exists? There are words with which you are familiar that make up the idea, and that’s what interests you.

So a guy writes this song, “I dreamed I went to Country Music Heaven. The first thing I saw was Ernest Tubb’s hat.” And immediately, in your brain, what ordinary people would call “thinking” writes the next fifteen seconds. Or Ernest Tubb’s life writes it. It writes itself.

This is not an attack. But you do realize, and I’m speaking figuratively now, what a fraud that was. Somebody had the idea, but then all he had to do was write one line, and after that, all he did was name names.

He could have been an anthropologist, a psychiatrist, a historian, a physicist. He could have been a philosopher who wrote a song, “I Dreamed I Died and Walked through the Philosophy Hall of Fame. The first one I saw there, of course, was Socrates.” And he gives you fifteen seconds while he’s walking to the next plaque, and you think whatever Socrates brings up in your brain. Then he says, “And then of course next is Plato, and then, Aristotle.” Between each of the names, he pauses a few seconds, and all of you in the audience, your dog chases the word “Socrates” all around your head, up and down the street, until suddenly, he breaks into your reverie, into your daydreaming, because he says, “And next is Plato.” “Aah!” And through your mind runs fifteen seconds’ worth of philosophy, reminiscing, and the history of Plato.

What a stroke of fraudulent genius. The guy’s got a hit record, owns the copyright, every time it’s played on the radio, he gets a few cents. But look at that dirty, cheap, lowdown son-of-a-gun. All he did was get this idea that “I died and went to the philosophers’ hall of fame.” And all he did then was name twenty of the world’s most popular philosophers, historians, religious leaders, martyrs, stock car drivers, rugby players, mystics, whatever. And your brain goes, “Aw, aw, aw Plato, aw.” Clap, clap, clap. And you feel like something’s going on. You feel like you’re being exposed to an original piece of art, original thought.

That is not only not original, that is what normally passes for thought of all sorts in your and everyone else’s mind. That is what I mean when I write these little conversations that I used to for The Daily News and that I still do on that daily website, conversations going on between fathers and sons or kings and prime ministers, and somebody’s always pointing out to somebody else, “Well, that’s not thinking.” That’s what I mean when I use the terms, “an independent thinker,” or “independent thinking,” and talk about how everybody’s normally in prison, how we’re captive internally, mentally.

People read what I wrote about independent thinking, or they hear me say it. They go, “Yeah, that’s me. I’m an independent thinker. I love to argue. I love to think about things on my own.” “You mean, like, are we alone in the universe?” They say, “Well, yeah, that kind of stuff.”

You’re the sort of person, if you were a dog, that thing that just went by, you wonder, “Is that an actual car? Is that worth chasing?” Now the question is, do you have any choice? Do you do anything but chase other people’s cars? Do you do anything mentally except be a patsy listener to the “Country Music Hall of Fame”? God, have you been snookered! “I love that record. It’s the only time in my life I bought two copies of a CD just in case I ever break one. I love that song. It is so meaningful. I’m not normally sentimental, but down toward the end, I almost tear up. I mean, after listening to him sing about all those greats.”

Let me remind you, that man didn’t sing about anything. He called their names, and gave you fifteen seconds to chase the car of Ernest Tubb. Remember, what the singer did is not the point. What’s going on in your brain is the point.

Years ago I wrote a little story, and I think I said that there was a world one time wherein they believed that words came first, and that the words subsequently created man. Irrational? Impossible? Don’t bet on it.

If you call listening to a record, reading a book—if you accept that as thinking, I can’t recommend to you too highly what I’ve tried to describe in this talk. If its significance doesn’t strike you right away, keep thinking about it.

Do you understand how you’ve been cheated? Do you understand how you’ve been duped? You’re saying that you enjoy that song. All he’s done is call out a song title every fifteen seconds, and you entertain yourself for the remainder of the fifteen seconds. And at the end of the song, he takes a bow and you give him a standing ovation. Or you’re listening to the CD and you’ve got to play it again. You say that song is now, as a matter of fact, your twenty-first favorite song of all time.“I love that song!” What song, you dunderhead! That’s no song. You’ve been duped.

Don’t you see what that rascal has done to you? And there you are going “Ooh! Aah!” and in your head. applauding. Don’t you realize you’ve been made a fool of? Yeah, but you are made a fool of twenty-four hours a day, whether you see it or not.

The same way as a comedian going, “God it’s great to be here in Chicago.” Clap, clap, clap. What are you applauding for? He didn’t tell a joke. He didn’t say anything witty. He asked if you were from Chicago and you applauded and whooped and smiled, and some of you punched each other in the arm. Are you drunk? Are you out of your mind? Do you have a mind?

All the way from that to, “Let’s give the Lord a hand.” But, I repeat, that is normal thinking. That’s what thinking consists of.

If I were dying, and had a dying wish, it would be that some way I could squeeze this one thing into your skull. Think about being duped. Think about the song I just described, and that you very possibly would love it.

Of course, sometimes the inner noise gets your attention. Your stomach hurts, your head hurts, whatever. But if there is nothing such as that physiologically going on, then it’s what’s outside that’s in your head. And it’s always words, even if you’re looking at pictures. Even if you’re watching somebody do something. It’s analyzed and it’s enjoyed verbally in your head. When you read a book, go to a movie, go see a play, go to the opera, go chat with an old friend, you’re being duped.

Think of that song. There is such a song, and I’ll bet some of you have it at home. Now don’t you feel like a dunce? Aren’t you embarrassed? Then remember that! Think about it. “Until he said that, I used to enjoy that song. But now I realize I was duped.”

I’m stressing the point of you being fooled, because I want you to understand that what I’ve described is a con game. You’ve been had. What’s wrong with you?

Except—that is what everyone ordinarily takes to be thinking. It’s a bunch of phony baloney plagiaristic song writers running through your brain all day and night. It’s the same with everything except trying to wake up. That’s the only exception, and it is what I mean when I talk about independent thinking.

I can’t tell somebody how to think independently. I could describe it in two or three sentences, but that won’t help you. You’ve got to find it for yourself. I can’t tell you what “awakening” or “enlightenment” is, but I can certainly point out what it’s not. What awakening is not is everything else. My description of what happens with the “Country Music Hall of Fame” song is an example of what awakening is not.

Jan’s Daily Fresh Real News (to accompany this talk)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Taking The Few Where They Really Want To Go
March 10, 2004 © 2004: JAN COX

Everyone is full of words; some informative — most merely amusing,
and for the purpose of drawing attention to oneself;
not distinguishing between the two is the condition normal to man’s consciousness.

Mind: Imperfect eye glasses through which ordinary men attempt to think.
A boy asked the mayor:
“Which is the greater impairment to intellectual clarity: drugs or mental plagiarism?”
and His Honor replied:
“I am obliged by civilization and the city to say: drugs.”

Although labeled by the ordinary as an act of creativity,
the writing of fiction is actually one of desperation.

One man practices this private health principle:
To laugh at all anti immune systems.
(“Is he talking about the goings on in the city?”)

“Pa pa: what is the most humorous thing you hear ordinary people say?”
“That a certain human art form or intellectual activity should be more popular
than it is.”
“Oh, did I say the most futile thing?”

One man’s one word proposal as the T.O.E.H. (The Theory Of Everything Human): Expansion!

How Mind Works.
One guy’s approach to handling a certain type of unwanted mail:
“You don’t have bills until you open the bills.”
(Or maybe he’s really saying something about consciousness and thoughts.)

One man says he is emphatically in favor of a: drug-free-environment,
(especially he notes [cutting his eyes upward] of a certain sort.)

A tyrant lies in the heart of many wolves and sheep;
the city part of men’s minds requires a mayor — and one with a firm hand,
(how do you think sanity there is defined?!)

One man says:
“The only thing a cell phone is good for is to announce a spontaneous party!
(Also true for a certain area of the mind for a certain type of secretive celebration).”

Life finally took one man aside who had long been trying to: wake-up,
achieve-enlightenment (and like that) and said to him:
“Just exactly what IS your problem?”

Egging a drinker on by complimenting him on how impressively he can throw back sequential straight shots is not unknown in another guise amongst teetotalers.

Said one wolf to another: “Does it not truly touch your heart to see our leader with tears in his eyes when he speaks to us on an important matter.”
“Wow! — I didn’t know your pack is led by a crocodile.”

A common though unstated sentiment regarding the entertainment value
of city comments: “If it don’t raise my blood pressure — it don’t do it for me.”

“One man can switch back to his old, regular state of consciousness
any time he wants.”
“Boy! — that’s a good one: any time he wants to!”
“Yeah, that was pretty funny.”

Some Things You Can Remember (If You Want To).
Man is in captivity — not exile.
There is no me outside of me.
Talk is energy (so is memory), but neither of necessary consequence.
Efficient force is complex in planning, simple in execution.
The other voice in your inner dialogue is life’s.
There is no such creature as: partial responsibility.
The pretense of a thing IS the thing.
No one here is in charge.
There is no out there; there are no circumstances.
Condemnation of the past proves no commitment to the future.
What a thing is may not be its ideal state.
Forces can’t be bribed (even by prayer).
In some places if you think about something more than once, it’s yours (and vice versa).
Life has its own agenda.
The complex consumes the simple.
Some success is no success.
Things are arranged as they are so they’ll work as they do.
Every story has two endings; every story has three endings;
every story has four… (you get the idea — oh yeah, another thing):
Life is big enough to hold everybody — every idea, every feeling.
(And P.S.): WE are in life’s best interest.

Said a father to a son:
“Trying to enlarge your consciousness to the size that can get to the bottom of things
is like a fish not only attempting to escape the school into which he was born,
but also the net of its collective perceptions,
and ultimately to give himself over completely to the water.”
“But isn’t the latter his natural state to begin with?”
“Yes, but he must unravel the first two matters to fully realize it.”
“Which is what always makes the difference?!”

The difference between a nervous-system-rebel and a crazy person
is that a crazy person is crazy.

If you want to get to the bottom of something that is a category (like religion, or politics) you have to think about outside that category.
The difference between a man who really wants to know and everyone else
(who will say they do — if they are asked)
is that he wants to know badly enough to use his mind in ways (certainly non standard) that lead to such, (in other words):
he will actually think about the things he wants to know about,
after having fumbled around and discovered on his own,
mental activity that alone (comparably speaking) deserves to be called thinking,
when it comes to the scrutiny of man’s many intangible affairs.

The consciousness of the man-who-knows is not where you think it is.