Last week I performed at Wordstock as part of the Emerging Writers' Festival. It was a celebration of the music of AC/DC, and a wonderful time was had by all.
My song was "Ride On". My interpretation is below:
I want to tell you a story.
A story about freedom
I remember when I was a boy
Sitting on Santa’s lap
And he asked me, “What do you want?”
And I didn’t ask for a Transformer
And I didn’t ask for a football
And I didn’t ask for my parents to stop using me as a pawn in their increasingly violent passive-aggressive power struggles
I asked for FREEDOM
Freedom, and nothing more
And Santa smiled at me in wonder
For never before had he seen a two-metre tall four-year-old
And it was that day, sitting on Santa’s lap, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the Flinders Street toilets in peak hour
That I realised that Santa truly was real
As real as hope
And as real as love
As real as that jolly old homeless man who every Christmas dressed in a red suit for our amusement
And offered me a shiny new coin if I would only accompany him to his secret bone palace deep in a nearby cornfield, where he had a special surprise for me
And though I never got to see that palace, because I was late for my weekly parental shame session, I still saw what he was getting at
That strange, cheerful old man, with his gummy smile, his twinkling eyes, and his voluminous trousers
He taught me a lesson that to this day pounds in my head incessantly like a great, wise, intrusive drum
That lesson is
The freedom to follow your own path, to chase your dreams
To walk blissfully and unsuspectingly into a cornfield if that truly is what you want from life
The freedom to lay on a riverbank, looking up at the stars, counting them, night after night, continously losing count and starting over again in a frenzy of self-destructively obsessive behaviour, gradually eating away at your own mental health until inevitably you begin cutting yourself and become convinced that your wife is the reincarnation of the Egyptian god of death
Because freedom cannot come with conditions
If you want to defend my freedom to pluck tulips from a field and arrange them attractively on a piece of corkboard
Surely I must likewise defend your freedom to hack mercilessly at your wife with a Phillips-head screwdriver and throw her into the river, all the while gazing up at the stars and bellowing “Stop looking at me” at the top of your lungs
That’s freedom. It is non-negotiable.
Not non-negotiable like Israel’s policy on new settlements
Not non-negotiable like an ultimatum from a lover who tells you, it’s me or the zebra
Not non-negotiable like a cheque you wrote to the Church of Scientology while under the influence of powerful muscle relaxants
No, freedom is non-negotiable like…the dew on a newborn baby’s face
And sure, you can say, what does that mean?
You can say, how does one negotiate dew?
You can say, why are you rubbing that baby’s face on the grass
But you’re MISSING THE POINT
The point is that freedom is like a baby’s face: innocent, and unscarred
And yet it can be ugly, and objectionable, and sometimes you want to punch it
But you can’t defeat freedom by punching it
Which is how it differs from a baby’s face
Because you can definitely defeat a baby’s face by punching it
It’s really, really, easy.
But I’m not here to talk about babies
Or the myriad practical benefits of punching them
I’m here to talk about freedom
And a wise man – I think it was Daryl Braithwaite- once said, if you love something, set it free
And I knew what he meant
For I loved someone once
She was a beautiful, mad, wild thing
When we made love it was like…two crazed bison trying to get out of a hedge maze:
Intense, and violent, and easier with a map
And I loved her as I have loved only 4 or 5 other women, tops
But I let her go
I said, I must let you have your freedom, for I love you. Go. Be happy.
And she said no. I will stay
And I said, I cannot live with myself knowing I am keeping such a free spirit caged in a prison of expectation and routine. Go. Live your life.
And she said no. I want to stay.
And I said, I am NOT a jailer! Go now, for both our sakes, and with my blessing
And she said please, let me stay by your side, for I have a crippling gambling addiction and am unemployable
And I said, honestly I would be more comfortable if you just left. Frankly if I’d known you were living in my garage for the last six months I would have done this much much earlier.
So she left. Not without tears, and not without regrets, and not without a tense police sieges, but she left
And yes, it can be heard, being alone, when I pass her on the street, warming herself by a burning stack of unsold Big Issues
But I know I gave her her freedom, because I loved her that much
And nobody ever said freedom would be easy
Freedom isn’t like putting on a pair of pants, or swallowing a bee
It’s not that simple
Freedom is more like losing your virginity to Bert Newton: it hurts like hell and you may need carpet shampoo afterwards
But we don’t WANT freedom to be easy!
We chase freedom because it is hard!
Because we know we must fight
We know we must struggle
And we know it will be worth it
When we stand up strong and proud and throw off our chains!
When we clench our trembling fingers into the fist of freedom
And punch the baby of tyranny square in its adorable face
When we cry to the heavens, we are FREE
We don’t need your rules, or your conformity, or your manners, or your social mores, or your basic level of human respect
We’re heading for a better world, a world of liberty and choice, a world of magic and wonder, a world of mysterious cornfields and terrifying flashbacks
We’re riding on to the new world, riding on to freedom
When I say free, you say dom, FREE!
OK, that didn’t really work, but that’s OK, because you’re FREE to respond in any way you see fit
The time has come people!
Jump on board the freedom train, and let me drive you to Happiness Station
Hold on tight, because we’re making no stops, and the driver is dangerously unqualified!
And the original: