Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Hero's end

Just finished reading a book by Neil Peart, "Ghost Rider, Travels on the Healing Road". The drummer for the rock group RUSH lost his daughter and wife in the span of 18 months and the book chronicles his journey around North America in search of a reason to live.

I've been a Rush fan since 8th grade when the odd-time-signatures of Cygnus X1, Bastille Day and the like made me stop and listen...and work to buy my first set of drums. So in no small way is my attraction to this book driven by Fanboi-ism. But if the start was getting to know one of my hero's a bit better, well, the outcome is, as he says in the book, getting the thing done. Part travelogue, NP has provided a nice image of landscapes in Quebec and along the Southwest and West coasts. Part self-indulgent autobiography, I also have a more complete image of Neil Peart as a man.

Peart at once seems to embody the contradiction of us all...he's a nice guy and an a-hole. He loves people and he despises them. He says one thing, and yet he does another. In the end, his story tells the tale of a man who fails to find meaning in the tragedy that enveloped him (or who, at least, fails to reveal it to the reader!). What befalls NP forces him to question his prior life's philosophy of "Give good, get good". And yet, his 'give good' seems described mostly as supporting various causes with donations of money. Missing in his descriptions are the giving of generosity of thought, of benefit of the doubt to those who don;t, in his system of beleifs, 'measure up'.

He seems completely at ease with his soul-mate friend Brutus, the subject of many letters in the book, who is incarcerated for possession. And yet, he has no tolerance for the flawed individuals he describes so generically as 'Fat Americans' and the 'Sheep' among the tourists who've chosen a different construct for their travels. One wonders how he might view the tragedy of someone whose own child succumbed to the tragedy of drug abuse and how that might change his acceptance of his best friends flaws? Or perhaps being "a citizen of the world", as one of his rock lyrics suggests, is more an ideal than a reality.

Tragedy befalls us all in time, in our own definition. What we learn about ourselves, our friends and of those 'others' that we tolerate during tragic times is that we are truly "strangers to each other, each one's life a novel noone else has read"..and yet, having read NPs novel, it seems to me that it's the generosity of strangers that makes our stories worth the read.