Silver Jews – Horseleg Swastikas

Bright Flight
Year :
Pavement / Bonnie Prince Billy / Phosphorescent

As we move intrepidly into another year, there are invariably a host of voices offering up sage wisdom for better living in the near future. For the more world-weary among us, it’s easy to write it all off as so much Hallmark smarm. Morphine’s Mark Sandman may have put it best in “Scratch,” when he crooned “People wanna give you free advice…Well you get what you pay for.”

Yesterday, though, a bit of wisdom trickled down the wire to my PC that struck a chord. In the spirit of New Year’s, the excellent site Brain Pickings recirculated a wonderful piece from May of last year (yes, 2013 is now “last year”) on the personal philosophy of Bruce Lee. “Be like the water” intones Lee.

Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova does a wonderful job layout out the workings of Lee’s philosophy, much more so than I could do here. Do check it out.

It’s some of my favorite advice for carrying oneself and, I think, a great lens to view the world through at any time of year. Encountering the advice yesterday also had the added bonus of reminding me of a song that I had, more or less, forgotten about in recent years: “Horseleg Swastikas” by The Silver Jews.

The song is a mostly dour affair, and not even among the 15 best songs in singer David Berman’s catalog. But, it wonderfully drops a reference to Lee’s philosophy in the chorus.

And I wanna be like water if I can
‘Cause water doesn’t give a damn

Visiting Lee’s philosophy instantly brought me back to the song and, in turn, gave me ample time to reflect on the meaning, both as Lee and Berman understand it. For me, it’s a rich bit of wisdom that would be easy to toss off as another resolution-bolstering platitude if it did not ring so true. In some sense, the notion itself is like water, equally potent in a cryptic object of meditation via Lee or in an acerbic jab from The Silver Jews. A rare and welcome treat to start 2014.

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(@YahSureMan) is the Founder of The Daily Soundtrack and Bark Attack Media. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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