Neil Young, Psychedelic Pill and meditation

Neil Young

Neil Young – great musician but confused about meditation?

I have a confession to make: I am a Neil Young fan. So last autumn, I eagerly awaited his next album, along with millions of others. When it arrived, I was not disappointed. This is vintage Young, a mixture of rough edges and a lyrical voice that can be no one else’s.  Listening to the first song on Psychedelic Pill, however, I was startled: Neil Young was – among other things – singing about meditation:

“Driftin’ Back”

“Hey now now, hey now now
I’m driftin’ back

Hey now now, hey now now
I’m driftin’ back

Dreaming about the way things sound now
Write about them in my book
Worry that you can’t hear me now
And feel the time I took

To help you feel this feeling
Let you ride along
Dreaming about the way you feel now
When you hear my song

I’m driftin’ back
………
I’m driftin’ back

In my meditation
I block out all my thoughts
When they come back I push them out
Like Jesus had a rock

They pushed in front of this cave now
They rolled across the ground
Hey now now, hey now now
They rolled across the ground”

I wondered: What is all that supposed to be about?  “In my meditation I block out all my thoughts. When they come back I push them out. Like Jesus had a rock”? Whatever this is about, I thought, it surely can not be about a meditation technique that uses a free mental attitude. I listened on:

“I’m driftin’ back

Here’s how I got my mantra
Gave them thirty five bucks now
Gave it to the Maharishi
It went to the organisation

Excuse my religion
Dreaming ‘bout the way things feel now
Write it in my book
Blocking out all the thoughts now”

So the song was in some way about the Maharishi. That made sense. The Maharishi did, after all, charge a considerable sum in order to learn TM, and his organisation still does. However, whatever TM is, it is surely not a concentration technique in which one blocks out thoughts and feelings. On the contrary, TM is supposed to be practiced with an accepting mental attitude (although the framework in which it is taught tends to inculcate an opposite mind set – see Tor Hersoug’s article on Acem and the Maharishi movement). I have little admiration for the Maharishi, but good old Neil just seems a bit confused about meditation basics in this song.

The rest of the song goes as follows:

“Hey now now, hey now now
I’m driftin’ back

I’m driftin’ back

I used to dig Picasso
I used to dig Picasso
Hey now now, hey now now
I used to dig Picasso

Then the big tech giant came along
And turned him into wallpaper
Hey now now, hey now now
I used to dig Picasso

I’m driftin’ back

Don’t want my mp3
Don’t want my mp3

I’m driftin’ back

When you hear my song now
You only get five percent
You used to get it all
You used to get it all

Blocking out my anger
Blocking out my thoughts
Blocking out my anger now
Blocking out my thoughts

I’m driftin’ back”

Maybe Neil’s assosiations simply are as follows: Meditation=Maharishi=money=mp3=losing musical information=destroying Picasso=blocking out spontaneous thoughts and feelings.

Any one else have any thoughts on this?

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