Once, years ago, I read that, when one gets old, one gets to having lots of memories. Those old guys sitting on the benches in front of the courthouse weren’t doing nothing. They were remembering. I remember thinking when I read that back then that, well, maybe old age would have some benefits. One would remember, in any case. I was still thinking like that when I wrote “Out of the Blue” five or six years ago. Then, five or six years ago, the memories weren’t coming back. Things have changed since then; they have started popping up all the time, and I wish they wouldn’t. I think more like William Blake now, “Drive your plow through the bones of the dead.” And I have the refrain of a song yet and perhaps never to be written: And now I am wondering/ Better to Remember? Better to Forget?
So I don’t know now that I could write “Out of the Blue.” But I still like it. I think it is neurologically accurate too. Brain science says that when the brain is idle or more exactly in neutral, when one is “wool gathering,” that’s when the brain gets involved in making up the self (making connections, telling stories). So the self arises when the mind is not occupied with an immediate task.
Theses lines are intended to evoke a dreamy state:
When the rain obscures the horizon
And the wheels hiss on the road
And the darkness is descending
And you’ve got miles and miles left to go…
When the wind is just a whisper
And something in the shadows stirs
And you forget what you are doing
And your mind becomes a blur…
Those are times, brain science says, when the brain is relatively disengaged that memories might pop up.
And the third stanza is about memory and aging:
Now that autumn is upon you
And you’re raking up the leaves
The spell of smoke is in the air
And it’s finally time to grieve…
That’s a bit too discursive, and really I underestimated when I wrote the song the degree of grief involved in remembering.
Better to remember? Better to forget?
You tell me.