Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Rocky and his friends

Many years after our first meetings, I met two old friends - Walking Man and Mr. Natural.  My first encounter with these two was in the early 1970s while I was an undergrad at Penn. I consider them early philosophy teachers.

Mr. Natural was a Robert Crumb character who frequented his underground comix.  Here is a Wikipedia description of Mr. Natch:
Mr. Natural has strange, magical powers and possesses cosmic insight; but he is also moody, cynical, self-pitying, and suffers from various strange sexual obsessions.
The comic encounter I most remember is this exchange between Schuman the Human and Mr. Natural.
Schuman:  "Mr. Natural, what does it all mean??"
Mr. Natural: "It don't mean sheeit."
My meeting with Mr. Natural occurred at Penn's Institute of Contemporary Art in 2008.  Boy, he hasn't aged a bit.  Must be his lifestyle.

I encountered Walking Man #1 at the Carnegie Museum in 2016.  This was another 40+ year hiatus. He adorned the cover of William Barrett's Irrational Man, a study in existentialism published in 1958.  According to Barrett modern man has had his morality attenuated to the point where he resembles a sculpture by Giacometti.

I read Barrett's book and lots of other existentialist writers while at Penn.  Why?  For the youthful expansion of religious and mental boundaries.  It was like drinking rock gut whiskey -- if you survived you were a real man.  During that time others were fighting in Vietnam to prove their manhood.  I was content to read Nietzsche.

This leads to how I got the nickname "Rocky."  It has nothing to do with Rocky Balboa (1976) but everything to do with the Beatles' Ballad of Rocky Raccoon (1968).

One afternoon at Penn Jimmy V. walked into my dorm room and found me reading some existentialist.  He immediately started singing, "Rocky Raccoon sat in his room, only to read Friedrich Nietzsche."  The rest is history.

1 comment:

Liberata said...

It's great to have friends you can learn from!