I had just wrapped up work and was ready to leave the office early when my client asked me “So Raj you fly back tommorow.Right ? I don’t think you got a chance to see any of Paris. I am sure you want to at least see the Eiffel Tower before you head back home”
“Well yes I think I can surely use some sight seeing” I said ,all the while packing my stuff quickly into the laptop bag. “You can take your time Raj,Paris is the city of night. We don’t sleep that early and you will find most places open late into the night.Where are you planning to go?” This was precisely the question I was trying to avoid as I did not want to lie to the client at the beginning of what is termed as a ‘ long lasting relationship’ in consulting parlance.
“Well I am heading for a cemetery and I am afraid it will get closed by the time I reach there.So I just want to hurry up” I informed with a stoic expression on my face so he doesn’t think what a whacko he had hired. “A cemetery ? the whole world comes to Paris to see the Opera, the museums, the Champs Elysees,the Theatre and you want to go see a cemetery?” I just smiled at him and let it be for I knew it will be difficult for me to explain to him that it was my wish of 15 years to go and place some flowers on the grave of Jim Morrison – rock star, singer, poet, philosopher and an enigma that has touched my life in more ways than one.
The client must have thought that I had some long lost relative of mine buried here in Paris and I would say he was not too far from the truth ! The good thing was that I could leave the place fast.
A friend had advised me to take the metro as Paris traffic could be bad at peak hours but I was not too confident of the signs which were mostly in French so I preferred a cab. As I later realized this was a big mistake .I had managed to explain the cab driver in broken English that Pere Lachaise was a cemetery and therefore it closes by 6 PM so the good guy tried his best to either beat the traffic or to drive as fast when there was a clearer patch but I guess our recklessness was no match to Jim’s. We reached the gates as they were getting closed. In the true fashion of a fan I pleaded with the security explaining that I would be going back to India tomorrow morning possibly never to return and this was my last chance to say Hi to Jim in his resting place but although they were quite polite they did not let me in. The discussion ended when one of the guys who could manage little bit English said ” If I let you see Jim , I have no job” !
Desperate and disappointed I started walking down the path along side the walls of the graveyard. There was a friend with me and even if I was talking to him my thoughts started to wander and the lines ‘they are waiting to take us, into the severed garden’ started playing at the back of my head. I realized how cold and lifeless the evening was and how dead were the people on both sides of the wall separated by an event , a possibility that was so far away and yet so near you could almost reach out and touch it like Jim did. I tried to recall the rest of the lines and then when I had almost given up they came to me like a gush of the wind that blew to me from the silence of the tombstones like a rustle of leaves of a pleasant evening. It made perfect sense as I recited the poetry to myself standing there in the midst of all the crushed bodies in the metro- a jumbled mass of sights,smells and sounds :
They are waiting to take us
into the severed garden
Do you know ?how pale and wanton, thrillful
Comes death on a strange hour
Unannounced, unplanned for
Like a scaring over-friendly guest
you’ve brought to bed
Death makes angels of us all
And gives us wings
Where we had shoulders
Smooth as raven’s claws
No more money, no more fancy dress
This other kingdom seems by far the best
Until it’s other jaw reveals incest
And loose obedience to a vegetable law.
I will not go
Prefer a feast of friends
To the giant family.
On the plane I kept thinking about how Jim’s life was different.And one thing that I could surely conclude was that his life was really an enigma, an intriguing tale of someone who wanted to push the limits and test the bounds of reality but fell short of attaining Nirvana when he was almost there. As many would not know Jim was always one of the most gifted student in his class. He devoured a large amount of literature at a very early age and used to quote philosophers such as Rimbaud in his school days. He was deeply influenced by writings of William Blake, Fredriche Neitzsche and other European philosophers.His poetic style reflected the writings of Jack Kerouac who was the originator of the beat generation of poetry in American literature. Jim’s cryptic lyrics had a close resemblance to the spontaneity in Jacks work especially as seen in his book on the road.
Another aspect of Jim’s life was that he renounced his family as soon as he moved out of his parents house.He did this in spite of the fact that he had a very normal childhood except that his father being in the navy was away from home for long periods.Not that this renouncement could be directly attributed to his worldly detachment but it might be interesting to note that severing all ties with the family is an integral part of taking sanyas in the hindu spiritual tradition.Even at one time when his mother flew in all the way to New York where he was having a concert he deliberately avoided meeting her. This could be just one of his eccentricities but it does qualify for him to be a recluse if not a saint.
All 3 members of the Doors were followers of Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and Ray Manzarek encouraged Jim many times to take up meditation.At his insistence, Jim once even paid a visit to Mahesh Yogi to see in his eyes ‘whether he was happy’ After meeting the Yogi Jim admitted that he had seen perfect happiness in his eyes but for himself he preferred the shorter and quicker route to ecstasy.Jim even wrote a song for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi which he performed at one of his later concerts.
If non possession and detachment to worldly objects was taught by the Buddha I would say Jim Morrison was his biggest follower. It is amazing that while his life was filled with acts of debauchery and extreme recklessness he never had anything he could call his own. He had no tendency to hoard – either good or bad.His wardrobe was limited to a pair of Jeans and his Leather pants and may be a some shirts that he wore with them.He would go unwashed for days on end moving from one place to the other never bothering about who would shelter or feed him. He had no permanent residence or anything that could be called a home for most part of his life. Being the legend that he had become in his lifetime he never carried any money on his person.He had no bank account , no wallet no nothing may be just a credit card which also he used to forget here and there after the drinking sessions.
Pamela Courson could be considered as close as he ever got to something called a relationship or a girlfriend but even with her he never bothered to have any kind of mutual understanding. While both felt they were in a relationship at some level they were apart most of the time and Jim made new friends everyday with whom he ended up sleeping most of the times.Whether Pamela was OK with this or not only she would know but it doesn’t seem she made a big deal out of it.It is rather interesting that only Pamela was with Jim when he died in Paris and she buried him at Pere Lachaise along with two other friends.She joined Jim by his side 3 years later.
There are many other anecdotes from Jim’s life like his going to the desert to find the lost souls of the dead Indians, his concerts in which he experimented with his ability to control collective consciousness of the crowds, his poetry which had life and its meaning as the central theme and so on. He even named the collection of his poetry ‘Wilderness’ suggesting his longing to be with himself.
Whether or not Jim Morrison was a saint I can’t say but from the above one can clearly make out that all the ingredients were certainly there. I think somewhere along the way he got it all mixed up. He had a heart that probably was closer to being a saint but he had a mind that evoked the evil side of him when he lost control because of the confusion inside.Curiously, the combination drove his spirit towards testing the outer bounds of reality from which he never returned.
Writing this post on Jim I am reminded of Ghalib and what he says about himself :
ये मसाइले तसववुफ ये तेरा बयान गालिब
तुझे हम वली समझते जो ना बादाख्वार होता…
These matters of spirituality and your take on them O Ghalib
We would have thought of you as a sage, had you not been a drunkard…
On my next visit I did visit Jim’s Grave. Here are the memories :
I would leave you with this beautiful song that’s been converted on you tube as a tribute to Jim :