The Garden of Earthly Delights

garden-of-earthly-delightsThe Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch

Kid,
Stay and snip your cord off,
Talk and let your mind loose,
Can’t all think like Chekov,
But you’ll be O.K.

Kid,
Is this your first time here?
Some can’t stand the beauty,
So they cut off one ear,
But you’ll be O.K.

Welcome to the Garden of Earthly Delights.
Welcome to a billion Arabian nights.
This is your life and you do what you want to do,This is your life and you spend it all.
This is your life and you do what you want to do,
Just don’t hurt nobody,
And the big reward’s here,
In the Garden of Earthly Delights.

Kid,
Pick up with another,
Some will even drop you,
But hearts are built like rubber,
So you’ll be alright.

Kid,
Swallow but believe us,
You won’t die of boredom,
Should you have to leave us,
It’ll be alright.

Welcome to the Garden of Earthly Delights.
Welcome to a billion Arabian nights.
This is your life and you do what you want to do,
This is your life and you spend it all.
This is your life and you do what you want to do,
Just don’t hurt nobody,
‘Less of course they ask you,
In the Garden of Earthly Delights.

Welcome to the Garden of Earthly Delights.
Welcome to a billion Arabian nights.
This is your life and you do what you want to do,
This is your life and you spend it all.
This is your life and you do what you want to do,
Just don’t hurt nobody,

Welcome to the Garden of Earthly Delights.
Welcome to a billion Arabian nights.
This is your life and you do what you want to do,
This is your life and you spend it all.
This is your life and you do what you want to do,
Just don’t hurt nobody,
‘Less of course they ask you,
In the Garden of Earthly Delights

 

When I first heard those words as the opening song of XTC’s album “Oranges and Lemons” I was a single person and a long way from being ready for marriage and children. I was not what you’d call the target market for that song’s message. But XTC was one of my favorite bands and Andy Partridge was one of my favorite lyricists at the time, so listen I did. There was no denying that song appealed to me and my sense of what parenting ought to be about.

It’s a song of adventure, beauty and heartache, but most of all it’s a song of love. It’s forward-looking—a boarding pass to every flight that a life can take. The song’s one admonition—“Just don’t hurt no one … ‘less of course they ask you”—is a call for kindness while winking at the rich variety of human interaction. If only “Fifty Shades of Gray” could be so well written, or funny.

Not only is it a virtual road map for all that a life contains, it also reassures the listener at each turn—“But you’ll be okay.”

I can recall how profound I realized Partridge’s love for his newborn son must have been to write a song of such beauty and confidence. In its psychedelic production—this is what Jimi Hendrix would have sounded like had he been recording with the Beatles in 1988—it contains layer upon layer of sound, nooks and crannies within nooks hidden in alcoves of psychedelia and yet there’s not a hint of fear or anger anywhere within the song. It’s a mandate to charge out and take the world on in a full-bodied kiss.

I wanted to play this song in the delivery room as our son Philip was born as a kind of greeting, but my wife pointed out that while the sentiment was terrific, the sound didn’t really fit what she thought the mood would be, let alone taking into consideration how a newborn might react to the rock and roll equivalent of a super nova.

She had a point.

As we were preparing for Matthew’s arrival I’d wanted to at least pop in my ear buds and have a listen to the song privately as a way to celebrate his arrival in terms that were dear to me. Once the neonatologist informed me of what was afoot in that final hour before his delivery, I spent my time split between the phone, Facebook and email coordinating the pick up and drop off of my son and mother-in-law. It was a frantic hour, with numbers dialed between contractions.

So much for reflection.

In the wake of all that has happened since the day of the Deuce’s arrival, his NICU stay, our ongoing efforts to learn just what we will owe the hospital, the Kickstarter campaign, a surgical procedure on me gone wrong enough to require an ER trip and powerful antibiotics for weeks on end, all compounded by an inability to ride (because of where the surgery was), combined with the other events of my life leading up to the Deuce’s arrival and there are times when I want to say this has been the worst year of my life. And it would be were it not for one inescapable creation—the Deuce.

He’s a happy baby. He smiles and coos with no provocation. Kid’s just plain happy. He digs life, digs people, including his brother. While it seems my life is filled with uncertainty, the longing for the bike, the unhappiness of losing the form I had in the early spring, the Damoclean sword of looming bills, his is filled with the wonder of his life that lay ahead. It’s a big buffet and he’s ready. And I’m his father. No matter how bad I think things might be for me, I believe in his future. I believe in the wonder of the world he will encounter and I’m excited to be a part of that, if maybe not this week. If his life is a garden of earthly delights and it’s my job to lead him through it, then my life on this earth will contain a few delights yet.

I’ll be okay.

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10 comments

  1. Justin Barrett

    Those three words.
    As important as the other three words.
    I’m sorry to hear of all the misfortune you’ve encountered recently, but those three words ring true.
    It’s good the hear that Matthew is doing well. The resiliency of the very young is something the not so very young can learn from. It’ll always work out, even when it doesn’t.

    I’m also a big fan of XTC and Partridge.

  2. Dan C

    Wow,Padraig! You’re an XTC fan! I’m really not all that surprised given your outside the box thinking on so many subjects. Your years in the valley and WMUA may have had something to do with that. A beautifully written piece that shows the world the deep love you have for your children and life itself. Very happy for you and the kid. I was intro’d to road cycling about the same time I was broadsided by “English Settlement” and the bike and XTC have been inexorably linked in my psyche ever since. My mum is from the lads’ hometown of Swindon and I’ve have the great fortune of visiting and climbing the chalkhills a few times. Thank you for a great start to the day.

  3. Brandall

    XTC fan here as well… and a RKP fan obviously. I see what you were after, but I am kind of with your wife… I would have had a tough time pulling off XTC in my delivery room visits (3 in total) but I like the thought behind it. You are right, our kids have a bright future… even when our looks uncertain. We have to believe in that.

  4. Davy Thomas

    Patrick,

    Make sure you take him out and show him to the girls: unlike our protagonist you’re very much fit to be a father. Happy Father’s Day!

  5. Mike E

    Happened to swing by here via the official XTC site and found your thoughts profound and resonant. Beautifully put, sir. I wish you the best of luck with your recovery and a life full of wonder for your son. I’m going to play this song for my own when he’s ready.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Mike E: Thanks for stopping by. What an amazing experience to have an XTC fan who isn’t a cyclist stop by and read (and enjoy) my work. That right there made my day.

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