Don’t Need a Buddha Head

“Don’t need a Buddha head.” What are those 5 words telling us?

Are we being warned that “need” is the antithesis of Zen? Are we being told that a desire to think like Buddha is the opposite of thinking like Buddha? “Don’t need a Buddha head?”

Or are those 5 words a repudiation of Buddhist beliefs? Are we being told of someone’s inspection and rejection of Buddhism? “Don’t need a Buddha head.”

We often seek meaning where there is no meaning.

This is the foundation of all fine art and the fundamental premise of Gestalt Theory.

The real truth is that Pennie and I were scrolling through an auction catalog on our computers when she said, “Look at 296.” So I did. It was an antique piece of garden statuary, a carved sandstone Buddha head.

I said, “Don’t need a Buddha head.”

Hearing the rhythm of those syllables and the obstruent d and t of “Don’t,” the d of “need,” the b and d of “Buddha” and the d of “head,” I smiled and said it again. “Don’t need a Buddha head.”

A moment later it became a chant. “Don’t need a Buddha head. Don’t need a Buddha head. Don’t need a Buddha head. Don’t need a Buddha head.”

Pennie just smiled and kept scrolling through the catalog.

We see a face in the shadows on the moon.
We equate a minor key with sadness.
We want to dance to songs with 120 beats per minute.
And we find deep symbolic meanings in phrases that, on the surface, are nonsense.

If only one of us did that, he or she would be crazy. But since a majority of us do it, we call it art. We call it beautiful. We call it subtle. We call it deep.

Song writers, Ad writers and Poets depend on this.

Wichita Lineman, Galveston, and By the Time I Get to Phoenix made Glen Campbell rich and famous.
But all 3 of those songs were written by Jimmy Webb.

Up, Up and Away is the song that made The Fifth Dimension rich and famous.
But it was written by Jimmy Webb.

Jimmy Webb’s MacArthur Park lifted an actor named Richard Harris to the top of the Billboard music charts. Ten years later Donna Summer sang it to the top of the charts again. It has been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Waylon Jennings, Andy Williams, The Four Tops, Glen Campbell and Maynard Ferguson. It’s been played countless thousands of times and heard by hundreds of millions of people.

The lyrics of MacArthur Park are often called stupid and ridiculous, “the worst song lyrics ever written.” And I have no argument with that.

“Spring was never waiting for us, girl. It ran one step ahead as we followed in the dance between the parted pages and were pressed in love’s hot, fevered iron like a striped pair of pants. MacArthur’s Park is melting in the dark, all the sweet, green icing flowing down. Someone left the cake out in the rain. I don’t think that I can take it, ’cause it took so long to bake it, and I’ll never have that recipe again. Oh no! I recall the yellow cotton dress foaming like a wave on the ground around your knees, the birds, like tender babies in your hands, and the old men playing checkers by the trees…”

In an October 2014 interview with Newsday, Jimmy Webb explained, “The old men playing checkers by the trees, the cake that was left out in the rain, all of the things that are talked about in the song are things I actually saw… Back then I was kind of like an emotional machine, like whatever was going on inside me would bubble out of the piano and onto paper.”

His wife, Savini, a Public Television host, says, “When people see he’s my husband, that’s always the first question I get: ‘What’s MacArthur Park mean?’ And I always say it’s an abstract painting, an impressionist painting. It’s art, but in a musical form. You make it what you want it to be. Jimmy plays it down, but it’s a heartbreaking song when you listen to just him sing it and you hear all the words without all the orchestrations. It blows your mind — oh, my God, all the pain in that song.”

The clear-eyed mind sees silly nonsense,
but the tear-filled eyes of the heart see
beauty and majesty,
pain and remorse,
love and loss
in MacArthur Park.

Do you want to become a highly paid ad writer?
This is all you need to know:

Win the heart and the mind will follow.
The mind can easily create logic to justify
what the heart has already decided.

Thanks, Jimmy.

Roy H. Williams