(The story, all names, and characters portrayed in this work are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.)
A young man, naked as the day he was born, stood on top of a building in the middle of a busy area and screamed at the top of his lungs to a group of people passing by below him, who were heading in some particular direction or other with a certain purpose, “Nothing matters! Nothing at all! It’s all made up! It’s pointless! Don’t believe anything! It’s all lies! lies! lies!”
We happened to be passing by at the time of this unusual event, you and I, and we stopped when we heard him but weren’t really listening.
“There goes another Denny flower,” I said.
“A what?” You asked.
“A Denny flower. You know, a wishy-washy person with unconventional wisdom, someone who claims to believe in nothing one moment and the next they’re sunbathing their buttholes for enlightenment.”
You’d never heard the term.
“Oh, yea, it’s a thing,” I tell you. “Kind of like wabi-sabi, but with people.”
A third person, hearing our conversation, stopped, leaned in and added that Denny Flowers was, in fact, a real person.
“He was?” The two of us asked with surprised curiosity.
As real as a stubbed toe, they said.
“Do you know what happened to him?” You asked.
Denny Flowers washed away like everybody else eventually does. Only his name stuck. Probably for the same reason people still remember the name Diogenes. Or it could have something to do with a need to identify that kind of behavior. Who knows, they said.
“Do you know his story?” I inquired from this stranger.
They said that they did and asked if we wanted to hear it.
“We would!” We said.
So the three of us walked to a cafe just around the corner a little ways and the third person unraveled to us the tale known as, The Ballad of Denny Flowers:
Dennis Lowery, as he was called then, grew up in the sprawling suburbs of some city much like Los Angeles or San Francisco, where the houses and the streets all seemed vaguely familiar. His father did something with cars and his mother, well, even Dennis wasn’t too sure what she did. But Dennis lived a good, simple youth. He enjoyed playing games more for the action than the rules. Climbed trees because he could. And threw rocks for no particular reason. He was a rather quiet child, though. Observant, yet distracted. Knew something but wasn’t quite sure what. Liked certain subjects in school only he had no practical use for them. He liked how things were, generally, never quite knowing exactly why nor was curious as to how they came to be. Dennis simply liked the idea of things more than the things themselves. He collected rocks for their color and shape, never name or compound, and listened to music more for sound than for melody.
As he got older, Dennis Lowery became more defiant. Which can happen when someone doesn’t fully grasp the true nature of things. It is this lack of understanding that can cause a person to feel inferior or condescended due to their own embarrassment. For example, he’d be quick to punch someone in the nose for using a word he didn’t know, or shove someone aside just for standing in his way. Dennis also began to steal like a kleptomaniac without any need for the things he stole. He broke windows, smashed snails, and pulled fire alarms. He even found new a sense of purpose in self-entitlement. It was gratifying for him to know he had his own set of expressions and feelings. And it was at this time Dennis began to see the world around him as oppressive. It strangled what he called his “uniqueness and individuality”. There were rules set in place which limited his ability to move around in certain ways, and he didn’t like that. This only brought to surface the emotions that were boiling inside of him all the more.
“I am a person who thinks and feels! I have the right to express myself freely!” Dennis would say. “I’m not in control of how others feel. That’s got nothing to do with me.”
The world around him, the houses and the people, even sidewalks for some reason, were a stain on his existence. They limited all possibility.
“What, if anything, is the purpose of living if all one does is stay within the lines, to passively play a part and go through the motions day in and day out?”
Nothing! That was his answer. There was no meaning to life in routine. There was no reason for existing if all a person did, everyday, was get up, go to some job they hated, only to come back home and complain about the thing they hated most. To Dennis, the nature of this way of life was nothing more than a suffocation on originality. One had to go out and be.
“I need to breathe!” He’d scream at his parents.
And then one day Dennis was gone. There was no word as to where he went or what had become of him. Later it was said he became a ghost, an aimless wanderer through the streets of the city. He slept in back alleys, behind dumpsters, on couches of strange and destructive people. Wild parties raged in the night and Dennis was there, with a bottle to his lips, kissing his answer with complete and utter disgust for everything. Somehow or other he came into possession of a guitar, a cheap version of a Telecaster with only five strings and a warped neck. But it didn’t matter. Three simple chords played in no particular order and a buzzing fret was all Dennis needed to express himself. He had found the megaphone for his ideas. And Denny Flowers was born.
On stage Denny was an icon. A symbol for selfishness and destruction, playing songs like What’s Yours Is Mine And If It Ain’t Then I’ll Take It Anyway, and Work Is A Waste of Time from his album Gimme Gimme Gimme.
“This land is our land!” He’d scream to the crowd. “And we’re going to take it back!”
The crowd cheered wildly with a vague understanding of what that meant and how it would be implemented. But it didn’t matter. They had found a symbol of defiance to an order no longer necessary in their eyes. Denny Flowers embodied the nature of contempt for the past and present order of the way things were. And they loved him for it. Discord and destruction was the answer to leveling a system not fit to operate in their eyes. Chaos, the only truth. And neither a request nor answer was given as to how one would remedy this. But that didn’t matter. Denny Flowers bloomed, wilted petals and all.
After a show, Denny Flowers could be found relieving himself on the side of a building or smashing the lights of a parked car. If he had drank enough that night then he might be lying in the gutter laughing with a tinge of madness. And why not? Does not every individual have the right to lose their minds every once in a while, to break out of some confined image and become pure and raw emotion? This was Denny’s reasoning. Reason itself was not necessary for a thing to be.
A reporter for some magazine once asked him, “Why do you do what you do? Is there a philosophy behind your actions?”
Denny Flowers replied, “I don’t constrain myself. I just let it come out however it wants to come out. Order is just another man-made construct crippling our ability to be absolutely free.”
“So would you say you’re a nihilist?”
“I don’t even know what that means. You’re just saying words and attaching a meaning to it and then lumping me in with the rest of them. There’s been too much of that. And I don’t want any part of it. I’m an evolution unto myself. I move. I feel. I am. It’s that simple.”
There was movement, there’s no doubt about it, and it was happening all around him. His words held weight in the minds of his followers and they believed everything he said. They worshipped his ideas of everything for everyone without sacrifice because the world simply is.
At one point Denny Flowers denounced language altogether, no longer speaking in normal words, but gargled sounds when he was on stage and vomited absurdities.
“SHOOPOOPIDIPOOP! BLAHDIKOOP SHOOOGUG WOHGOW!”
This went on for some time. And no matter what he did, and wherever Denny Flowers performed, large crowds gathered chanting his name and praising his ideas of absolute and total freedom.
“He’s just so avant-garde, you know?” One avid follower said.
“He preaches individualism, or actually anti-indivualism. It’s absolutely bonkers. I love it!” said another.
“Yea, it’s like a new form of expression. I hear people are calling it Expressive Non-conformism. It’s like the new-age Buddhism without the Buddha. But that’s, I mean, it’s own kind of label. So it wouldn’t work.”
Then, in a predicable sort of way, Denny Flowers, with his own interpretations of reality, turned on everyone who praised him, calling them “more lines on the highway”. To this they only exalted him even higher and the name Denny Flowers became a constellation, a symbol to some ancient and esoteric reference, and the man himself was forgotten all together. His followers, too, soon faded, finding new ideas and idols to adopt. It is said some became politicians and others spiritual leaders in small communities.
“Everything is nothing. Nothing is all there is. I am nothing. Nothing is everything.” Denny was heard saying constantly around this time.
He stopped cutting his hair. Stopped bathing. He even cared little for speaking all together. He only affirmed and replied in bodily gestures. If he belched, he was relieved. Farted, content. And even with these there were little nuances that could discern a range of emotion depending on pitch.
It wasn’t much longer before Denny Flowers disappeared again, and was gone completely.
In this verbal biography it has been recorded and passed around that Denny Flowers went abroad. Like a disciple on a pilgrimage to some holy site, he wandered as a sojourner without purpose, never staying in one place too long and never knowing to where he would go next. Little is known of what happened to him, or where he went, but there is one brief story of the man in India where it is said he sat before a guru to unfurl the lofty ideas in his head and to see if they resembled the meaning of existence. The guru only laughed at him.
“People must think you’re a funny man in America,” the little brown holy man said with great joy and laughter in his words.
By the time the third person had finished the Ballad of Denny Flowers, the naked man had already been brought down from the building and arrested for trespassing and indecent exposure.
It’s more than likely, the third person said, that Dennis Lowery could still be around and living in a suburb much like the one he grew up in, married with two kids and driving a sedan. Probably manages a supermarket and on weekends mows the lawn and drinks light beer, watches sports for the ‘big play’ and paints abstract-expressionism when the mood tickles him just right.
You understood, and had even known all along a Denny flower yourself. You said your grandmother was such a ‘flower’ and used to use breast milk to cure pink eye, and later switched to a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice.
“I’ve known one or two people to do yoga for medicinal purposes,” I said. “And they worship vanity.”
We both thanked the third person for the little tale and continued on with our day.