The Ballad Of Ramblin’ Ghosty Ryan
My name is Ghosty Ryan,
From a farm outside Loughrea.
I always intended to live there all my days.
When I was young fast twenty one,
In a dreadful faction fight,
I killed a man and away I ran,
I was hunted day and night.
Oh no no no….
I made my way across the sea
To the dark side of New York,
So far from home so all alone
From family and work,
Another name I gave myself
I stole from place to place,
In Albany I killed a girl
She recognized my face..
Oh no no no….
I am out of my mind.
Oh no no..
So from day to day I go astray,
From the laws of God and man.
Whenever I am asked to stay,
I pack my bags and run
I can’t return to my native home
Neither rest nor peace I own
Remark well on the lonely fall
Of Ramblin’ Ghosty Ryan.
Oh no no no….
Tony died last week. He was a friend I shared spiritual and poetry books with and conversations about these matters. He once said to me, when I asked him about the above song, “Sure, we are all Ghosties.” I had to think about it to try to understand what he was saying to me, and had anticipated that we would continue the conversation. But, that is not to be.
Here’s my take on what he meant. All of us have obstacles to face in life and we have the choice between whether or not we face them or run away from them. Ghosty Ryan ran away and that running away compounded his problem. In order to keep running he had to do more and more to avoid facing his demon.
The demon we all have to face is our own death. We distract ourselves from having to face it. Unlike Ghosty, who had to hide from society in his running away, we are caught in the trap of having the whole of society in on our game of avoiding the demon thought of death.
Societies way of running away from death is by providing distractions that facilitate avoidance of the subject. The role of modern medicine is helping us avoid the prospect of our inevitable deaths is not to be underestimated. We are encouraged to keep ourselves busy, to make the most of it (life) while we can, and so on. Some of us do it by getting into the game of accumulating wealth, or by making a priority of taking care of our bodies and health, or by doing what it takes to be popular or famous or chasing new experiences through drugs or travel or knowledge or experiences.
Societies are set up to help us forget about our fundamental questions of; where do I come from, what follows death, what does life mean or does it have any meaning?
Most people do not come across the idea that there is a solution to these questions. The media promotes solutions to our wants by identifying temporary wants and offering temporary solutions to them. “Buy a new red car!” it says and it will make you feel important and free and cool. “Go on a holiday to the sun!” it says and it will make you feel relaxed and free from stress.
Society offers us a constant stream of solutions to our ever changing wants and this is what keeps capitalism going. All of us are seeking happiness, but in the wrong places.
There exists in the world a 5,000 year old body of literature which deals with our fundamental questions. It is the spiritual teachings of the world, found in all cultures from earliest times.
Thousands of people, throughout time have asserted that they have found the solution to their most fundamental problem, the problem of death. They are known as the Enlightened, the Christ conscious, the Self-realised. Different words are used in different traditions.
All say that only the individual can find the solution for themselves. It is not something we can share with another. The spiritual teachings are clues and hints as to how one might make this journey, from confusion and insecurity, to peace and understanding for ourselves.
Had Ghosty been able to face his demon there is no doubt but that the course of his life would have followed a different path. An axiom of all mythological stories is that in order to complete ones journey of maturation, the hero/heroine must overcome the obstacles they are faced with. It is the same for all of us.
The external circumstances of ones life is not a good indicator of the spiritual progress the person has made.
I know that Tony had been deeply involved in his spiritual journey. I know that his songs were hints and clues to all of us about the intimate struggle of the stormy search for Self that each of us who take ourselves seriously must take.
All of who knew him and his songs have been enriched by his journey amongst us. I miss him. His legacy will live on so to me he is still with us.
May you rest in peace Tony.