( To Keep Our Minds From Wandering )
I’m fixing a hole where the rain comes in
And stops my mind from wandering
Where it will go
Paul McCartney, 1967
Going through some old books the other day, I came across Scott Peck’s “Road Less Traveled.” I haven’t read this book in a dog’s age, possibly longer since it’s come to my attention that dogs don’t live that long.
Sticking out of the book was a Post-it note with one word written across the top: “Holes.” At first I thought it might have been a warning to my last dog. He used to chew anything that didn’t run, but upon opening the book, I discovered many marked passages on the subject of holes. Seems in the metaphysical world, we all look like Swiss cheese.
Peck explains that our character is determined by the size of our holes, with needy people having big holes, and less needy having smaller ones. Since none of us is good at filling anything (wall cracks, sink holes, etc.) we expect others to fill our holes for us. In relationships, for instance, we say, “My partner completes me.”
To feel complete we must constantly ask for affirmation. This can take the form of anything from “Do I look pretty?” to “Does it bother you that I’m armed?” Most of us feel affirmation is essential to filling holes. If we don’t get it from others, we develop a relationship with our dog. Dogs, by nature, are excellent hole-fillers. Those that aren’t usually end up in the army.
This brings me back to Paul McCartney’s “Fixing a Hole.” After listening to Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds, McCartney wanted to do something equally ethereal with Sgt. Pepper. Theorists continue to posit over the word “fixing.” Fixing a hole, as they conclude, is McCartney taking matters into his own hands. This follows Peck’s logic that holes can’t be filled by other people. We must affirm ourselves, or at least understand where the holes came from in the first place (psychologists call this cognitive behavioral therapy).
McCartney’s lyrics posit their own metaphysical chew toy: holes are only a problem if you see them as a problem. If you don’t, it really doesn’t matter if you’re wrong or right. The key words after that are “where I belong I’m right.”
McCartney admitted years later that the song was really about his growing independence. Even during Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles were growing further and further apart, particularly Lennon and himself. McCartney realized he’d have to rely on his own instincts. Once he discovered he could survive and, in fact, flourish later with his band Wings, criticism seemed innocuous at best.
So fixing holes is getting past what isn’t worth worrying about. When Peck would explain this to his patients, he’d draw a large circle with a small circle in the middle. The small circle was reality, the large circle was perception. What dominates perception is essentially fear. We’re so full of “what ifs?” we forget they’re mostly fabricated. As our mind wanders — which it does when our dog isn’t demanding attention — those fears increase.
We build obstacles based on how we’re perceived by others (we call them critics). This is classic Shakespearean irony. Critics have more holes than Bonnie and Clyde’s Ford V8 (now on display at Whiskey Pete’s Casino in Primm, Nevada). “See the people standing there who disagree and never win.” Of course they never win, they’re critics. Worrying about their opinion is foolish. Even your dog thinks it’s foolish. You can criticize him all you like, and he’ll just wag his tail, panting, “Don’t know, don’t care, feed me or throw a ball.”
Dogs have it all wrapped up in their doggie worlds. They concentrate on the fundamentals (food, play, fire hydrant). That leaves a huge amount of time for other pursuits, which dogs engage in awake or asleep (notice his feet going right now).
Take away fear and anguish and second guessing and you’d be surprised how much time you have on your hands. “I’m taking the time for a number of things that weren’t important yesterday.” Fill a few holes (maybe more than a few), and the world’s your oyster. Get out, throw a ball, listen to Sgt. Pepper. Let the rest of the world worry itself sick. Dogs continually do this with surprising effect. Better to be a tail-wagging miscreant than an owner worrying about the next ice age (some people really worry about that).
I’ll close with the most telling part of McCartney’s lyric. “Silly people run around they worry me, and never ask me why they don’t get past my door.” Silly people (mostly critics) don’t get past his door because he realizes he doesn’t need them. Nobody needs critics except critics.
If you’re saying, “But everyone seems to be critic these days. My clients are critics, the account people are critics. My work is being judged by everybody.” Well, if you are being criticized, at least you’ve done something worth criticizing. They haven’t produced anything. And there’s every likelihood they never will. That’s why they’re the “silly people” in McCartney’s song, the ones who “never get past my door.” It’s their problem not yours. Accept that notion and filling holes becomes a lot easier. Or, as McCartney observed: “And I still go.”
Here’s an interesting tidbit of Beatlemania: When McCartney first presented the Sgt. Pepper idea to his band mates, Lennon wasn’t interested. “I just gave him my songs,” he later admitted. “They didn’t have anything to do with the concept of the album itself. I let George [Martin] and Paul figure it out.”
That became Lennon’s attitude throughout most of Sgt. Pepper. He was the character saying, “It really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong or right, where I belong I’m right, where I belong.”
It’s artful wordplay, far more analogous to Lennon than McCartney. The two songwriters were obviously excising their own holes, Lennon singing “I’ve got nothing to say, but it’s okay,” while McCartney sang, “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time.” Lennon didn’t share McCartney’s cherry-filled optimism. He can be heard singing behind, “It can’t get no worse.”
McCartney was filling his holes on a farm in the Scottish Highlands. Lennon and Ono were sequestered on a couch doing primal screams into a tape recorder. Whatever floats your boat, as they say, but it would be Lennon — in between primal screams — who would become McCartney’s biggest critic (“All he wrote was Yesterday”). Not that this phased McCartney to any great degree (other than he found the screams annoying over the phone). He hit the charts again with “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
Scott Peck once said, “Life is difficult. Once we truly see this, we transcend it.” The same can be said for holes. Once we accept life is difficult, we can also accept that it’s not our fault. Life is life. Get to that stage and “It really doesn’t matter if I am wrong or right, where I belong is right, where I belong.”
What do you think about holes? Have you figured out how to fill yours? Or are you still waiting for affirmation? Let me know at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Cormack is a freelance copywriter, blogger and novelist. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Skyhorse Press or Yucca Publishing for more details.