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  • Writer's pictureDavid Lapadat

Jim Morrison - "The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom"

There is a frozen history and a living history, just as there is the truth that dies and the truth that lives, as Leonard Cohen remarked.

This fact, impossible to explain in fitting words, is revealed at every step on a walk along the deserted paths of the Parisian cemetery Père Lachaise on summer days.

The heavy marble plaques invite to a heavy silence, and, at the same time, in the tall and green trees, life rustles, like a sigh in the breeze. As you progress, familiar names written on imposing stones catch your eye.

The soul leaps for a moment

The soul leaps for a moment, but reason tells you that your eyes will not come across the name of a loved one and yet the emptiness yawns again, because those names have been dear to you all your life: Enescu, Wilde, Proust, Piaf, Molière, Chopin, Rossini.

The imposing feeling that arises from the moment of eternity captured by the cold stones loses its intensity.

Your mind wanders to the work that the artists left behind, through which, otherwise, you see the opportunity for a much livelier and perhaps more real reunion than the one on the paths of Père Lachaise. And then you can go on.

"We came to see Jim Morrison."

After passing Balzac's statue, the landscape begins to come alive.

First, a few couples examine the cemetery map with particular concentration, searching with quick glances, perhaps for an employee.

You then hear fleeting words, succinct questions: "l’américain?", then you catch ample hand gestures drawing unseen paths above the alleys.

As you progress, "l’américain" turns into "Jim" and then you no longer encounter people in pairs, but groups of four or five people, who tell each other smiling: "We came to see Jim Morrison."

Morrison's grave is discreet, placed among other resting places, to the justified horror of the relatives of the deceased, who see their loved ones' sleep disturbed. Indeed, the rebellious aura of rock seems to transcend the barriers of death when it comes to Morrison. Next to his tombstone, people drink, smoke, recite poetry.

Visitors leave packs of cigarettes, bottles of beer or whiskey…

Visitors do not bring flowers, but leave packs of cigarettes, bottles of beer or whiskey (all sealed) and sometimes candles. A leafless and branchless tree, with its bark peeled off on which unknown hands have written immortal verses, watches over Morrison's eternity.

Complaints flow to the administration of the cemetery, and an imperceptible smile appears on the marble face of Jim, who has kept his ability to disturb the sacred peace that the administrators and authorities believe they are entitled to enjoy.

This summer, on July 3, it will mark 53 years since the death of James Douglas Morrison, a prominent figure of the 20th century, known mainly as Jim Morrison, the poet-shaman, who set out to open the Doors of Perception and fulfill the infinite dream of William Blake.

Coming from thousands of kilometers away, those who felt close to what Morrison represented filled the alleys of Père Lachaise. Television channels like NBC News captured some of the emotion stirred in the middle of the crowd.

A young man passionate about cinematography, who became a rock star, Morrison considered himself first and foremost a poet.

The fear of being appreciated as a poet through the prism of his star image was what pushed Jim Morrison into exile in Paris. Tired, misunderstood, he left the United States to make “Jim the rebel” forgotten and to rediscover “James the poet”.

What he wanted to kill is precisely the element that made his legend.

Morrison did not realize that it was precisely poetry that measured his success, along with the invaluable contribution of The Doors members (Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore), who added the element that poetry needs to become immortal - music.

It often happens to be understood when we suspect the least. Morrison's poetry books have been edited or reissued constantly over the last 40 years. Some poems have even made their way into academia. The posthumous album "An American Prayer" (1978), in which Jim recites his poems, occupies an important place in rock history.

Morrison created his own mythology

The substantial volume that appeared on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Morrison's death includes unpublished poems and thoughts, which the public eagerly awaits to read.

On July 3, 2021, (the date that marked half a century since Morrison passed) fans paid the only tribute that would certainly have impressed Morrison. A banner was placed on his grave containing the message: "Thanks for your words".

Jim Morrison remained in many ways the same shy, cultured adolescent, who impressed his colleagues by reciting poems or philosophical passages, who amazed his teachers with his critical essays on Hieronymus Bosch's paintings. In a troubled era of violence and injustice, Morrison found peace in poetry.

He was not a guru, but he was a leader, who tried to explain to his contemporaries that a subjugated conscience, an absent conscience and, finally, a spirit that renounces transcendence are the most serious forms that servitude can take.

Although he did not fully identify with his generation (not even in terms of vices), being rather a conservative nature, Morrison knew how to express his thoughts through symbols and metaphors reaching immense crowds of young people, not coincidentally, through the language of psychedelic rock.

He perhaps understood too literally Blake's maxim, the visionary poet, who postulated that "the road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom".

But as you must know how to live, you must also know how to die well, and Morrison managed to take the step towards legend. He died at the age of 27, just like Hendrix and Janis Joplin shortly before him, but he left behind his work, which meant music, poetry, film screenplay, drama, and philosophy.

Looking back, it would have been enough for Morrison only to write “The End", a song like a story of an irrational world, for us to appreciate the true value of the artistry of Jim Morrison and of The Doors.

After entering a shadow cone in the early 1980s, the myth of Jim Morrison was reborn in all its evocative force in 1991, with the appearance of Oliver Stone's controversial film The Doors.

Since then, new generations of young people have rediscovered Jim Morrison and fallen in love with The Doors' music, which testifies to the fact that Jim did not write for a specific era, but, like the ancient cosmogonic myths so beautifully described by Eliade, he managed in his work to reach that universal point in human consciousness.

Morrison created his own mythology and ended up blending with it. His legend is constantly updated, reviving every year on July 3 and revealing Morrison as a symbol of poetry and rock music of the 1960s and, at the same time, asserting that rock was not just a whim of rebellious youth, but earned its place in the history of the arts as one of the most beautiful forms of expression of the human spirit.

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