Wavy Gravy is a Real Brand. I met him at an event hosted at Google by google.org’s Dr. Larry Brilliant. The event was one of many aiming to raise funds to complete a film on Wavy Gravy’s life called “Saint Misbehavin’ The Live and Times of Wavy Gravy.” I’ll share some impressions and then support my assertion of Wavy as a Real Brand.
Throughout the evening, Wavy, dressed in comfortable white with tie-dye accent, would jump up spontaneously and share some wit and wisdom, including ones you’ll find on his Wiki entry. Hard to imagine this is a guy in his 70’s who has survived multiple back surgeries. When walking the room, his pet fish lead on its bobbing leash. He is Amuse. He wills Amaze. A trip. A student of all religions and cultures. Curious. Playful. Acutely in-tune to broader realities than the “you” and “I” in this moment. This is an eccentric in the best sense, whose mask doesn’t adapt to a situation, individual or group; rather he changes all in someway.
The benefit event included:
- a 30-minute inspirational film treatment of the full-length production Michelle Esrick endeavors to produce (your donation of any kind and amount can help).
- The standard network/schmooze fest, if you’re used to hanging out with Eric Schmidt, Bob Wier, Tracy Chapman and more.
- The material has been gathered for eight years, capturing a precious archive from The Merry Pranksters, The Hog Farm–one of the first if not The First communes, the 60’s NY (his roommate was Bob Dylan and manager Lenny Bruce)
- A Wavy Gravy lead sing-along of his Camp Winnarainbow’s “Garden of Our Hearts” song–moving, touching, powerful, uniting
- Hopefully some commitments to get this movie produced
Brand Essence: The Fool
Brilliant described Wavy as “A Fool in the medieval sense.” He should know: Dr. Brilliant traveled around India with Wavy in the early part of a friendship that spans over three decades. They co-founded in 1978 The Seva Foundation, credited with healing unnecessary blindness for over 2 million people in third world countries.
To develop this lead on Wavy’s “Brand Essence,” I turned to Wikipedia–it’s a more frequent crutch for me and more frequently at the top of Google searches anyway–as you can tell from the variety of links sourced here. The most revealing description was from The Fool Tarot Card entry. In this context, The Fool is the spirit in search of experience. Many symbols of the Instituted Mysteries are summarized in this card, which reverses, under high warrants, all the confusions that have preceded it. The Fool represents the mystical cleverness bereft of reason within us. The number 0 is a perfect signifier for the Fool, which can become anything when he reaches his destination. Zero plus anything equals the same thing. Zero times anything equals zero. The Fool can represent:
- Beginning —— Inconsequence —— Innocence —— Freedom
- Spontaneity —— Originality —— Happiness —— Non-criticism
- No attachment —— Initiative —— Adventure —— Irresponsibility
- Inexperience —— Immaturity —— Optimism —— Boldness
- Carpe Diem —— Creative Chaos —— New Beginnings —— Foolhardiness
Many of these descriptors capture my impressions of Wavy. I like the concept of Zero, as the ultimate creative space, where egoless you hold the keys and power of the kingdom while it has no hold on you. The Zero/Fool is additive in the way a mirror may amplify aspects in need of attention or diminish those lesser blights too quick to invoke the inner-critic. It doesn’t achieve or seek gain, so it can be trusted. Best of all, it reverses fortunes or trumps other cards. In his life, many people and luminaries have entered Wavy’s Zero-center through a variety of connected labyrinths. Coincidence or the powerful attraction of Zero?
Even at this event Wavy had cultural and capital royalty at his court. On the face of it, they may think it’s entertainment. But it’s much greater than that. While being amazed or amused or simply distracted, a mighty wind of truth enters through the ears, nose, mouth and heart. Enter through Zero the power of The Idea. Not his idea or your idea, but universals that you’ve overlooked or missed today. Small truths, big lessons. Laughed back into your consciousness.
Supporting Wavy’s Credentials As A Real Brand
Larry Brilliant referred to the 60’s and Wavy’s role represented in the movie as a “period piece.” I didn’t see The Idea or Wavy as period-bound, but timeless. Wavy doesn’t seem to be stuck in time, it’s just that some of the best metaphors–his clown nose, the tie-dye, the inclusive spirituality, The Cause, The Fish(er King), The Path, The Trip, The One that is Everyone–got expressed so well they remain workable for him today. Remove nostalgia from the 60’s and you still have profound social and political change that continue to shape our world today. Like all Real Brands, Wavy lifts the esteem of his consumer through an appeal to their highest human values.
Let’s run Wavy through our filter for required elements of a Real Brand:
A real brand is patient; it is in it for the long haul -Check
A real brand is planned; it knows itself – Enlightened. Check
A real brand leads; it (re)invents an entire category – First Commune, First Activist Clown, Only headliner at all three Woodstocks, Check, Check, Check
A real brand moves; it taps into emotions – Deep down in The Garden of Our Hearts. Check
A real brand is a story that’s never completely told – Heck, I’m still telling it… Check
A real brand is pragmatic; it has consistent values and design consistency. – Check–See collage image below.
A real brand is relevant – His message is one of perennial truths and his action is one of giving and service. He is a message we need now more than ever. Check.
A real brand is proprietary; it is uniquely ownable – This is the domain of Zero, The Fool and Eccentric. Besides, few have the heroic courage to live and stay on as pure a message as Wavy has for seven decades.
As a Real Brand acts, so does Wavy Gravy. He embodies the power of an idea and delivers it with the honesty, integrity, faith and conviction of The Fool. His rationale support for his brand is steeped in a life of selfless deeds and living his praxis heroically. He’s credentialed. Always on-message and brand. He is deLight.
At lease one commercial brand tapped into this with Ben & Jerry’s tribute Ice Cream. Colbert’s new flava’s seem a form of flattery to their precedent of recognizing “The Fool” in and through their brand. Several charitable brands have also benefited from his Brand Association. And almost any musical entertainment brand of substance has beat a path or arrived at the court of Wavy.
It’s likely you’ll meet Wavy on your path. As medieval mythology always made a point to say: ignore The Fool at your own peril. He holds a special truth just for you. Discover and listen: it will speed you on your way with clarity and renewed vigor. Pass it on.