Blow Away

The subtle multi-layered air that held me drifts away and I fall into a new sound. A piano riff pounds at me, as subtle as a sledgehammer. In the background, a subtle guitar phrasing seems to mock the elegance that has faded away.

Mired in my own banality I can’t help but notice how trite the words that come at me are. Is this really where the journey ends? A new fear wells up inside me. Fear of disappointment.  What if none of these songs were what they appeared to be? What if it was just me the whole time – projecting my emotions onto slightly boorish noodling?

But perhaps because of this fear, I decide to listen again with generosity. To return to my original intent.

I give the song a second listen and hear something profound. The same banal phrasing manages to distill thoughts and feelings I have spent countless time and energy obsessing over – down to a few phrases:

“A man and a woman come together as strangers
When they part they’re usually strangers still
It’s like a practical joke played on us by our Maker
Empty bottles that can’t be filled”

What if elegance, like so much else, is just a bit of vanity that can be put on, or taken off?

We are empty vessels that try and fill one another with love and constantly find the results dissatisfying.

Is there really more to say than that?

I keep reaching beyond myself, hoping to find someone who can fill the empty void inside. Knowing that it will never work – through no fault of the other person.

Yet to seek love, to seek meaning, is part of what I think it means to be human. That cycle is not nothing.

“Baby who’s to say that it even matters in the long run
Give it just a minute
And it will blow away
It’ll blow away”

I spend my cycles railing against the inherent lack of meaning. Trying to capture it in a thousand words. As if numbers will win the day. But instead a trite, banal phrase cuts to the heart of the matter. A sledgehammer is an effective tool.

Like a feather in a whirlwind
Blow away

Fallen, I lay on the ground, my breathing returning me to the present as that same riff descends again. My breathing, which I had taken for granted, becomes ragged and grates against my chest.

I hate my own banality. I hate how my attempts at artistry never let me escape myself. Never seem to communicate anything of meaning to anyone.

These are jars that cannot be filled with the things I try and put in them. But, like the endless riff, they keep cycling around.

Just as sure as the world spins
Blow away

Up and down the riff thunders through each verse. Pumping music into the diatribe like a heart pumps blood. Acknowledged or not, most of the songs I love have riffs. They are part of the structure that holds the music together. Done with elegance they flow easily into the rest of the song, until they are used like a sledgehammer to crack through the walls I have put up. It removes the walls that have withstood the more cloying machinations of beauty and grace and love that have come before. Then you notice it. Then it is inescapable. Then I notice my breath and my blood and things that keep my body alive.

To claim that by this point in the show I’ve moved beyond my sin, seen it and defeated it, goes much too far. But it is true that has the repetitions begin to weave their way past the Flotsam and Jetsam and that I have begun I begin to see a little more clearly. That I have experienced revelation after revelation. And though they each felt unique as I experienced them, in retrospect they have been variations of banal truths that I’ve heard spouted all my life.

I begin to see past the surface distortions to the muck bellow. I do not see the lotus flower. I cannot see the surface either. Instead I see some stranger form of darkness. I see things that can only flourish when the light is rare and uncertain.

I see not that I am evil, although I have done wrong. Although I am still doing wrong. Although I see the harm that I do when I just don’t know what to do.

I don’t know what I am doing.

 I am flailing about trying my best, leaning on my instincts, which as flawed.

But I don’t know when they are wrong. Or, I only know sometimes, and usually afterwards.
And my heart pumps. And my heart pumps. Because that’s what hearts do, they pump blood. And a lot of it goes into arteries that give me life. But some of it is just bleeding out and filling my lungs. And my heart can’t tell the difference. All my heart knows is to pump. And all my lungs know is to breathe in and out. In and out. And they have to breathe or no oxygen will get to my brain.

And my brain, it generates thoughts.

And those thoughts.

And so the poison enters everything. Not because I am the snake. Although I may be the snake. Not because I am the innocent who believed the snake when I should have known better. Although I am the innocent who should have known better. But because I am literally everything. I am the snake. I am the innocent. I am the garden. The poison flows through my veins and I do not know what to do with it.

And I do not know when the poison is there and I do not know what I am doing. But I continue to pump I continue to breathe.

And it hurts. It hurts when I breathe. And it hurts to know that I don’t know what I’m doing. And it hurts to know that I am wrong. I did the wrong thing. But which one of the things was wrong? Did I push too hard or not enough? Should I have used a sledgehammer or a paintbrush?

Those times when I should have told her that I loved her again.
Those times when I should have listened instead of speaking.  
Those times I didn’t say the right thing in the right way and a child suffered.

All of those times I may not have been wrong because there may not have been anything right to do.

But I swallow it all and take it in and accept that I don’t know. I am the snake. I am the innocent. And I am in the garden and I am eating the poisoned fruit. It’s the only food around. Or at least, the only food I can find.

And the suffering is unimaginable and messy and unforgivable.

And it needs to blow away

And through all of this… a voice cries out.

“Gimme just a little piece of your time
Gimme just a little minute of your time
Listen to me
Listen close
There’s been something I’ve been trying to get through to you
So listen close…”

And the voice asks me to listen. And so I do.

And the guitar noodles in the background. And the riff never leaves.

And voice tells me that I don’t know what real love is.

That I’m holding love too tightly. That I want to keep the love in.

It tells me that I’ve trying to hold onto love.

And it tells me that real love does not work like that. That you can’t hold love in your heart like that.

And the riff never leaves.

That real love can’t be caged. It requires that we open up.

Knowing that is not enough though.

And it asks me. “Do I want to know real love?”

And I do.

So the voice tells me to take my fist and put in the air.

And then open up my fingers and feel the breeze. Feel the life. Let my love out. Take in the love of the world.

And this my friends, is more banal than anything I’ve ever done or said.

And this my friends, is profound and meaningful, if I let.

And so I imagine that my ribcage is a jailcell. And I open the door. And opening that door means accepting my own banality and foul deeds, and all the rest. And the air feels good on my hand. I hadn’t noticed it was clenched so tight.

And the riff never leaves.

Let it blow away.

Editors Note: This Ends Set 1.

Always more down than up, but sometimes up nonetheless.

Slowing down, I was able to feel the wind as it was, dynamic and multi-faceted, rather than as another passing horror whipping past me on my inevitable decline.

The wind was gentle in places, the wind had a rhythm, fast and slow.

I leaned into it, and I glided upwards. Up, and down. I smiled.

Always more down than up, but sometimes up nonetheless.

Row Jimmy

I have a secret. I want the impossible.

I want to be safe.

I want the impossible.

I want my loved ones to be safe.

I want the impossible.

I want love to be something I can hold onto.

I want the impossible.

I want to live.

I want the impossible.

I seek purpose.

I want the impossible.

How do you approach The Impossible? With a little distance.

Playful triplicates emanate out from the stage.

It is deadly serious.

It reminds me of nothing so much as a children’s fable, sharing hard-won wisdom with a smile and a candy house and fantastically exciting creatures serve to hide the darkness – to make the darkness bearable – so that we can tell these truths to innocent children.

Because we dare not speak wisdom like this to each other. Only a child could believe us.

How do you approach The Impossible? First you identify the impossible and then you do it anyways.

The song reminds me of nothing so much as a children’s fable. Bright and full of wonder. The wonder that comes when you think anything is possible. When the impossible is just a way of hiding the stakes before you leap into the unknown. If we tried to face the stakes head on – how could we do anything but freeze with terror.

Still, we need to share our hard-won knowledge, to warn of the danger, if anyone is to make it. Even as we encourage each other to leap.

In just a couple of notes, the song has already established its tone and its sonic power. A through line, a melody that dances and spirals even as it resolves back down into almost a ditty. A few tiny notes make the difference and add an updraft that keeps the whole thing from crashing down.

And so we have our fairytale. Our character: Julie. Our actions: catching a rabbit by the tail.

Julie catch a rabbit by his hair
Come back step, like to walk on air
Get back home where you belong
And don’t you run off no more


Doing a double twist when you hit the air.

What do you do when you are in the air?

A double twist.

What do you see when you look down below?

You see dancing.

What do you do when you want to accomplish The Impossible?

You do a double twist when you hit the air.

What do you do when you can’t?

Maybe you can’t hit the air. Maybe if you get in the air you can’t do the double twist.

But what do you do when you want to do the impossible? You do a double twist when you hit the air.

And then the melody line comes up and down and notes blur.

They bleed through reality. An echo doubling in on itself even as it moves forward. Why. Because you need that distance. Without distance there is no perceptive. You need to be playful if you are going to solve an impossible problem.

A single note would pierce too firmly. It would be on the ground. You cannot do a double twist on the ground.

So the notes double down on themselves and blur. Even as the instrumentation in the background keeps the fairytale alive. It goes up. Breathing in. And down. With a little too. Floating around. Breathe In. Breathe Out. Jump up.

When I think too much I realize that I cannot do the impossible. When faced with harsh reality I become defensive and closed. When I think too much I become depressed by my inability to do the impossible. When I think too much, things that are possible seem impossible.

When I think, I think the same thoughts again and again and again and again and again.

And again and again. And again.

They bore me. But they do not go away.

When I think the same thoughts again and again and I know that if I walked beside myself and said this aloud to myself I would hate me.

And maybe I do hate me. Maybe I hate me because I keep telling myself the same things.

Again and again and again.

I have noticed that if I pay attention to my thoughts closely sometimes I see the space between them. Sometimes I notice that the thoughts come from somewhere. Something is producing them. Something is squeezing them out of a tube. And that tube is often my emotions.

To be human is to generate thoughts. Trees produce leaves, humans produce thoughts.

These thoughts are not helpful. They lead me nowhere. If I look at the tube, the emotion, and I feel that emotion and I let that emotion be just as it is… I notice something else. I notice that the emotion appears in my body.

When I think about all of the things that scare me. When I think about the things I cannot do and want to. When I think about how much I want to do The Impossible.

I want to be free.  

I think about the things that I consider impossible, but which would not be impossible if the world were just. When I think about these things I feel it in my chest, moving down to my stomach. Shooting through the center of my body. I breath, in and out.  


Broken heart don’t feel so bad
You ain’t got half of what you thought you had
Rock your baby to and fro
Not too fast and not too slow


And when I hear these notes, for all their triplicates and doubling back, I feel these notes as notes of morning. Mourning in a fairytale can cut deep.

We are used to the suffering of reality. But the fairytale adds an extra dimension because it led us to believe anything was possible. That maybe we wouldn’t have to… maybe you could fly. Maybe you could be free. Maybe just maybe…

In a fairytale you can have infinity layered in on itself. You can have a cascade of black holes. That infinity can be even more space for mourning. And you can leap into the sky, and see… Earth.

And on Earth, you can hear… a jukebox.

That’s the way it’s been in town
Ever since they tore the juke box down
Two bit piece don’t buy no more
Not so much as it done before


Coming back to ground from groundlessness is hard. The ground hurts. I remember infinity and the impossible, and doing a double twist. There was space everywhere, and it was too much to bear. Here on earth, it’s constrained, and hurts less, but it’s also smaller.

I went out into the fantasy, I found some wisdom, and I try and bring it back.


And what do you do on earth?

When there is only a jukebox to bring you music?

You dance. And what do you do when the jukebox is broken?

You dance.

And what do you do when all around you is The Impossible and you are on a river that is taking you nowhere.

You Row


And I say row, Jimmy, row
Gonna get there, I don’t know
Seems a common way to go
Get down and row, row, row, row, row


If I possessed a mind like a diamond that could see everything from million directions at once I would only need to hear “Row Jimmy Row” a single time.

But I do not have that mind I cannot absorb the wisdom of infinity back on earth without help and repetition. The sensation in my body, running across my chest again. The thoughts spinning out again. I live moment by moment, one after another. I reach into the song knowing that it will carry me back again to say Row Jimmy Row.

“Gonna get there, I don’t know”

I feel that refracting back into me. It’s an emotion that comes from a place bigger than me. I can’t think it. But I know it.

And remind me of what I’ve always known but dared not speak.

*************

What if striving is everything that matters, and it doesn’t matter at all?

“Julie catch a rabbit…”

What if all of that striving could be let go of?

What would need to happen so that amidst the cacophony of distractions, I could do a double twist in the air.

When would all the struggle occur?

“Time baby I don’t know going to get there I don’t know.”

I am obsessing over the wrong questions. It may be that I do not obsess the questions. It may be that they obsess me.

I have a secret.

I am failure.

It is a boring secret because everyone is a failure.

The hardest truth may not be that I am a failure, but that my failings do not make me special.

The hardest truth may not be that my striving and suffering and silent screams go unheard, but that I’m just another guy, a little less interesting than the next. Maybe a little more self-obsessed than average.

Reality has some hard limits, but mostly all I have to guide me are my expectations.

By that metric I am a failure.

Shhh it’s a secret.

Once there were some molecules amidst a universe that tended toward entropy.

They did not want to continue. They did not want anything.

Some of them just so happened to fall together in such a way that that they continued to exist… for a while.

It’s worth noting here that the other bits of primordial ooze weren’t bothered by this fact.

Just like the mountains that sit for eons before being wiped away without a care, or the clouds that twist in the wind, the primordial ooze that did not replicate itself was just fine. It had no story to tell. And so here it falls silent.

It was the primordial ooze that replicated itself that was not fine. It was destined, like me, for failure.

Some, began to strive. And for its trouble, it found suffering.

Also, a slightly better chance at holding off entropy for a while (before failing).

It is only in striving, that we can fail, yet it is only in striving, that we can live.

And the first solo comes in, rendering dichotomies meaningless. Light is a particle and a wave. Everyone is special.

This solo obliterates these distinctions and renders them meaningless, without mercy or judgement. Like the primordial ooze that stepped away from the story, it mimics angst until it accidentally incarnates it. These noises dip and soar and my sense that there was some kind of distinction between the long-drawn-out voiced noises and the staccato notes feels banal.

It is a person trying too hard at a party to appear interesting.

Let’s call this first kind of primordial ooze… the kind that began to replicate by chance… the ooze that learned that through suffering it might hold its pattern together long enough to pass it on to new creature before succumbing to the unyielding force of entropy – let us call that thing: life.

Everything in the universe is slowly slowly slowly falling apart.

Except for the parts of the universe that are quickly falling apart.

Most bits of the universe are oblivious to this drama. But some are not. Some do more than just feel pain and suffering in their quest to hold their pattern together.

Some bits of the universe develop stories about the whole thing. Stories designed to keep the whole “Let’s Stay Together” thing going on longer.

These stories infest my mind. My mind tries to coordinate these efforts. It tries to hold the universe together.

All the other bits of the universe, are, as far as I can tell completely unable to fail. They do not succeed or fail because they are not trying, they are not striving to do anything. They are no better for it and no worse for it. We have not triumphed over them. It is not even accurate to say they are playing a different game. It is that we are playing a game and they are rocks.

Because I have a mind burdened by stories, because I am banal life, I am able to be the bit of the universe that can regard the universe. The ability to regard the universe is a strange side effect, a perhaps completely unnecessary cul-de-sac on the road to failure. The failure to fight off entropy. The failure to fight off the slow dissolution of everything.

It’s kinda magnificent from this vantage point, but then- it would be.

I have a fairly limited perspective on what’s important. My mind prioritizes life, though life has no reason for being valuable except that those bits of the universe that did not value life did not sustain it. We must prioritize life, because the consequence of not is that we are not here.

This appears to be what happens in most cases.

This thing that has that perspective is our ego. It is the creation of our mind. It is a tool run amok. And now it is has the ability to regard Beauty, Grace, love, and failure.

It looks to the Future constantly, searching for something that could support its mission to sustain life.

Our whole reality is spun out of such observations, many of them false. My mind looks to the future and anticipates 100 problems. Maybe 3 of them matter at all.

97 of the right sort of lies and fruitless worries may be worth it to find the 3 that help keep life going. Not because they matter in any real sense of the term, but just by the relentless logic of keeping the ooze going.

A lifetime of suffering, believing death is the worst outcome, may help sustain life a bit longer.

And so we do not see reality, we see the slice of reality that is useful for the mind that wants to look towards the future and find problems that could stop it from persisting. Monsters in the shadows, people who may not like me. Along the way I get to see grace and beauty. Along the way I get to feel love. Hooray.

Quite sincerely, hooray hooray hooray hooray hooray!

As I regard the future, looking for problems that might trouble it, I cannot help but look around and notice the universe seems to be full of entropy. That friends die, love does not conquer, a misspoke word embarrasses and stops me from speaking, Empires fall, stars explode, trees wither.

I can see all of this clearly from within the song. It has pulled me away from some of my fear. And then, the music does something remarkable. It takes all of these images that have been conjured up within me and blows on them. And they float away on a gentle breeze.

The music which has always been at a reserve, pulls back just a little bit further… as if to touch the surface would cause reality itself to crack open.

It cannot touch the surface. It cannot go near the surface. It can only reference where the surface might be through its absence. The silence between the notes.

My own fragility washes over me. I am made of thin crystal. I might break. And the music holds me, lifting me up. For this moment at least, I am together, held by the sound. I can relax. I do not have to maintain this bit of the universe. The music will do it for me. Hold me – my suffering my beauty my grace my contradictions my banality… the suffering of the universe, the beauty of the stars, the grace of humanity, the banality of this thought.

For most of history I will be a thousand fragments scattered to the wind. For this moment I am held together by the wind.

And there are emotions in this space. Emotions akin to all of the things that all the songs have conjured up in me so far. All my words can do is gesture at the music which can only barely hint at the fragility and bottomless pit of despair that surrounds me.  

When I stretch my body, I ache. I feel my limitations. I push on them.

Sometimes this feels good. This feels alive. My body coming together.

Sometimes this hurt. I call it pain. I recoil.

Both are true. Both are helpful. The context matters.

Both are the same sensation. Different labels.

When I hear this song, I ache. I don’t know how to interpret this sensation, but I bask in its ambiguity.

I ache like I am rowing a boat into infinity.

I ache like I am failing at it.

I ache like I am doing it anyway and there is beauty in that.

I ache like it is nothing special.

I cannot do a double twist when I hit the air. I cannot be effortless and free.

But I hear it in this song that I am a part of. And I smile.

As I row.



Fortune and Chance

And then, because sometimes it must, the improbable happened, and I fell onto something like a leaf. Not knowing who else to thank, I said a prayer to Fortune and Chance.

It looked and felt like a leaf. Unlike a leaf, unlike a mushroom, it withstood my presence and did not give way. Instead, my fall slowed. Not enough to save my life, but enough to give me time to appreciate the fall.

I dared to look down for the first time.

“Someday everything gunna be different”

Here is a secret.

I am fine, just as I am.

It is true that I have sinned and hurt people out of fear laziness and habit.

It is true, that I will do it again.

That harm is real, and must be taken into account.

Yet, just as many of my mistakes have come because I did not believe that I was fine, just as I am.

What to do?

I am deserving of my love. But I don’t believe it.

I keep my knowledge that I am fine a secret.

I keep it hidden because if I say it out loud I will be misunderstood. I keep it a secret because I may be wrong.

Here is a way in which this knowledge is not wrong. This night, I have been listening to each song with fresh ears, as if everything worth knowing about them could be laid bare by listening deeply enough. As if history and context did not matter. As if the song had inherent meaning that could be discerned by anyone who opened themselves up to it.

That technique has served me well. It is a useful tool. It reveals aspects of the songs that I might have otherwise missed. That was correct.

This is also correct: As the opening chords of When I Paint my Masterpiece” ring out, I am transported to another time. This is fine (I don’t believe it is fine, but it happens anyways so I try not to resist). Embracing context is the right thing for this song.

If I hang onto my old tool, if I try and face only what is in front of me when my eyes are behind me, I will only be twisting myself in more knots, I will failing.

That would not be fine.

I’m plummeting backwards into my memory but it’s only a problem if I resist. Otherwise I’m fine just as I am.

I’m fine.

Here is a simple truth that is hard to accept.

I was depressed for some time. It was not heroic, or unique. It was not similar to the times I am sad or filled with existential fear now. My current woes matter. But this was not that.

I was depressed and it was a big deal for me. And it was not all that special.

The opening chords I hear are simple and soft compared to everything that’s come before. No fireworks. Just the power of a folk strum.

Then the same pattern begins to weave back into itself, a deceptively intricate rhythm emerges from those same notes.

And the voice in my mind, now impossibly deep, sings

“Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble
Ancient footprints are everywhere
Well you can almost think that you’re seein’ double
On a cold dark night on the Spanish Stairs”

I fall backwards into the dark center of that voice. Each note a cold dark night that reverberates through my memory.

These moments are time, captured and imprinted on my soul. What started as jagged rock has had it’s hard edges worn smooth in the twisting waters of my own introspection.

These words and these notes and their interplay are part of me. From where I stand, they belong more deeply to me then they do to the singer.

They accompanied me on nights that seemed to last forever. That I thought would last forever. During a time that stretched on so long that I stopped thinking about time. I felt in my soul that there was nothing but failure and suffering (and I suppose, this song). I did not consider how long it might last. I knew that could break me.

Giving up was not an option. I was ill.

“Got to hurry on back to my hotel room
Where I’ve got me a date with Botticelli’s niece
She promised she’d be right there with me”

I was caring for others. This is important. Because I am not strong enough to endure this for myself. If I faltered the weight of the world would crush me. And that was appealing.

But there were those I cared for, who held within them infinite possibility and potential. In whose eyes I might find my own redemption.

That is not a healthy cosmology to live by. But it is the cosmology that kept me sitting in the chair all through the night, humming this song to myself.

And so, while the voice those around me hear may not be impossibly deep, the voice that I hear, is.

After the verse, the strumming comes back, more intense now. Keeping time, but still, just a little askew. It calls out, and then pauses, skipping a beat, as if it might falter entirely. As if it doesn’t quite know if it will make the next strum, or fade away entirely. But then it picks back up again. Just enough, just in time.

Again and again, so it’s near-death becomes part of the song.

“When I paint my masterpiece”

The understatement here is the light that drew me to this tune. It is not sarcasm. Sarcasm obscures with a cruel edge. This is something else. Something sincere.

I did not believe that I had a masterpiece in me. I do not now.

But more than that, I knew with every fiber of my being, that if I did, it would not change anything that mattered.

But I sincerely held out hope anyways. I contained this contradiction. I fell in love with this contradiction.

And when I hear the song, sung to myself under my breath, or by the singer on stage, the song knows it too. It knows that a masterpiece can redeem nothing. If beauty and accomplishment are to have any meaning, it must be in their own grace.

If the song didn’t know that, it was worthless to me. But if it did, if it held all of that, and still, said “everything gunna be different” knowing full well that it would not be.

Then it was a mirror unto myself.

“Oh, the hours I’ve spent inside the Coliseum
Dodging lions and wastin’ time
Oh, those mighty kings of the jungle
I can hardly stand to see ’em
Well, it sure has been a long hard ride”

That. Exactly that. No more. No less.

Dodging lions that want to kill me. No fault of their own. We have all been placed here against our will.

My life is on the line, but more than anything I am weary.

What does it mean to be held in the hands of a masterpiece? To draw safety and security and oxygen from it? To have it’s meanings refract within you. To know that it is flawed as you are flawed. Yet it holds itself with beauty and grace, and maybe so to do I.

The intonation in my mind remains dark, cutting, and simple. The chords are just a touch too complicated to fully absorb, even as they seem to fade in and out of existing at all. The bass comes in, holding down the rhythm when it seems in danger. A subtle booming, like explosions in the distance.

Or perhaps close… too close… perhaps it is happening so close the mind rejects it, and it can only be absorbed as with distance, real or imagined. Observer error.

The singer emphasizes bone-deep weariness at their time spent dodging lions. Yet they muster a ragged edge for the plaintive “long hard ride”.

“…wheels runnin’ through the back of my memory
When I ran on the hilltop following a pack of wild geese
Someday, life will be sweet like a rhapsody”

And still that striving that holds it all together. I stare at my loved ones. I do not wonder if life has ever been sweet like a rhapsody. I do not wonder if it will be again. I do not ponder if I even like any rhapsodies.

Instead, I feel in my bones what it would be like to believe that someday life could be like that.
When I paint…

“I left Rome and landed in Brussels
On a …ride so bumpy that I almost cried”

Why does this of all things bring up the tears? It’s such small detail, the bumps of hard travel.

Perhaps it’s the smallness of it. Perhaps it’s the singer, who finds a new register to go even deeper, as they communicate in tone what can’t be said in words. Each syllable being drawn out slightly longer. The words of the song now, repeating the trick of the rhythm, where I’m held in minor suspense… will he ever get the sentence out…

“so… bumpy…..I……..almost…….cried”

And then a moment of relief. Without changing much – the song is so simple there is little to change – the music  opens up and breathes. Like air after being choked. Not that first gasping breath. The one after. And the one after that.

When the muscles work again; before the memory has faded into its protective cocoon.

“Clergymen in uniform and young girls pullin’ muscles
Everyone was there to greet me when I stepped inside”

Of course, that sensation is a lie, and song does not indulge in it. It’s not trying to say everything is fine, and it’s not trying to trick me. There is no deception here. Just a moment of wide open space as part of the journey.

A space to imagine being greeted with open arms. To lay down my burdens. To be at ease.

I know that I only hear the singer in front of me say

“Someday everything gunna be different”

Once. Or maybe twice.

But in my minds song, the line repeats, again and again.

“Someday everything gunna be different”

I am fine.

“Someday everything gunna be different”

The words sing-song up and down, teetering.

“Someday everything gunna be different”

The words desperate and dark. I am fine.

“Someday everything gunna be different”

The words almost feral now. I am fine just as I am. At the outer edges of sanity. Again and again. And again. Into the night.

“Someday everything gunna be different”
Someday everything gunna be different”
Someday everything gunna be different”
Someday everything’s be sweet like a rhapsody.

Here is a secret.

“I said someday everything gunna be different”

“When I paaaaaiiiinnnnnttttt”
…my masterpiece”

My fall felt as if it was correct. I had set out on a journey to fix something that was immutable. How else could it end?

It was not comfortable, but it was comforting to know I no longer needed to resist the inevitable.

My fall felt perfect just as it was. Entirely deserving of my embrace.

Just, a little too fast.

Loser

These beats fill me with a sense of foreboding. They are alluring. Part of me wants to relax into their comforting embrace.

Comfort is the shade of a tree that provides well deserved rest after a long day. It is also the shady tree you lay down at and never get up.

Comfort is a story where I am the hero.

My instincts do not always have my best interests at heart.

The melody starts out softly. It echos slightly, lingering longer than I expect. Deep bass notes rumble at the edges. A piano floats over top, dancing, barely tethered to the ominous tones below. The contrast highlights the melody line rather than contrasting with it.

And so, begins a tale. Unlike the more abstract emotions that previous songs have tried to capture – this is a clear story. Or is it?

It has many of the core elements of a story I know well. It’s set in a dirty bar. It’s hero is a cowboy.

The action takes place at a card game. Our protagonist wants something.

As do I, as do I.

This is a very particular person in a particular place and time.

Games of chance and skill are not among my vices. I have never met a real cowboy, let alone been one.

Yet, as tale opens, I know this place. These tropes are so well worn, I can fall into them like a pair of old boots.

From another angle, this song is not a story at all. A story is – a man dances with a maiden, falls in love and is driven out of town by her lover, a local bandit. Unable to stand being away, he returns, though he knows it will mean his doom. He is wounded on his way to her. He falls, unable to stand. She rushes out. With one last kiss, he dies in her arms.

By contrast, here almost nothing happens. It’s a portrait then. A character study.

In that character, my own flaws are laid bare. And from that gaping maw, that open wound, I feel the ominous notes well up that tell me this is a tradgey.

This comfortable tune comes with a price.

“If I had a gun for every ace I have drawn,
I could arm a town the size of Abilene
Don’t you push me baby,
‘Cause I’m all alone
and you know I’m only in it for the gold”

I am not proud of how often I think about violence and revenge. But, I do.

These are not fantasies of justice. These are fantasies of power. Of having ENOUGH. Enough power to bring lay an army low. Enough money to solve all my problems. Enough respect to make my troubles obsolete. Enough bravado to say, “Don’t you push me” in a quiet voice, and have it reverberate down the spine of those who are tempted to defy my will. To hurt me.

I understand this impulse. I am ashamed of it. But I understand it.

But what I don’t believe, is

“only in it for the gold.”

I know why it’s there. That is the lullaby I sing to sooth my conscious. To make myself appear more ruthless than I am. It’s a easy one to get lost in it, because it makes everything simple.

It’s a clear goal. And in a certain light you can even root for it. We all want our protagonist to succeed.

He wants his gold. Why shouldn’t he?

It pushes away the shame and the doubt and the fear.

If had enough, if I really had enough, I wouldn’t need to sing anymore.

When things are quiet and I feel alone, when I have been pushed to my limits, I monologue elaborate tales that end with the defeat of my enemies.

I say to the shadows “I am going to kill you. It’s not personal, but I will do it.”

This is not my best self. Making those pathways in the brain is bad for me. Calling up those fantasies makes them more real. More likely to happen again. More likely to bleed over to the rest of my life.

This is not how I want to relate to the world.

I have complicated thoughts about absolutes like “EVIL”. But situations like this call for a word with a charge. To unnecessarily end the infinite irreplaceable universe of possibilities contained in another person is – evil.

But riding the pulse, entering the flow, letting my instincts take control also feels good. It feels real. It acknowledges the impulse and gives it literal voice as I whisper “You wish it wasn’t true. You never thought this day would come. How could you? You thought you were invincible. You thought you were just.

“But then again, justice never had much to do with it.

“Part of me wishes it wasn’t true. I wish I didn’t have to take unto myself the stain of ending you. But the time has come to end you. I do not do this with pleasure.

“…Well, that’s not entirely true either. This is no time to lie or deceive. We were on opposite sides of a line. I didn’t draw that line, but it was there. So I will feel real satisfaction at removing you. But I didn’t want it to be this way. I did not set out to end you.

I say to my unnamed opponent “And yet, here we are.”

“Don’t you push me baby, ’cause I’m moaning low.”

It’s probably worth underscoring that I am the hero of these stories. I claim this spot by virtue of being the protagonist.

My desires are good. I am kind to my mother. My intentions are good, if only my enemies would try and walk in my boots they would understand. But they don’t, because unlike me, they are evil. You can tell because of their actions.

I have within me a hero-making storyteller.

Sometimes, on quiet nights, I will ponder this puzzle:

I am a humble person. So I know that like most people I am not always right.

But about what? My views on morals are self-evident. My views on how the world works have been justified by experience. My understanding of the gods has informed everything I do, if it’s wrong my world would fall apart – so clearly it’s not. That would be silly.

I might be wrong about something unimportant, but if I am, I can’t think of it.

My hero-making storyteller is good at it’s job. But it cannot fill the gaping maw.

The gaping maw at my center spawns fantasies that corrupt everything they touches.

I am the hero, because if I wasn’t, I might think twice about what I was doing.

“Never find another honest man.”

When I was held to account, this is not what I confessed. I recounted my good deeds. With genuine tears in my eyes, I spoke about my hope that I could be of use to my fellows. What a glorious thing it would be to believe that I could change someone’s life for the better.

Were they suckers for believing me? The tears were real. The gaping maw corrupts everything in comes in contact with. My emotions are grist for the mill.

Games of chance and skill have never meant anything to me, but I know what it is to have all perspective hijacked.

Some comforts are not tree’s. Some are horses. I get on them to rest my legs as I travel, and look up to find they are riding me. I can feel the weight, but I don’t dare admit it’s there.

I’m carrying a horse? That doesn’t make any sense. So it isn’t real. I’m in control. I am a good person. I am doing this to protect… for love… and the rest of the time the horse is not even there.

Except as a cold drink of water at the end of a hot day. That is nothing. That is what I deserve. Who would deny me a cold drink of water?

I know what it is to confuse the need for a certain feeling with salvation. To equate the thing I want with life itself.

Every morning the junkie wakes up without a gold dollar to their name. Hard work, ingenuity, sacrifice – all good things – corrupted by the gaping maw. Most nights they fall asleep having found what they need to keep them going.

We are amazing creatures full of infinite possibility. We are all hero’s.

The melody line goes quiet and high, scratching desperately at the outer range of audible. Tap tap tap.

Like a voice gone hoarse, like a scream in the distance, like thunder on the horizon, all the lost details of these notes speak volumes.

They fumble about, imprecise, wild and feral. Confused but dangerous. I do not want this creature to turn it’s full attention on me. I do not want this creature to decide that I am what stands between it and salvation.

It is not a horse. It is bigger. And it has teeth. Luckily, all I have to do to make it go away, is look away.

I am a good person. These are minor ticks, not addictions. Who would use such a loaded word? Bad habits maybe.

Perhaps the notes, like me, are afraid of what they would wrought if they fully unleashed themselves.

“I can tell the queen of diamonds by the way she shines”

This line cuts into me and I stumble in place. It reaches into the gaping maw at my center and puts its molten core right at the center of my senses.

“I can tell the queen of diamonds by the way she shines”

That is a nonsensical phrase full of abstract magical thinking.

I have told you what my vices are not. They are not gambling. I do not drink.

I smoke too much, I eat the wrong things, I make impulsive decisions, I overuse sarcasm and judgmental thoughts. Sometimes I am cruel to those I love.

And I do much worse things to avoid facing the heart of the gaping maw.

I don’t name my sins. If I spoke them aloud they would cease to be abstract. They would be real, and that would require a reckoning.

I know they are there though. I carry them with me everywhere. They weigh me down. And that seems fitting.

The right compliment can cripple me faster than the worst insult.

An insult can be deflected with armor. After awhile you don’t feel the armor. It’s weight becomes just a part of your body. Nothing compared to the other burdens.

But a compliment can come from anywhere. I try and dodge, I look up, and I see the monster I tried to forget.

I know the weight of my sins, but I dare not acknowledge them.

I would try and justify myself of course. After all, I am the hero of my story. If I have a vice there is a reason and a tight narrative about how I am overcoming it.

But if I spoke it out loud, it might ring false. Not in a grand way, just a sad little bit of self serving nonsense.

It might sound like:

“I can tell the queen of diamonds by the way she shines”

When I dispense wisdom, it might be as useful as:

“Well I know a little something you won’t ever know
Don’t you touch hard liquor, just a cup of cold coffee”

I have a gaping hole that I don’t know how to fill. It hides itself well. Life is hard and I deserve a few indulgences. So what if I have a smoke? Who minds if I take another bite? If I make a sarcastic joke.

Or, the other things I dare not name even here. They have teeth. They are not horses. Am I carrying them, or am I holding onto their back for dear life?

Mostly I don’t even know it is there.

The trick is, I can’t see it at all. I think protecting the wound is the same as protecting my life.

Metaphors about burdens and armor and claws are themselves a subtle comfort. A tree to sit under, a story to tell where I can be the hero. They make the battle between me and a creature outside of me.

The gaping maw is in me. And things come out of it more often than they go in.

And I think protecting the wound is the same as protecting my life.

“I can tell the queen of diamonds”

From this vantage, forgiveness and redemption are just as bad as heroics.

There is nothing to forgive. There is nothing to redeem. There is nothing to overcome.

Because, you see, I can tell the queen of diamonds…

The line is sung with care and affection and eerie normalcy.

“Well I got no chance of losin’ this time.”

As do I.

 

I fell from a mushroom cloud.

I fell rapidly past the inches I had so painstakingly climbed.

My fear was simple. I felt as if I was going to die and I did not want to die.

My fear was profound, and I struggled.

Looks Like Rain

The punctuated notes that mirror our own finite existence fade away.

In there place, the music shifts and a unbroken vibration rises up to that mirror my infinite emotions.

Love reigns supreme. In the absence of love, the absence of love reigns supreme.

There is another song that says:
“Love is an easy word to say, roll’s right off the tongue
Seems to crop up like a weed, in every song that’s sung”

I have people who love me. And there are people I love.

By loving those people I come to know myself, the universe, and everything that I value.

It is through this emotion of love, that I transverse my own inner labyrinth. It is through this emotion of love that the outer world comes to have meaning.

Without love there would be a lot of rocks floating in space. I’m not sure what else their would be of note.

The meaning of love is like the sound that emanates from the stage. Brief moments that seem to last forever, joyous, and sorrowful. Love is both all-encompassing and specific.

The vessels that give me love and to whom I give love are not here right now. Right now the people I love are far away. That absence defines my existence. That absence defines my journey.

Their existence, however it was, whenever it may be again, is an active force on my present. It is the boundaries of meaning.

Love tempts me into hyperbole.

I want to say: love redeems the indignities of life.
I want to scream: love and only love will endure.
I want to say: love makes the world go round.

And maybe all of that’s true enough in some cosmic mystical sense. I have my doubts.

But how does that mysticism relate to the flesh and blood creatures I claim to love?

“I woke today, and felt your side of bed
The covers were still warm where you’d been layin'”

What tenuous thread connects transcendental moments to warm bodies and fitted sheets? How do these occupy the same space? Or, do they?

Here is what I know. I have felt a thing I call love. I have been told I am loved.

And through that love, I have been changed. I love someone, and I want them to be happy. Unselfishly, without expecting anything in return.

They are kind to me. Which opens me up to doing the same for them.

I have felt warm sheets in the space where a body was and smiled.

We gladly make unspeakable quiet gifts from our time and energy and egos. We escape our small limited selves through each other.

We do this, again and again. In ways that are easy. In ways that are painful. And ways that brush up against danger. And in ways that are mistakes. We touch something that encompasses more than ourselves.

Peering directly into that is ecstasy.

This practice expands the heart. It is the foundation for kindness to others who may not return our love.

It opened my eyes to see beauty in new places. Those spaces of exploration contained new emotional contours that make life seem impossibly wondrous.

These implications are cosmic and mystical. They happen while listening to cats frolic. They happen passing food at a shared meal. They happen in quiet conversations. They happen between flesh and blood and bones and skin in mundane moments. They are whispered. They are sung.

Woven throughout this song is a long mournful line, sliding over and over the same ground.

Our bodies are the containers that loss sits in. Love is infinite, but we are finite. We give our hearts to fallible people. Again and again for banal reasons – I hurt those I love. I fail the giving, compassionate, spirit of love in favor of my small self.

And perhaps even more terrifying, sometimes it’s not my fault.

Sometimes people disappear for reasons outside of my control. And they carry part of my infinite mystical love with them.

“You were gone, my heart was filled with dread
You might not be sleeping here again”

And they are gone. And my heart is filled with dread.

What threatens to break my heart in this song, is the utter sincerity. The voice is earnest and heartfelt. Injured, but not cynical. It reminds me of my youth, when I felt things so deeply that the smallest slight could pierce straight through me.

The undying intonation provides no remove, no distance, from the subject. And the subject is really only a couple of lines repeated again and again.

The song clocks in at seven mins, but the song simply tells the same story again with the music filling in the rest.

“It’s all right, ’cause I love you
And that’s not gonna change
Run me round, make me hurt again and again”

Here is the power of love. Though I know my love is contained in broken bodies destined to disappoint, all there is to do is continue to love anyways.

“But I’ll still sing you love songs
Written in the letters of your name”

When that happens, worlds come crashing down. The thing that provided meaning has dissipated. The key to my own heart, given to another, is lost.

I face that suffering as it rings out from the long mournful notes. They pierce through the cynical protections I have foolishly designed. As if they meant anything on this stage.

Where does the bravery to love in the face of devastation come from?

From the only thing powerful enough to make the world go round. The only thing that will endure.

The small touches of bodies, the whispers barely spoken, the scent of rain. These things that let me glimpse the freedom of something larger than my small self. These moments of skin and promises that allow me to explore my inner contours. And see those contours inside someone else.

“I only want to hold you, I don’t want to tie you down
Or fence you in the lines I might have drawn

Love must exist for its own sake if it is to mean anything. If it is to reach its beyond us, then it cannot be only us. We must allow our hearts to be breakable, in fact to be broken.

Yet, of course I want to hold on to the body. Cosmic significance be damned.

“It’s just that I have gotten used to having you around
My landscape would be empty if you were gone”

I look to the future and know for certain that it looks like rain. And that tears will surely come.

Climbing the Mushroom

My search led me to a field of dark speckled flowers. Their thorns tore at me and left my hands bloody.

By the time I reached the center I was panting and had to stop to rest. It was dark. The moon and stars were hidden by the gigantic petals above.

Halfway up the stalk my arms began spasm. I paused to rest. Then again. And again. Each time to diminishing returns.

By the time I reached the top, I was too exhausted to feel relief. The room was green and smelled like summer.

The floor sagged as I stood, breathless, and waited for my eyes to adjust to the glow.

For a long time there was nothing but fear and pain. My body hurt. My mind tormented me with my failure. There were no answers, there was no way out.

As the soft light grew, I saw a pod with liquid inside. With nothing else to do I took a drink.

I closed my eyes and felt the suffering fall off of me.

In my mind I was a child at a party. I was dancing, my body moving freely with excitement. I smiled so widely the skin on my face stretched.

I saw my grandmother watching me with love in her eyes. I reached out for her hand…

And the ground beneath me gave out.

I was falling. I grabbed at the plant, but it crumbled in my hands. Down down I fell.

Down past the inches and feet I had so carefully climbed. Down past the places I had rested in fear.

Nothing to hold onto. Nothing to control.

Down into oblivion.