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
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
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
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.