Saturday, December 25, 2010

Literary & musical retrospective 2010

This time I really will keep it brief, and hopefully focussed less on the items and more on the process of reading & listening itself. Truthfully, this year I had half a mind to not bother with this retrospective, but I suppose they have their uses. Giving up is probably akin to admitting that time has won, and that there's no hope in keeping track where it all goes. But that's a battle I've always intended to win, and so here we are!

If you've stuck around for long enough, you might remember that '09 was a pretty poor year on both cultural fronts, for a variety of reasons but primarily because things weren't quite clear upstairs. I can't say that things are much better now, but I seem to have accepted this as a state of quasi-normalcy. So I did fare a bit better this year, though nowhere near the heights during my undergraduate years, steeped as they were in obsession and free time. On reflection, it appears that I only had my first serious taste of Philip Roth, The Go-Betweens and The Triffids this year, all three now crucial components of my cultural and mental makeup. (It really is surprising that all that happened this year; I told you these retrospectives were useful!) There isn't anything coherent tying these fellows together ('cept Quality, of course), but that is to be expected. As always, there were other first-timers too, but perhaps one sign of things being not as strong as years past is that for these, the signal is extremely weak: yes, I did read Old School, but I don't think I can say anything more about it. (And yet somehow I did write a post about it earlier this year...) I might even have tried some Pynchon, but found it utterly incomprehensible. I have enough trouble getting through my many unlistened Tom Waits albums, so somehow I doubt I'll be revisiting him anytime soon.

Given the addition of the GB's and Triffids to my musical map, in the uppermost echelon of my preferred artists I now have a pretty impressive triumvirate of Australians (the third's Nick Cave, of course!). I wrote a stirring, gripping piece about counterlives recently, where I asked what good it all was. Obviously I should've noted that at the very least, this life has allowed me private access to a very worthy collection of music. If we say that the '60s were for the English, the '70s for the Americans, it's clear where the '80s belonged. (Please don't think about that too long, lest you find innumerable counterexamples that completely destroy the careful symmetry of the sentence.) Who knows where the real gold of the '90s is to be found, then? At the very least, it's nice to think that these artists partially validate the mythos of the Outsider. Given only snapshots of trends in rock music overseas, and a careful sample of "historic" records - I think Dylan is a common favourite of all three, and probably Lou Reed - they managed to create a personal, unique response to the world. So maybe isolation is necessary after all; I've conjectured about many modern artists being overburdened with music, to the point where every note sounds like a deliberate homage to something from the past. They should all clearly relocate to New Caledonia.

Here seems an appropriate venue to ponder aloud the question of why one bothers reading or listening in the first place. "To understand yourself" has a nice ring to it, and seems plausible on first consideration. And while that may be the goal we should strive towards, I feel as though my use of the arts is much less noble. At times it feels as though I'm amassing the greatest ever arsenal of quotes, turns of phrase, and melodies so as to wear as a proud badge to tell people of my innate greatness. While I'm at it, I may as well admit that I imagine some fair maiden swooning at the prospect of finding such a fine catch. ("Come to think of it, yes, my eyes are desert sand!") I suppose there's a bit of this confusion in everyone who takes the arts seriously, at least when you're young. The problem with music, much more than books, is that it's so easy to consume, or so one thinks: just hit play and sit quiet for three quarters of an hour. Consequently, it's really easy to give muddled goals more chances than they deserve to take over. In reality, of course, music isn't that easy, at least not when it's worthy of serious thought. I think this harsh reality is what sometimes thrashes against the childlike hunger to devour everything, an impossible ideal that perhaps seems most within reach when it comes to music. After all, one only need sit quiet for the rest of one's existence; not too shabby if it means eternal salvation!

I suppose we also look to the arts to teach us things about life. I've spoken about songs enough throughout the year - suffice to say my romantic repertoire grows stronger by the hour - but books were useful too. It's a stretch to say I was "taught" anything, but at least I managed to see the potentially troubling conclusion to my current plan for dealing with romance. Zuckerman's stories from Roth's Exit Ghost may be the saddest I've read in a long time, and wonderfully capture the laughable, beyond-pathetic nature of the heart, but how we are bound to it anyway. Zuckerman is commanded by the "ghost" of his desire, and sees no way of proceeding but to write his fantasies down. Despite his complete consciousness as to the impossibility of it all...somewhere, he feels they may become reality yet. (Reminds you of another talented modern author's work, perhaps...?) This odd distinction between fiction and reality, which sometimes feels like it can be breached - been there, Nathan! The relentless pursuit of this barrier, no matter how obviously foolish the task appears - (oh God...) been there! The book really did make me feel I ought to be around authors more, because they're the only ones capable of even contemplating the same degrees of madness that pass through my mind everyday. I don't know if Roth wrote from experience or imagination here; probably the latter. But I'm sure he'd be happy to know it is possible for it to be the former.

Next year? I intend to use the good response to '09 to leap into new and strange waters. That means all the Ballard and Dead Can Dance money can buy. And thanks to that blasted Hornby, all the Haydn and Dickens I can stomach, I'm sure.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When going through Nick Hornby's articles on books he's bought/read (which are significantly more entertaining than they sound), it struck me that I can't actually think of anyone else who has written so endearingly yet accessibly about the form, in particular about what is sometimes classified as "serious" fiction. While critical barriers of objectivity have been significantly demolished in music, with books the analysis is almost always of an academic bent (if not, it's often devoid of information). There is of course a very real need for such serious and semi-academic analysis, but so too is there one for Hornby's relaxed style of writing. I don't have that much else to say, except that I am glad to have found out about these articles, else I would have surely have him pegged as yet another pop-music obsessive (a charming one, mind!). I think my own shying away from books in this blog could be in part because I've felt ill-equipped in terms of the language needed to express my reactions about them. Hornby has made me reconsider that stance: perhaps unfortunately for you, dear reader! Stay tuned, I suppose.

Tangentially, before reading his articles, I had a vague idea that went something like: perhaps the place of classical music in the scheme of things is like the place of Dickens. Something you maybe dabble with when you're young, and then all but forget until (possibly) old age sets in. But his piece on Great Expectations makes me half-tempted to buy a fresh copy of that classic and re-read some 15 years on. Although, I should probably get through Anna Karenina first. And given this new uncertainty, lord knows what future awaits for all those Haydn symphonies...

Exit ghost

The last note struck, confirming succinctly that the moment had arrived. The past is now totally at rest, and time cannot be undone: the spirit newly exited is now beyond communication. This feeling isn't sadness, but emptiness: it is one of the moments (believe me, they are blessedly uncommon) where the prospect of having it all end does not seem so bad, because living with this seems an impossible weight to bear. So many years of collected memory and feeling are now extricated from inside me, and no amount of imagination lets me see what will take their place.

What makes me think there is a chance of pulling through, though? It's the tranquility that allows these thoughts to exist in the first place. This is the same forge from which I shall have to build another life. We will have to wait and see.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What she said

They were just words, after all, but words delivered with such a level of measured precision that you knew there was an abyss lying beneath. Ever so often these lyrics would be accentuated by a sigh, a purse of the lips, and a gaze into the empty distance. "Play one of the early numbers!", one might be tempted to say, imploringly, but there was no turning back. I knew this leaf would not, could not be turned; the singer could only hum the lines she was dealt. So I had to listen to that melody as it evoked a strange mix of nostalgia, sorrow, and helplessness in me. On consideration, one could not help but wonder that maybe - maybe - this is what the saddest song in the world sounds like.

It's decided, then. One by one, I shall have to burn them all.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I keep mine hidden

I largely value the quiet privacy my thoughts are allowed in this forum, but sometimes it can feel solipsistic. Especially when I feel like making bold statements, like the following: surely there can't be more than three other people in this world with as vast a cache of emotion, unopened and unknown to all? I rather doubt anyone's going to challenge this, so let's assume it as if for surety (it'll make things easier, believe me). It has its positives, of course. I can nod knowingly to a wide range of songs, checking them off mentally in my head. ("Yep, that's good ol' index D, section 1 of emotion repository right there!".) But sometimes one must wonder where this trepidation of expression comes from. It also leads me to wonder whether it will hold me in good stead. I don't particularly mind pontificating as usual on these items, coming up with all manner of theory and aphorism. But screw all that. At some point it seems like coming up a fitting turn of phrase is seen as a substitute for actually acting upon these issues. It's easy to convince yourself that you're making progress when you're both the patient and the analyst. The following is as good as I can do in this sitting: there's too much going on inside, lad. If you let it all keep burning away till the end of time, things can only get worse from here. At the very least, expressing and being embarrassed convinces you that you're real, and not a work of fiction.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The counterlife

Perhaps the only good thing about living all these counterlives, and having to go through the pain and confusion of transiting between them, is that it offers a sense of perspective. It's pretty serious pain and confusion, mind, so it's hardly equitable perspective. Nonetheless, during my latest transition between lives, I have become quite convinced about the impermanence of it all, a truth that I've always accepted but never experienced. The uncertainty and instability of one life seems rather quaint when one steps into another. And it's always the case that the current one seems the most real. I once believed this truth would guide me through life more confident and less encumbered. But of course I was wrong. Impermanence is the last thing a counterlife needs. I'm sure there is magic in living through changes, and watching the fabric of a life be unravelled into something better. Yet when it happens when you're not around to witness it, it feels like the worst thing in the world. At least if one could close the door for good and banish things to the past, there would be some hope of moving on. For me, though, the life is being dismantled before my eyes, piece by piece, until the only thing left is me. If this is how it must turn out in the end, I do not know why it bothered to happen at all.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My avowed distrust of the internet feels perennial, but likely its roots extend only five years ago. Special ire has been saved for its impact on music, which in hindsight should have been balanced more with discussion of the positives it has had. Anyhow, the topic today is distraction. Even a proto-Luddite as yours truly has problems maintaining focus when browsing. Every article, every website is merely an obstacle that prevents me from reading the next thing on my queue. It speaks in part to the banality of most of it - were it really deep and serious, I'd like to think I'd zone in and concentrate on it. But there are several instances when the material is, in objective terms, interesting, and yet is still met with apathy after a few minutes. I remember reading an article on the subject that mentioned the perennial sense of something better being around the corner. Why waste time reading/watching this nonsense when I'm missing out on what I really want to be doing? Of course it ultimately amounts to nought, and one feels permanently dissatisfied. I find this distraction most prominent in my morning news scan - I think the feeling is that there are so many things I want to read, and I need to cram them all into a half hour. On days like this, it feels horrible having gone through six or seven sites but having spent maybe a couple of minutes on each. Lack of time is cited as a common problem, but a better solution must be devoting time to what makes one really truly tick. A mild retraining of the brain is probably what is needed, but that's no easy feat. I would venture to suggest that another strategy, unpopular though it may be, is finding other ways of occupying time. As always, the intent is there, but the action is as ever solely missing.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Whatever meaning her face once carried, it has long since disintegrated over days & nights in the tropics. It once served as testament to a genuine feeling of affection, which sadly grew stronger as it became clearer that it would remain unrequited. Now when I am greeted by her vision, it is little more than a sad trick I attempt to pull on the cosmos, some confused attempt to convince it that I have not been left out of the art of love. Behold my heart!, I say: I too have known these feelings! But it is of course a lie. This image I conjure at my fancy is just an empty phantom, one desperate to unbind itself from my spell of summon. I hope that one day its wish is granted, for both of our sake's; but I first need to come to grips with the reasons for this malady. Among other things, I need to accept that my actions sometimes work as they are intended to, as with my strategy of isolationism.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Unsurprisingly for a band whose lead songwriter can safely claim spiritual lineage from the Dylan/Cohen family, for every of the Triffids' moments of obvious brilliance (see my previous song list) there is a often a late bloomer. I hadn't seriously pondered on any of these tracks, and one by one they revealed themselves in a moment of complete surprise. A pleasant experience: it's so easy to forget a crucial lyric that's just over the horizon, and when it arrives, the reaction is purely visceral. It's like the first listen all over again!

As for their whitewash of the last two couple of lists, the phenomenon is akin to what I experienced with the Doors, all those years ago. There's a superficial similarity in the singers' tenor, of course, and you might say in their general lyrical style. But there is something else that causes its complete domination of my musical landscape, and the thrilling feeling that this is the only music I ever want to listen to. (Time was that I couldn't imagine another band having as cohesive a catalogue as the Doors.) I suspect it's the songwriter's belief in the music, of every song feeling like another piece towards understanding a certain philosophy. And quite simply, some philosophies are more exciting than others. Not more valid, or honest, or mature. Just exciting. McComb isn't nearly as seriously infused with Byronic fury (a wonderful Xgau phrase) as Morrison, and comes across as less of a mystic and more a poetically inclined soul trying to balance the pain with pleasure. Ok, so maybe some philosophies are more personally incisive than others.

1) The Triffids, "Stolen Property". The most stylish send-off of its kind, but who is it really directed towards? Himself? If so, by implication others like him, leading one to conclude that this is really an accusatory song for the right kind of listener.

2) The Triffids, "A Trick of the Light". I don't doubt that there's a prurient undertone to the lyrics, but speculating on this is rather tiresome. My initial reading, which is the one I'm sticking by, is far more powerful anyhow. I imagine the middle-eight as being an accurate depiction of the mental anguish the recipient of the song must feel, her image being summoned so many times to fulfill some moment of shared affection that has long passed.

3) The Triffids, "Save What You Can". I think it's pragmatic rather than mournful that good times have passed. It's also quintessentially McComb in its combination of tired defeat and resolute faith. There's the right amount of pain to convince us he knows what he's talking about, and yet enough hope to convince us he knows the limits of what pain can teach you.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

After a break from music, it takes only the briefest of re-initiation ceremonies to bring all the voices flooding back. On the right kind of day, it isn't too much of a hyperbole to say that various combinations of lyric & music* consume most of my waking thoughts. (I can only speculate about dream time, of course.) This has been true ever since I started listening to music seriously. All that has changed over the years is the nature of the songs in my head, on account of my taste slowly improving :-) This state of mind has historically fostered marathon listening & obsessing sessions, and when it's really too much to handle even some form of writing. I don't think I'll ever decipher the mysterious power of song, which bodes well if it continues to elicit such reactions from me.

So complete is this mental take-over that I dwell on old dreams of being involved with this form somehow. But blessed with neither the talent nor emotional resilience** that it requires, I end up in pretty much the same place I've always been. I can, and should, set my sights on much more modest goals, though. Getting around to playing an instrument would be a positive step no matter the final outcome; I can only imagine the pleasure of one's own guitar strum providing the backdrop to a rendition of a John Prine song, say. I'd also like to better focus my writings on music (meta posts like this are exempted from any criticism ;-)). I realize why it's difficult to make much headway on these things, though: it's far easier to listen to music than make something from one's reaction to it! In light of this, I would say that at the very least, a basic hope is to become a "better" listener, which you may interpret however you like. But I don't use the word "obsession" lightly in this context. This music is pretty powerful stuff when it gets into my head. So I have a strong sense that even being the best listener in the world won't be enough for me.

* I put lyric before music on purpose, because that appears to be the ingredient I have the most affinity towards; while classical melodies sometimes run through my head, it's never with the same intensity as any of the songs that make it to this blog's recurring lists.

** I really don't know how one of my favourite songwriters (guess who?) managed to reconcile his hypersensitivity with the harshness of performing music in public. In an interview, he mentioned something similar to what I wrote above, namely that his obsession with music, combined with his realization that he could do something that no one else was doing, got to the point of being "ridiculous". As he put it, it ended up almost as if there was no other way but for him to get up on stage and start performing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Go-Betweens are a canonical example of a band that can (or could) do no wrong, in a certain sense: they're the sort of band I can imagine being boring, but far too intelligent to ever go down a poor artistic path. As romantics in popular song go, they are most likely unsurpassed. But sometimes, the words a bit more than I can handle; they haunt me by virtue of their contrast to my life. On listening to them, at an intuitive level I know the spirit of the song - gentle, loyal, and suggestive of an infinite reservoir of emotion - is what a part of me is made of. If I could put a structure to the feelings I've accumulated over the decades, they would probably sound like what I'm hearing. The melody feels like home, and when I hum along, the song becomes my own. All fantastic, all beautiful, but! There's no one for me to sing it to. While every endeavour of the heart suddenly seems conceivable, all I can do is expectantly sigh.

It's been many years since I've had the words of Morrissey safely stored away in my head, ready to be quoted at any instant. But as with any great songwriter, there are still discoveries to be made when I relisten to his songs. Recently, I figured out another reason that I feel a sense of connection with the lyrics. Sure, there's the unforgettable line in "How Soon Is Now?", which till this day I can't imagine is actually featured in a pop song; and yes, there's the wit mixed with mopiness that very strongly mirrors one facet of me. But my recent observation is that a recurrent theme in his songs is living your life by a code that is supposed to lead you to someplace good, but instead brings only ruin. This is most obviously manifested in songs dealing with matters of the heart (which is most of them ;-)); many of them express dismay that one can be so emotionally open, and yet find oneself, well, alone. It's melodrama to suggest that sums up my life, but it definitely elicits a knowing nod from me. I suspect that what really gets to me is how Morrissey reacts to this fact: passively, helplessly, with almost impossibly muted displays of frustration. You might say this points at the realization that such problems are ultimately immaterial, and not worth anything more than a mention. He said it himself with his recent "That's How People Grow Up", not coincidentally a strong favourite of mine. And of course it's true, and of course in the scheme of things, this is no crucifix that we are bound to. Yet, one can only argue this up to a point, because it glosses over a certain spiritual timidity that the Moz and I share. Such is life. But, as with Morrissey, but my plea is unchanged; I stand by my claim of a few years ago. Don't know what it is I'm living for, but if the occasional flash of beauty is all that the Path brings, so be it.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Merciless memory though I may possess, even that has its limits. When I look back on some of my past writings, I must confess being shocked that I can't remember those thoughts running through my head. I don't imagine this is because I didn't ponder long and hard about the surrounding events; quite the opposite, as the early days of this blog will attest to. This is troubling when the writing was about my then grave uncertainty about the path I was going down, which turns out to be path I am on now, funnily enough. On reflection, it seems that a single fork most momentous and harrowing took its hold on my world, shook hard, and caused a swirl for about half a year...before it became my new state of being. Comfortingly or depressingly, one gets used to anything, and forgets that there was once the option of it all ending up differently. Does my forgetting mean that deep down, I've resolved all that past uncertainty, and that this is the road I was meant to take after all? Yeah, that must be it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Take it whichever way you will: after an extended spell of separation from acquaintances of varying degrees, in many cases the only thing I could think about on my return was their flaws. This isn't how it's supposed to work, you know; it suggests either a remarkably deep-seated sense of individualism, or remarkably bad luck in forming a broad social circle. Neither possibility is pleasant. My unease reached its peak when I realized that I was after amalgamation: I wanted to take every desirable quality I saw in each of them, and use that to forge the perfect friend. Among other things, this mythic being would share all my tastes, my sensibilities, and have the sense to know when to stop talking.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One of the more impressive pairs in recent memory, and a reminder of the mysterious power of popular song.

1) The Triffids, "Wide Open Road". There have been many instances when a song I've gone on to consider great is, on first listen, greeted with apathy by my ears. In recent memory, I can't recall a mistake of similar magnitude as with this track. My first listen many years ago didn't leave much of an impression, except me thinking that the title evoked a rather nice image. But now, as with a few other songs that have featured in this series of mine, I think it's justified to call it perfect. Infused in spirit with all the vast mystery of the great Southern land, but remarkably also a moving metaphor for the most universal of all feelings, longing. And of course there's the organ, which is what lets us discover these things in the first place.

2) The Triffids, "Tender is the Night". The fact that Born Sandy ends with a ray of hope suggests the band has soul, which is a rare thing for music of any time period. Hope infused with some sadness, mind you, but that makes it all the more convincing. The standard of the lyrics is something else: poetically subtle when it's called for, and tenderly simple when it isn't. As I mentioned when discussing "As Long As That", tracks like this remind me of my perennial dream of turning a songwriter.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shelve your western plans

I stumbled to the phone as it disrupted my stupor, with my mind still trapped in dreams. Try as I might, on lifting the receiver I found my mouth simply unable to conduct language. After some awkward fumbling, I somehow managed to convey to him my disinterest, which apparently caught him off guard. But he only needed a second to fire a painful retort, one which would have been unimaginable in the place my heart calls home, but my body no longer recognizes. Thus shaken out of sleep, and caught in this state of weakness, my only thought was that I cannot survive a lifetime in this country.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A time for looking at tunes of songs past, I suppose.

1) Lou Reed, "Last Great American Whale". My current perception of what it means for an album to be good is strongly rooted in the hope that I can listen to it in a year or two, without looking back at the songs as being merely appropriate for a particular time in my life. I'm glad to report that at its one year anniversary, Reed's New York passes the test. It's hard to say why Reed's poetic impulses are so compelling when he filters them through his dirty realism (for lack of a better phrase). But the words seem to have that ability of all great lyrics, of coming to you years into the future and forcing you to pause and reflect, without necessarily knowing why.

2) Lou Reed, "My House". The Blue Mask has passed the above test year after year, but only recently have I begun to fully appreciate how important it is. The opening track sets a reflective tone that is very uncommon for rock music: when trying to recollect my feelings on first hearing this song, I realized that it's no wonder I used to be obsessed with this type of music! Even after all this time, I have to say that it's Reed's finest (near) spoken-word song; and mind you, that's a category with some stiff competition (see #1!). Popular song is a remarkable medium to allow something like this to exist and feel natural.

3) Bruce Springsteen, "The Promised Land". Six years ago, I was initially hooked by the harmonica line on this song. Six years later, it sounds as good as ever when it cuts through at the beginning. Yet, the song's place in my emotional history is cemented by the words: their passionate frustration is a perfect response to the music, and they convey a very genuine desire to do away with the forces keep a dream in chains. Remarkably, the hyperbolic praise I had for the album way back when now seems nothing more than perfectly apt.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I don't think my taste in music, literature, and the arts in general is especially idiosyncratic or eclectic, but for a long enough stretch of time I've had the feeling that maybe I'm the only person in the world who experiences the things I do. (The careful reader will remember me making that statement about Lou Reed's Set the Twilight Reeling.) To a small extent that can be explained by my consumption habits, focussed more on depth than breadth, which does not seem to be the spirit of the times. To a larger extent, I'm sure that says something about the circles I've found myself in, due to a very limited notion of comfort zone. But where once I used to think that it didn't matter if these albums & books were mine, all mine, I now feel, well, like sharing. What exactly that means and in what capacity, I don't know. Let's just say though that it means anything different to what I currently practice, namely the piling on of album after album, each more esoteric than the last. (I exaggerate greatly, but it does feel that way sometimes.)

Part of my insularity is perhaps a result of elitism. By having secret treasures that few others know about, one feels privy to the true works of greatness, with the rest of the world not having the discriminating taste to have discovered the thing on their own. (We can forget the fact that one doesn't discover things through divine visions, and that ultimately someone, be it a person or a magazine, has to introduce you to a book or album.) Of course, I don't consciously put thought and effort into acting this way, but I have felt on occasion that this is a more realistic explanation than mere apathy. Another force that is potentially also in the mix is the fear that my smugness of taste will be in for a shock when I open up: if the treasures are greeted with indifference, then all this secrecy has been for nought* :-)

Lest you accuse me of selling out, I'm not at all saying that the only things worth experiencing are what the mass likes. I maintain very strongly that the things I like are really quite good (that's axiomatic? ;-)). But there is only so much one mind can offer you. (This might seem rather puzzling to anyone who's kept abreast of developments in the social web - this is precisely the thing that has attracted so much attention to it - but again, the careful reader will remember my countless concerns with the culture the social web has fostered.) And as I mentioned many years ago, there is something surreal about listening to music with the headphones off and someone else in the room. I once had the oddest sensation where I almost couldn't believe that the songs could exist outside my head, that other people could experience them. That's probably because of the deep personal meaning one tends to attach to them, and bless that - but surely that can happily coexist with the occasional shared listen.

So what exactly am I proposing? Nothing really. This is just a statement expressing desire on the way I'd like things to be. As a small step, I think I'd like to take opportunities to evangelize things that once I'd keep all to myself. Stay tuned for future posts lamenting how my recommendations are drowned out by the social web ;-)

* This is related to a (potentially) deep issue, as expressed in a question I was once asked point blank: when there is no interaction with others about the arts, how do you know your quality-sensor is accurate? Or as I was asked, "How do you know you're not fooling yourself?". A complex question, and one that a different post would have to address. But it does touch upon why my current state is fraught with uncertainty at times.
I'm fairly certain this serendipity can't go on forever. As people have hinted in the recent past, things are starting to open up. While designated with the title of student, I suppose one is granted leeway, more or less - you're still trying to "find yourself". After that, well, if you ain't been found, you got a whole 'nother thing coming.

I don't think I mean just the luxuries I currently have, for example in how I can carefully consider Sparks records. It's the prolonged sense of dissense that I have which I think must be fundamentally incompatible with the real world. Like everyone else probably does, I don't think I view the world in the same way as other people. There's a spark of lunacy, manifested occasionally as a whimsical blog post, a wry joke, or even a personal chuckle at some piece of imagined theatre. Were the thoughts to be laid bare for all the world to know, I'm sure a lot of them would be written off as immature. But really, they're the only reaction I can imagine to the complexities and intricacies of the world, unforgiving and unwelcoming as it is. When reality itself is nonsense, careful contemplation is useful only up till a point. Fine; all that's well and good, yet I can't shake off the sense that thinking this path cannot coexist with a state of being "grown up". (The only people who provide evidence otherwise are writers!) I'd of course like to imagine that I can forge my own way and follow a way of life that feels correct and True, rather than expected. Yet as always, I have my doubts.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Build me a woman

"Eyes alight with glowing hair / All that fancy paints as fair"

There is a certain type of woman that a certain school of songwriters have spent their lives writing verse & melody about, hoping that somewhere they will hit the right intersection of line & note, and bring a smile to her lips. When writing about any fair maiden, there is a strong temptation to imagine her as being a manifestation of this She, our own personal gateway into a world hinted and suggested through a lifetime of song. In doing so, I wonder if we end up projecting an impossible burden on the unsuspecting girl in question, convincing ourselves that they really are a living version of this immaculate entity. I suspect that while the answer is yes, the temptation is too strong and we do it anyway. Through scattered instances of a girl showing off a wistful smile, or even having that special something in her step, one gets glimpses at facets of this carefully constructed She. One need only consult one's CD rack to find out what happens after that.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

People say you shouldn't take your soul all that seriously. Disconnect your brain when the heart wants to travel its own path, and stop all the fantastic dreams of hope and promise. I dislike the flippancy, the disregard for meaning that this view is based on. But that doesn't mean it doesn't make a valid point. Case in point, well, you. Like I said, I really don't perceive any limits to my emotion, and so if you wanted - if you wanted - I'd gladly keep going down the same road. But maybe this is all jumping ahead of myself. There is merit in leaving the drinking songs and scarlet letters aside for the moment, and just talking. Let's see.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Revisiting the issue of my attempts at verse, I think part of the reason for my struggle with this form is that my real source of inspiration is songwriting rather than classical poetry. I've previously attempted to resolve the two cultures of these forms, but with no answer more definitive than the Xgau aphorism "poems are meant to be read, songs to be sung". But this is not the focus of the current post. I'm instead interested in considering why I don't write song lyrics in the first place.

First, poetry. I do love it, but it'd be disingenuous of me to claim I've pursued this love to the same extent as I have with songwriting. The latter is a full-blown obsession, as is no doubt apparent from my writing on this blog. So why try writing poetry? Indeed, it's patently clear to me that I don't have the talent, nor the patience, to pursue anything so delicately structured; but I do it anyway! I've certainly thought about writing a lyric that could accompany music. But dissecting lyrics, I find aspects* that I feel bashful at attempting. The use of a chorus, for example, feels quite natural when the words are sung, but on the page it almost feels like a cop-out. And throwing into casual terms like "baby"? Not in this lifetime! (How does Nick Cave manage it? ;-)) What's happening in this regard, I think, is that my medium of expression is all wrong. It seems that when composing lyrics, one really needs music to be involved at some stage. (Don't know how Robert Hunter wrote his verses, mind.) Not only because a melodic line may well suggest a written one, but because the mere act of projecting the words into music protects them. Couched in safety, then one can focus on getting emotion across with the combination of the two. In contrast, when the writing on the page is all you have, it's only natural to treat the work as an attempt at a poem, and judge it in these terms. This gets back (despite my promise of trying to avoid it) to the issue of what is different between a good lyric and a good poem. By its nature, the lyric only makes sense in the context of the accompanying music.

My attempts, then, are poetry with very modest goals (met even more modestly ;-)). Till I get around to learning an instrument, I suppose it will stay that way. (Which I could've told you at the start of this post, but I do like musing on such matters.) But I do believe that it is very much possible to improve in the niche area I've found comfortable writing in. Good poetry and good songwriting do teach me a common lesson: it's not enough to rely on a single feeling, or a single experience. Weaving something grander requires having something grander to work with. All ways of saying: life before art!

* One can very reasonably ask why the aspects of songwriting I mentioned are tied with the form; there's certainly no rule that says one's beloved be referred to more colloquially in a song than in a poem. So what stops you from avoiding these ornaments? Nothing, really. Except that it doesn't address the basic problem: "baby", for example, sounds quite alright to my ears when sung. The fact that it reads awkwardly is no surprise. By replacing it with something more Keats-ian is fine, but moves the lyric more towards a poem. So why not just write a poem rather than a song?

Indeed, it's not clear to me that lyrics tightened on the page sound good when sung. When Nick started throwing around "banal" and "jejune" on his last album, I cringed. I suppose this is because it seems to me like an obvious attempt to make one's lyric more serious and literary. I know Nick's work well enough to know that he mostly believes what he writes, but if it were some new indie musician, I'd definitely write him off as misguided.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Perfection. If you'd allow, I would love nothing more than to write about you till the universe crumbles to dust. But does it mean anything? No matter how much I talk about Beauty - replete in your aura everytime you glide by - and the importance of acknowledging it, I have to admit what I fear: that if you had anything more than a cursory presence in my life, none of this would mean anything to me. I'm self-aware enough to see that whatever noble intentions I may begin with, they are sidetracked when my heart makes its scene. In writing about your Brilliance, it is as though I am appealing to the universe to make you realize that there is a fool such as I enraptured by your spell. (As for what I imagine happens post this realization, well, I don't think you need me to spell that one out.) So yes, I could fill volumes trying to figure out what it is that takes over me every time I see you. Give me the time and from these sensations, I could probably write every poem worth reciting. You are everything, and everything would make sense if only you drew a step closer. Yet that's the one thing I can't write into being.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

People like you don't exist: you are a phantom in my mind. You cannot be the same face that greets others; for should any human learn of the ways you unravel, they would recoil in terror. I would not call you sick. But closed. Impenetrable. Only I can see you standing, so far away from every heart. You whisper your only song into the night, and the water shudders to the melody. Whatever the beauty of the moment, though, to what end if no one else should see it? Life might be a mystery, but no mystery, mind, ever allows such abnegation of the self. Better the whole thing never happen at all should this be your path, spirit.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

We exchanged a casual smile, and were it anyone else, that would be that. But this one, a writer! A good one! Mid-smile, I chuckled at the thought of being neatly summarized in one of her pieces. ("Earnest chap, but lord knows why he was smiling long after I stopped.") I suspect she has me written off as yet another diligent student, as I often do with the hapless targets of my own writing. Quite likely the shocking truth of my literary pretensions would surprise her! There's a lesson in here about not judging people, and not thinking yourself to be the only one who knows life. It's prudent to rally against the smug self-assuredness that is so tempting when one is prone to too much reflection. One may uncover truth in the process, but that doesn't make one to first or last to have ever done so.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

This is no idle musing on things that might be; it's tangible fact that the entire thing is finite, that whenever the force so chooses, this world is next in line. Whenever I've been confronted with this fact, there has always been a song in (or close to) my head. It makes me wonder: all the years of careful attention to this form, and what I go down with is something arbitrary, something that makes no statement. No great line of Dylan or particularly pretty melodic turn of Lennon/McCartney. All the years' worth of material that I've accumulated would be worth naught. It is partly a directive to go ahead and listen to all that music that's been piling up. Yet it's partly a reminder that music can save your life, but it sure ain't going to cause the earth to stop shaking.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Sometime last week I imagined what it would be like to wake up the next day, pay no heed to what I was supposed to do, and instead sit down and write whole the day away. (Or read; that would certainly be easier on me.) What prevents me from acting on this is probably a modicum of social sanity, although I'm quite sure that were I made of stronger stuff, I'd act on this one of my many whims. Forgetting talent - never a prerequisite in this world anyway ;-) - the allure is obvious. Writing involves expressing something that somehow demands that it exist outside your own consciousness. It has it a mind of its own, but not a body; that's all the writer tries to provide when he puts them on the page. When I read particularly fine book, and the purity of writing makes me pause, it seems exceedingly sad to have a life without being in some way involved in this mysterious medium.

I'm not quite sure what life is, nor what I'm meant to be doing, but I wonder if it's natural at all to feel this calling. As I said earlier, talent is out of the question, and it isn't as if I've demonstrated a particular skill in this area. What makes me concerned is that I can well imagine such thoughts as being literally dismissed as lunacy. I'd be inclined to agree, but only assuming a very limited definition of success in life! What I'm saying I suppose is that writing and other endeavours are only seen as worthwhile if you've already made it and established yourself as a talent. Otherwise you're just wasting your time. It's said that you should do what you love, but implicit in that line is that what you love should be worth something, and not just to you. With art, it has to be something that pleases someone beyond yourself. I see the value and necessity in such a statement, and understand that this is mandated by the fact that other people exist too (!) - but still, I can't help but wish things were not this way.

Granted, at the very least, the pragmatist's view helps inject a bit of groundedness into even the most idealistic minds, and makes one consider why exactly one writes in the first place. Like I said, it's hard to fault this stance when one possesses what I'll call a normal view of life. But this fact doesn't stop me from having moments like this where it all breaks down, where I reflect on how little anything really counts at the end of the end, and ask why I can't spend the rest of this life in conversation with whatever spirit of the aether relays messages to us on earth.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Because it promises so much, a trip to the bookstore can be irritating, even downright frustrating when it happens to not shelve a particular book one is looking for. I sometimes find myself cursing whoever is in charge for the oversights ("You don't have Slaughterhouse Five?! Really?!"). At moments like that one grumbles, but is reassured that the book can be found online, at least. Back home, it's only a matter of seconds for Amazon to dutifully ship it to you the next day.

Yet one is missing something if they cite this as reason for shutting down the physical stores. Sure, the stocks there are finite, and sure, it sometimes lets you down because of that. But where else are you confronted by a great mass of books, staring in you the face, leaving you in awe of both your ignorance but also instilling you with a yearning to read until time runs out? Standing in the middle of the store, all around you are nothing but pages and pages of other men's thoughts, confessions, lives. At a particular author's section - if you're lucky! - you get to see his works neatly laid out, all those years of work sitting quietly next to each other. Flipping through the pages of any book, for a second, one is half tempted to sit down then and there and read through the entire thing. Even if the book is only vaguely familiar, it can be cause for hope: the sound of the title, the direction implied by the dust jacket, and the style that jumps out from a few pages picked at random - the excitement it generates at the possibility of this being one's next ticket to bliss!

Of course, one can conjure a similar sensation online: browse through the Amazon archives of literature and find yourself weeping at how there simply is no time for all of it. But does it have the same visceral feeling as when one is overwhelmed in the physical world? Hardly. No doubt the online store has its place. But it's purely a commercial affair. At the bookstore, sure, I'd like to buy something, but I'm also there for the experience.

I don't mean to suggest that the death of the physical bookstore - not as imminent as that of the record store, but definitely somewhere on the horizon - signals the death of books themselves. Ultimately, if you have the thing in your hand, you spend your time going through the pages rather than thinking about where you purchased it. (The electronic reader, of course, now that is the death of the book ;-)) But like a book itself, the trip to the bookstore offers an escape from the world. When it's just you and a shelf of books, the possibilities seem limitless. Life seems not so bad. There is the promise of satisfaction till the end of all time. The ego yields, the mind warmly accepts the limits of its own knowledge, and is thirsty for answers.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I recall the same -
A reply
A plan you once had
From time down to mine
That time was bad
So I knew where I was
And so at home.

The words lift me, and I am no longer walking, but instead flying up high, leaving behind my mind, floating away from the bad dreams, the chatter of unwelcome voices, the black that my steps were leading me to towards. Once up here, it seems remarkable that I haven't stumbled already, that I've made it so far without falling down and breaking apart. All I have now is the song. I can imagine myself singing the tune to infinity, till the stars run out and the moon has no more light to give. Perhaps this is no beacon taking me back home, and perhaps I will have to come down again and walk on. But carrying the song gives me hope, for at least I know my notions are not wholly my own. Whatever my feelings, some scrap, some shard has blossomed in another heart, and some other soul has felt the longing I grapple with every night & day. After a long time, I remember what it is like to pause and gaze longingly at the heavens. The moment is alive, the sky lit up. In every direction, there is only light.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I saw you sitting there, in the tower beyond time, watching the entire universe unfold. As I entered from the savage lands outside, soaked in fear and perspiration, I immediately felt time stop and take a breath. Before I could explain what had happened, the sight of you sitting in contemplation was everything. Your gaze slowly met mine, and I received the most knowing smile of my life. I could only melt under its power. Without words, you confirmed that each of us has a fate, and that you know mine. I knew then what I always suspected: fairest, it's you who rules our world.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

You must realize that no one teaches me these things. That I know of, I've never actually met anyone dabbling seriously in writing; finding a reader is tough enough, a writer nigh impossible in the circles I move around. Whatever improvements in my pieces that are apparent through the years are the product of some form of common sense, but it's one that I've had to work hard for. Even now, I'll admit that there are times when I imagine that I've outgrown most of the problems that plagued my early writing. I'll write a particularly satisfying piece and pat myself on the back for the accomplishment. The darn problem is, it isn't always that easy. Heck, a good 50% of my drafts are either deleted or become posts I purposely avoid when perusing my archives. Much as I'd like to think otherwise, it isn't the case that with time my first drafts are somehow magically better. Perhaps all that has changed is my understanding of what makes something good; where once I would have published straight away, citing the trueness of emotion as reason enough, now at least I spare you, dear reader ;-)

"Trueness of emotion", now I think I can make that claim about what I write. I certainly don't find myself sitting at the desk and manufacturing things to write about. But it takes time to realize that there has to be something more than just an emotion, however valid. In Tobias Wolff's Old School, there is a beautiful little section where Frost himself (!) defends his school of aesthetics against claims of it being insufficient to capture the complex uncertainties of modern life, circa the early '60s. In particular, he rallies against the notion that form, most prominently rhyme, is somehow naive in its belief that everything has a neat resolution: words join together, the poem has finality, and as a result the world inside bears no resemblance to the real one. "Form might be all we have", he says, and it made me think. After all, it really is tempting to argue the counterpoint to Frost, namely that structure implies a certain...sense underlying things. Heck, isn't this part of my defense of Berryman a few posts ago? Regardless of how true that statement is, throwing our hands up at the brutality of the world and giving in to anarchy (blank verse ;-)), well, as he says, perhaps that is mere laziness!

Why this topic is particularly interesting to me is the case of music. I've often thought that classical is simply incapable of addressing the emotions that popular music does so well. When pressed for details, I usually say something about the uncertainty of life that's captured in, say, a Tom Waits song. It's to be expected - were our nature of expression the same as two centuries ago, it would be cause for concern - but are these changes or, if you will, improvements? I used to learn towards the latter, insofar as I thought that the classical form was simply antiquated after a point. Yet, perhaps it is me who is antiquated! It might be that the emotions I champion are simply unable to stand by themselves. Without form, perhaps the emotions and feelings crumble into dust when faced with the ravages of time. I'm willing to admit that it could all be a matter of time before I realize such things. Not that I've completely switched sides, mind you, but I'm now wary of having a firm stance on this issue.

I don't know if there have been many books that have changed my life. But in several instances, like this one, literature has made me pause and think deeper about things I took for granted. Long may it last.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

1) Ween, "She's Your Baby". With time apart from the wonder duo, one forgets that even minor songs display a remarkable acuity. To think I once found this a weak end to an otherwise fine album! It strikes me that, if it wasn't obvious already, the band is now firmly in the category of the great mystics for me. Songwriting whose source I simply cannot fathom, but lord bless it doubly for it.

2) The Go-Betweens, "As Long As That". Another potential wonder duo in the context of my life, but it's too early to say. There's something special in the care displayed in the lyrics, which tempts one to use the phrase "poetic"; but given the term's associations with popular song, the intent is diffused. Anyhow, the same care undeniably makes proceedings a bit dry, in general; refined, but with none of the electric energy the medium conducts so well. But "I've got a feeling / It sounds like a fact / It's been around / As long as that"? Lines like this are why I once wanted to be a songwriter.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Through complete chance I came across the following article on Berryman's legacy resulting from the Dream Songs, and on the reasons for the popularity of the latter. The conclusion is pretty dim: the popularity is attributed more to sociological reasons (put crassly, the "cool" factor associated with reading poetry that initially seems resistant to easy interpretation) than any inherent worth in the poems! In particular he claims that they represent a school of thought that is fundamentally incompatible with good poetry, namely, obscurity and the lack of cogency. What the school allows is the for the glorification of snippets of phrases and lines that appear among the weeds, with the rest being vaguely cited as realistic or the like. The school's approach is to avoid the difficult road of creating something with meaning and coherence; instead it is akin to randomly spraying a jumble of words and leaving it to the reader to affix meaning to them.

It makes for fascinating reading, and I embrace the idea that we must at least be willing to point out when something is championed for reasons other than self-worth. I think a lot of my qualms with certain strands of popular music can be characterized by the arguments made in the article: once we let go of structure, it can be thrilling but it's difficult to tell one item from the next. Perhaps that explains the lack of consensus on such things. The author makes this point when he states his belief that no two people will have the same notion of what any particular Dream Song is about. I don't think that there is necessarily any inherent meaning to poetry - there is space inside the words and their texture to let the reader insert his own mind and experiences - but there's a difference in having space between valleys and just having a blank slate. One can affix meaning to anything; but when we are hinted as to which direction to travel, the results are much more resonant, as a general principle. So even forgetting the fact that the latter requires more skill on the poet's part, in terms of what is more powerful, it's clear that the poem with meaning is the one with greater intrinsic worth.

Given my limited exposure to the poems in the Dream Songs - I've been through the original batch, but with some generous skipping - I'm wary to comment too much on his specific criticism of the writing. I completely agree that #44, say, is tough to figure out. But had he chosen any of the well known ones - say, #1, #14, #29, #50 - I wonder if you could draw the same conclusion. Which would refute his stance insofar as it shows that there is something substantive in the poems; it just may not be there in all of them. It seems more reasonable then to explain its popularity based on the good ones rather than chalk it up to a form of mob mentality. If you were to press me further and ask why I like those poems, I might concede that in some cases there's a particularly good line that makes the poem memorable, but by no means are these good lines amongst an array of impenetrable ones: they're just neat summarizations of the feeling of the dream song in question. Quite often they're funny, too, which it strikes me must be another explanation for the popularity of the work. I can't imagine too many people laughing at Tennyson the way they might at a dream song, and so that gives it a certain novelty. Given this, I'd imagine that there are quite a few readers today for whom this style of poetry seems more, well, real than the alternatives.

The article did its job in one sense, in that it made me pause and reconsider my stance on art in general. I'd like to think I'm above the mass that is attracted to something just because it is strange or different - I'm much more interested if the thing is resonant. But is there some part of me that is excited by the idea of the Dream Songs more than the poems themselves? Is the kick I get out of "Are you radioactive, pal? / Pal, radioactive" not much more than the thrill of absurdity? Sure: these things are just human nature, as the author points out. I'm not sure that as a mere consumer of the arts, one should take pains to be dispassionate and clear about why one likes something; but of course the other extreme can mean that you shut yourself out from what's genuinely good, in favour of something that satisfies a more easily pleased impulse. I think the important point to be made is that often, one can sense there is a reason behind liking something, but it is just out of reach; that is different from liking something with no concrete understanding of why that is. Not a warning sign necessarily, but certainly a common occurrence when the item in question is of questionable intrinsic value. I suppose my take is that it's fine to get taken in by things head over heels, but every now and again it pays to stop and reflect.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Between pages, on the right day,
Sometimes I find my mind stray
To your question
And a younger man's reply.
Oh, there's no plot without you,
Every word sounds untrue;
I close my book,
Curse my mouth and sigh.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

To begin by asking whether I exist on a different plane is rarely a good sign. But else can I put it. I find myself capable of what one could call the ability to abstract, but it's only in the things that count; that is, life and people. I am triggered by words, phrases, a certain look that reveals pure innocence in contrast to a world consumed by noise and ambiguity. These lead me to uncharted moods where I can almost imagine what is happening in another heart, where I can sense its consonance to the spirals of my own mind. By understanding just one person outside the self, even if for a moment, all of mankind appears illuminated. And what a beautiful sight it is.

Sister I'm a poet

Hiding behind those sweet spectacles was an astonishing heart. I was already confident of his innocence of spirit, but I never thought his interests were of a literary bent. He expressed this fact with a line so concise, so beautiful, that I will never forget it. To think, all the hours I've toiled over verse, clunkily making words rhyme, and yet never once have I broadcast this hobby to the world at large. When faced then with such a free statement, so lacking in pretense, I was simply left in awe as it glided past my many layers of cynicism. In just a single line, he reminded of a fundamental truth: what beauty in mankind.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

1) John Prine, "The Torch Singer". I've underestimated Diamonds In The Rough for quite a while. I now think that side A may be as good as the debut. With songs like these, he conjures up a lazy, dusty feeling that I imagine many songwriters make it their life goal to capture. I can't imagine anything else in music, let alone art, that's imbued with the same state of mind. He makes a strong case for folk-rock turning out to be favourite genre after all.

2) Morrissey, "All You Need Is Me". As long as the old master can write lyrics like these, all will be well with the world. It brings me a smile that recalls "Suedehead".

3) Neil Young, "Thrasher". I've mildly oscillated with Young over the years, but hearing this after a long time was a revelation. I always admired the prettiness of the tune, but used to prefer the direct lyrical punch of "Powderfinger". But with time that stance has shifted somewhat, and I see a new subtlety in the song. Once more, it's all about the feeling. In the rise and fall of the melody, we discover that perhaps there are more roads than we once thought. In the clarity of the morning sun, one realizes that there is a life somewhere out there, and all we have to do is accept it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A perceptive take on popular song I recently read is that it serves as a filter on life. A broad statement that can be applied to any art form, but there are at least two reasons it's a valuable way to think of popular song. First, the music lends itself so easily to subjective interpretation, because it is explicitly designed to be a visceral experience; once one responds instinctively, there's no chance that the reaction of any two people will be the same. Second, as a consequence of the first, this filter is much stronger than with the other arts. I wrote earlier about poetry serving as a magic incantation of sorts, a series of powerful invocations that help one in times of duress. One can say much the same thing with popular song, except that it doesn't just come to one's aid: it actively changes one's perceptions of everyday life*. Indeed, it's not clear that there's any deeper meaning to a lot of songs or albums that I like. A lot of times there are just phrases, snippets that speak to me, and the feelings they induce are quite likely not what the artist had in mind when recording it. Again, not particularly surprising - true of poetry, for example - but popular song in general doesn't have the level of intrinsic complexity of poetry, so one is left wondering why exactly it is so pleasing. A lot of times it's the feel of the music, the expression of a feeling that you can't get anywhere else; not through books, film, nor instrumental music. I don't know if it's all about Soul, but certainly the mode of expression is essential to understanding the music.

* Of course, I don't mean to suggest that it must act as a filter on your life, whether you like it or not, but I like the sound of the idea, and I feel like it's accurate in describing my own experiences.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The melody, at night, with you

Sitting on the bus with the rain outside, I was pondering the mysteries of life. I don't know where the center is anymore, and things have never felt this uncertain. It's one of those troughs where all I see and know is the present, and it's certainly not the place to be. Oh, but I'm not defeated that easily. I know ways of escaping. Yes, the smell of summer rain...I remember. There certainly was another time, buried away as it is in my mind. I send my memory back to infinity, searching for something concrete to affix my thoughts on, and yours is the face it returns. It doesn't take a second for the memories to accompany it. Now I have the best ones all carefully selected, and I realize that I've forgotten how much comfort they bring. They make it quite plain that life has a broader frame than we perceive; and what's more, it's rare when we really understand the sentiment. It's strange to say, but it's almost as if I'd forgotten that it was me who went through all those times. The innocence and the happiness, that might have been a life ago, but these aren't dispassionate recollections of something I read about; the person inside all of them is me.

I can't deny that I feel some sadness: what once was one life was slowly, painfully broken in two. Once set down different roads, we had no way of finding the path towards each other. What might have been, what might have been... But no: the pain, it's had its turn. Accepting this, and just letting the past slowly cloud over my mind, I felt a moment of genuine happiness. What a moment in the midst of all manner of existential turmoil! Like a mythic lighthouse in the distance, the moment offered a reminder of why we travel through the bog in the first place. Reflecting on this miracle, I realize that I owe a great deal to the universe for making it me who has these memories, who has these feelings.

This is possibly the fourth life I'm living, and in the immediacy of the moment, I feel it to be the worst in recent memory. But I now have faith it will end. There were other mes that came before, and there is one set to succeed my current position. Uncertain as the future is, knowing it exists offers immense hope. Who knows, perhaps we'll meet again yet? Whatever the outcome, I'd like to thank you in spirit for helping remind me, for an instant, that there is a life above our lives. The thread is delicate, but it exists. Where once we danced, the vibrations linger on.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

It could well be that none of it means anything. Intersections of our respective time and space could just be the result of atoms playfully colliding. Maybe comets have not gone blazing by in signs of approval, and the stars haven't been shining so that I could find purpose in the night sky. It could be nothing more than the way the earth spins, how life plays itself out from time to time. Yes, maybe I've been singing praises in honour of a connection that simply doesn't exist. But without a little bit of faith, what good would any of it be? A life so detached would run its course without even allowing the possibility of such magic; whether I am right or wrong in this instance, I know the principle is true. So I believe. I draw on your every movement, and they speak to me with purpose and colour. We are pushed together by something, light shining through the perfect black that is always around. The destination is imminent, and it will all converge somewhere. Time, all I need is time.