There are some songs and there are some books that I shouldn’t listen to /read again. Or very often? Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. Lambchop’s Soaky in the Pooper. Others too, but those are in my mind. I was really enjoying some Lambchop songs over the weekend, and so I checked in with Soaky – my introduction to Lambchop – this morning, and now my skin feels crawly and my belly feels sick.
It’s open to interpretation, of course, but Soaky in the Pooper is a song about suicide. I read all sorts of background into it that others mightn’t necessarily. Going by his name, I’ve always assumed he was a lonely depressed drunk who overdosed or maybe even just accidentally slipped and killed himself in the bathroom. However he “pushed the towel” under the door, so probably it was intentional.
There’s depression, delusions, loneliness and suicide in Norwegian Wood too. I’ve only read it once, but it dragged me into its world so effectively that I recall spending at least a week trying to claw my way back out of it.
This isn’t a feeling of pity or empathy that comes on me through pieces of art like this, and it’s hard for me to put my finger on what it is that connects me so viscerally to some particular things, but I honestly feel as though I’ve lived through the experience. And that feels kind of horrifying to be honest.
There’s other art out there that connects like this, but the subject matter is often a little more uplifting, or if it’s depressing or self-destructive, it’s managing to paint a more romantic picture of it. Tom Wait’s Please Call Me Baby has something of that in it. Lots of books make me feel as though I’m living in them – take The Catcher in The Rye which I’ve bought at least 5 copies of in my lifetime because I really enjoy reading it in a new city. It’s got the kind of romantic maudlin loneliness I can revel in for a while before returning to “normal” life.
So, I’m just making like Hamilton and writing my way out of the feeling I got myself into this morning. I’ve also switched to some Duke Ellington for musical accompaniment. I enjoy certain jazz, particularly Miles Davis, I’m finding Ellington kind of pleasant but pretty neutral emotionally, which is probably what I need right now after plunging myself into that song first thing this morning.
Now I know better.
Sometimes I actively seek out those deeply affecting songs or books – well, like I said, deeply affecting doesn’t have to mean hooks in your guts – but sometimes I even seek out the gut-hooks. It’s the sort of thing I used to wallow in at 2am when the rest of the house was asleep and I was a bottle and half of red in, imaginating myself into another life, rolling around in the deep beautiful squalor of it all. But again, there are a couple of places where the water is too deep, too cold, too strong of an undercurrent. I’m afraid I’ll go under.
I won’t go under. But it can feel that way.
I’m really scared of heights, and it wouldn’t do me any good to take a sky dive or go bungee jumping. I wouldn’t fall or die (most likely), but it would really really feel horrible. So I just wouldn’t do it.
So, I’m not going to do that song again either.
Sorry Lambchop – you made something beautiful, but it’s too intensely real to me.
Also, sorry to anyone who goes listening and is all just “I don’t get it” about that song. Your mileage may well vary – I am by no means claiming it will have that effect on everyone. For all I know it may just be me that it has that kind of an effect on.
Well, one of the good things about a pretty busy homelife at the moment is that I won’t have the opportunity to linger in the brain state that is already starting to fade. All the same, I’m going to change the topic, just to clear the cobwebs out.
I’ve been thinking a bit about addiction to productivity and the perception of productivity. When I perceive myself as being productive, I feel really good about myself. It’s like a little high. It can get to be like a big high. I’ve had times when I just keep going into the wee hours of the morning, then get up early the next day and keep going on little sleep. It’s easy to get addicted to that mode of being, although it’s hugely unhealthy. Now that my body is old and the daily boring responsibilities of parenting mean that I can’t ever afford the crash, I try to temper that impulse and schedule some kinds of decent bedtimes for myself.
Summertime is a bit dangerous though, the temptation is there to work well into the night on something I’m interested in. Or (and I judge myself harshly for this) to play or waste time well into the night. Where’s the value there?
Anyway, I’m trying to be a little more aware of the pull to being always in “doing” mode, stepping back from the lure of “ticking things off” an imaginary To-Do list, and accepting existing instead. It’s not really as intellectually attractive. But I think it might have some true beauty in it.