A True Message, A Light Tone

There was a period of my life, in my early twenties, when I felt dark a lot of the time. I never saw any professionals, but now that I know more about it I think I would have qualified as having depression. When I met Al it more or less disappeared. I remember thinking it was so strange, not feeling that way. Almost unnerving. I couldn’t write as much music, since a lot of my music had been expressed from that place. It was uncomfortable. Then we would have periods of being apart for logistical reasons, three months, sometimes six months, and I’d feel that same way again. Then I’d write more songs from that darkness.

Recently I’ve felt echoes of how I used to feel. I’ve been wondering where it comes from, as it seems to come from nowhere. I think of Eckhart Tolle and the pain body, and I wonder if that’s it. He describes how it periodically shows its head and needs to feed. Like some part of me grew into a semi-autonomous energy being that sustains itself through pain. Through dissatisfaction. Gosh, what a painful word. It’s so spiky feeling. So many consonants jammed together, it almost has to be said through gritted teeth. What’s a word for something that’s deeper than an onomatopoeia, that itself touches the soul of a thing?
Now I don’t write songs from it. I don’t do much with it at all. It reminds me of old days, standing at Putney Bridge station, staring out my window at the birds and the clouds, sitting on my bed propped up against a giant penguin playing my guitar. I try to just let it be, and wait for it to pass. There are antidotes, if I’m strong enough to take them. Love is one, communication within that love is probably the strongest - voicing the feelings. That’s a tough one. Presence is another - walking, observing the senses, the wind, the sunlight, starlight, the feeling of a cat’s soul being so close to yours. Playing music, writing words, probably art if I ever make the time to do it, they can all help. They can also hinder too, depending on where they’re coming from. I try to stay light, like Seamus Heaney’s poem “St Francis and the Birds”, where he describes St Francis as creating a physical poem with the birds he preached to. Their joy and movement itself “the best poem Francis made,/His argument true, his tone light”. I think about that line often at the moment. A true message, a light tone.
The truth is, life is just hard. For some people, it’s so hard. Hard hard hard. Eckhart jokes about your soul waking up and saying “what’s this? Oh not another incarnation!” Being here, in the physical world, is difficult. “Doesn’t life seem nasty, brutish, and short?” is one of my favourite Tom Waits lines. “Come down off the cross, we can use the wood” is another, from the same song. George Martin titled his autobiography “Life in the Material World”. I think it’s just a mystery for everyone.

But one thing I’ve been thinking of recently is the flip side of the phrase “this too shall pass”. There’s a lot of talk in spiritual conversations about the transient nature of things, things passing, being ephemeral. But it’s also true that things begin, things get born. Brother David (whom I love), is fond of pointing out that whenever you go through a really tight spot, it can lead to a new birth. You were born, so was I. There was a time when we weren’t here, and now we are. Things have yet to be born, many many things. Yes, they too will pass. But then others will be born too. It’s amazing to watch new leaves be created on the philodendron we have in the bathroom. It’s like magic. Just like meeting a young kitten, or a baby, or any new thing. Or seeing a new idea, hearing a new song.