Posts Tagged despair
No Love Lost
Numbing feelings dead
Synthesized broken hearts to bled
Without emotion your heartstrings played
Strummed and severed to the tune of a tragic serenade
[A tragic chorus]
Without emotion, your heartstrings break
Snapped and severed to the tune of a tragic, sad cliche
No love lost
When all is said and done
There’s no love lost
The low cost of loving
Human frailties and weakness are easy prey
How your poor heart will bleed
The modern conception of romantic love is nothing short of vulgar. I do not mean vulgar in the sense of it being lewd or lascivious, but more so remarkably crass and repulsively commercialized. One of the more humiliating acts that exist in our culture is that of picking out a card for a loved ones birthday. The well-intentioned shopper is immediately met with all forms of syrupy sweet, ersatz garbage that pass for a genuine expression of feeling. Being told “I love you” Hallmark style is the equivalent of having some dude in a lime green leisure suit approach you and tell you that we should get rid of all the letters in the way so that “U and I can get together.” Love can seem like an ill-concieved, ham-handed con with all the charm of one of those insidious pop-ups that try to convince the barely sentient of the rich rewards that will be showered on them if only they surrender their credit card number. It is not hard to understand the disgust that would motivate Jeff Walker to write the words in “No Love Lost”.
While I am in complete agreement with the notion that love has been trivialized, I can’t climb on board with the idea that there is no such thing as love. The following admission is probably going to get my universal skeptic license suspended for the next six months, but, in all honesty, love is the one con I simply cannot renounce. I want to believe that there is a category of human experience that transcends our own personal needs and allows us, even momentarily, to exist for another. I want to think that there is more to life than survival and that we have a deeper need for connection to other humans. There must be more than just dumb, barely animate material wandering aimlessly from cradle to grave. I believe that many people share an essential longing to understand each other, to see their neighbors as beings dealing with the same existential dilemmas as themselves, struggling to find some compassion or empathy and aspiring to give that gift to another even though nothing tells them they have to. The best approximation of these feelings and desires is the word love.
Maybe this understanding reflects the cynicism expressed in “No Love Lost”. Imagine desperately wanting to feel the connection to others and being given back nothing but Hugh Grant movies and power ballads. Trying to come to terms with love in our contemporary carnival of cheap thrills and easy answers is a demoralizing task. If I am ever to really conceptualize what love means my expression of it will be minimized by the fact that the language I have to communicate it has been co-opted by a bunch of soft-sell dream peddlers who are more concerned about appealing to a demographic representation of males 25-34 than finding deeper human truths. Why not look at the Love Industry with scorn? After all, it has robbed us of our full means to relate something significant and meaningful to the world. Instead of filling us with a feeling of awe and reverence, the word fills so many seekers of reality with bitterness and irritation.
Maybe the real demonstration of the transcendent power of love is whether it can overcome the cesspool of a market in which it now resides. Occasionally there are human truths that possess so much power that they can surmount any obstacle set before them. That’s what I’d like to believe, anyway. For us to believe that love is real maybe we need to see that it can be debased in every way imaginable and still carry meaning. Or maybe those who sell it have uncovered the terrible truth; that love is simply an inducement to get the suckers to buy more of what they don’t need. Give them the fantasy of love and they’ll gladly exchange it for safety, freedom and power over their own lives. I desperately hope that this isn’t so.
(This series is being co-published by the folks over at MindOverMetal.org. Check’em out!)
Heartwork, the 1993 release by Carcass, is easily one of the most compelling metal albums ever recorded. First and foremost, it is an explosion of monstorous guitar riffs, frenetic drumming and raging energy. The music is captivating and overwhelming. Heartwork is a remarkably powerful lyrical album that deals intelligently with issues like globalization, dehumanization and existential dread. The music has been widely praised by many music journalists. The lyrics, however, have been given scant attention. Jeff Walker, the band’s singer, bass player and chief lyricist, envisions a world that is entirely devoid of human feeling or empathy. Walker’s adept use of language, particularly double entendre, lays bare the man’s inhumanity in all of its baseness. His world is an empty one, filled only with sorrow, guilt and deep-seated hatred.
The album behaves like a book, each song a chapter examining a set of widely held beliefs and contrasting them with his vision of a world gone completely insane. Over the next few months, I will attempt to analyze the themes and ideas song by song in an attempt to convey the inventiveness of Walker’s lyrics as well as the perspicacity of his message.
Welcome, to a world of hate
A life of buried dreams
Smothered, by the soils of fate
Welcome, to a world of pain
Bitterness your only wealth
The sand of time kicked in your face
Rubbed in your face
When aspirations are squashed
When life’s chances are lost
When all hope is gone
When expectations are quashed
When self-esteem is lost
When ambition is mourned
…All you need is hate
In futility, for self-preservation
We all need someone
Someone to hate
Buried Dreams is a nightmare vision of a world completely unconnected to its humanity. It serves as an overview of the themes that are addressed in each song and is a great starting point because it contains the most unambiguous lines on the record. In Walker’s “world of hate”, humans begin their journey in life filled with hope only to see that hope slowly eroded by the fixed nature of reality. This reality is the death and pain experienced by all humanoid beings. It is immovable, unchangeable and constant. Humans search blindly in the dark for some reason, some deeper meaning that will connect the dots and make the pain they experience intelligible. We fill ourselves with illusions in order to soften the blow of this horrible truth. As the truth becomes more real, we grasp harder at the illusion but ones commitment to an illusion will never make that deception a reality. We slowly come to terms with the understanding that there is no connection, there is no one tending the fire and the center simply does not hold. Once this veneer of meaning has been stripped away there is nothing left to hold onto but pure visceral hatred.
By experiencing hatred for something, we are given the ability to overcome our basic alienation from ourselves all the while connecting to the other beings around us. Love would be another way to connect, but the drawback of love is that it is fleeting. Its initial joy is snuffed out by the understanding that our basic existential problem, death, will cause love to one day give way to sorrow and despair. If you connect with hatred you never have to feel loss because the eventual vanquishing of your foe will be greeted with a feeling of joy and accomplishment. No one mourns the death of their enemy.
On the surface, the lyrics could be read as a simplistic explanation of the rise of fascism in Europe in the 30s and 40s. A society like Germany, which was drowning in debt and filled with impoverished humans recovering from the insanity of years of mindless trench warfare, was ready for the message of hate that Hitler brought. I believe the song is meant to have much more of a timeless message with broader overtones about the human condition. The line that universalizes this song is “in futility, for self-preservation, we all need someone…someone to hate.” This is a Hobbesian view of a world of beings so frightened of death that they are willing to do anything to avoid it, even if they know that their actions are eventually pointless. We are willing to create a Leviathan that may kill us for our disobedience in order to be safe. The wall each of us run into is death and we are willing to embrace any idea that allows us to fully avoid thinking about our eventual consequence. We are willing to embrace ideas that are self-destructive in order to escape the fear of death. If this isn’t true, then how do you explain war? This horrible irony of our basic condition is that we long to avoid death, but we do so in a way that often hastens its coming.
And so our dreams are buried as we are carried kicking and screaming to our own certain demise. We mask our fears with delusions of enemies all around us. We think that we can stop the inevitable if we bomb that thing or execute this thing but with our last dying breath we are reminded of the futility of all of it. Even hate cannot save us. The final, horrible irony of our Buried Dreams is that we will eventually be buried next to them.
(I am pretty darned excited to announce that this series will also be running at MindOverMetal.org, one of my favorite metal sites. Special thanks to my homeboy Metal Matt Longo who not only agreed to run the thing, but even gave me a fantastic title for the series and some killer editing ideas. Anyway those dudes speak truth and wisdom over there, check’em out)
Posted by Keith Spillett in Articles I Probably Shouldn't Have Bothered Writing, Existential Rambings on February 13, 2011
“The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying.”
–TS Eliot from Ash Wednesday
Recently, a terrible feeling has been crawling up the base of my spine. It awakens me in the middle of the night, it hounds me when I am driving home from work, it swims in and out of my mind every time I consider this cursed blog. I think I had this thought in my mind even before I started blogging, but over the last month its light buzz has grown to a deafening roar. This feeling is in the pit of my stomach and the recesses of my mind all at once. It is a voice that talks to me while I write and a spirit that haunts me when I do not. Nothing makes it grow quiet. It is omnipresent. It is a simple idea, but if you follow it to its logical extreme it is as dangerous as a nuclear bomb. The question is this…Is there that is really worth writing?
It seems a rather harmless line of questioning. That is how it starts. The point of writing is to create something. I hope to create something new. Have all the worthwhile thoughts already been had? Has someone else already put down all the truths and mysteries of life on paper? With the Internet, you can find access to nearly every idea that has been conceived of. Most of us concern ourselves with whether LeBron is better than Kobe or who is married to who and who is getting a divorce or who wore what on the red carpet or who embarrassed themselves in front of the world. If you want to dig deeper you can find recipes for how to prepare ox tail, the history of Buddhism, better and more in depth formulas to calculate the value of third basemen or the performance of treasury bonds, or the lost works of some 19th century poet you came across at three in the morning on some insomnia driven information binge. But to what end? Is it just more and more stuff to fill our minds with?
Maybe I shouldn’t concern myself with creating something original. After all, what is the point of originality? Am I simply trying to justify my existence by conning myself into the belief that I am so special and unique that I can think a thought that the rest of the 6 billion of us could not come up with? Am I so narcissistic that I think I am capable of an idea that has never been here before?
Maybe the point is to appreciate the experience of writing. Maybe the whole thing is about letting my synapses fire and my fingers pound away at some keyboard. To what end? I do it again and again. Words appear. More words appear. Then more. More. They mean something, but who really knows what? They dance in patterns. I already have forgotten most of what I’ve written. I could look back. To what end?
Why bother sending this nonsense out to the world? Looking for fellow travelers on the good ship Earth as we spiral towards our own personal oblivion. To what end? Am I simply standing in front of the Grand Canyon shouting at the top of my own lungs in the hopes of hearing an echo? And then what?
Maybe my words will help ease the pain of human suffering. A noble goal but when you look at what we are up against, it hardly seems possible. A dying heap of flesh and consciousness trapped in a fading world that is saturated with mountains of disconnected ideas adding up to nothing in particular is going to be helped by some random guy typing random words on a computer screen? Really? I haven’t watched enough Frank Capra to buy it. It is a pleasant delusion, but a delusion nonetheless. Maybe the goal is to delude others into forgetting their troubles. They will remember them soon enough or, worse, they will enjoy the delusion so much they will forget what is happening to them and the ones around them. Apathy or sadness. Ignorance or constant horror. To what end?
If I could write something that could teach people how to live forever or convincingly show them that their actions are connected to something greater then maybe I would be writing something worth reading. But I am not that good of a writer and I doubt I will ever be. I wonder if anyone is. Existential dread is what it is and I can’t write it away for myself or anyone else. Can writing change the truth of what we are? I simply don’t believe that. And even if it could…to what end?
Maybe all of the thoughts have been thunk and all of the dreams have been dreamt and we are simply recycling the same old nonsense in slightly different packages again and again and again. Over and over. The paint job changes but it’s still the same old world. Meet the new boss same as the old boss.
This isn’t my MacArthur speech to the troops blog. I plan to keep doing this again and again for no apparent reason. It is a complete waste of time. It has no value and is utterly and completely useless. I enjoy writing more times than I don’t. I like hearing how my words hit people. I am deeply curious as to how my innermost thoughts are perceived by strangers. I guess that is something, but it will fade after a while. These are simply words on a page and they don’t mean anything. Nothing lasting or real or forever or genuine will ever come out of my mind or my hands. They are shapes, they are colors contrasted with the background, they are a speck in the eye of history. They are words. Their lifespan is about as long as it takes to get to the next sentence.