What is it?
I’d never purport to understand what ‘it’ is for Solange Knowles, but sometimes I do wonder if it is more universal than we’ve all been lead to believe.
I tried to drink it away
I tried to put one in the air
I tried to dance it away
I tried to change it with my hair
I couldn’t possibly have less in common with another human than I do with Solange, but I identify with the lyrics of her song ‘Cranes in the Sky’. I know I’ve experienced, and still sometimes do experience it. All the dread, the angst, those feelings I want to get away from.
Regardless of the accuracy of my perceptions, as a child, I was certain there were things that meant more to my father than I did. In hindsight, I was correct; however, limited in the scope of my understanding regarding the depths of his distraction. Kids are incredibly intuitive like that.
I tried to keep myself busy
I ran around circles
Think I made myself dizzy
I slept it away, I sexed it away
I read it away
Life goes on, we leave the nest and childish concerns make way for grown-up ones. Yet ‘it’ is still there. A gnawing worry, the howling void, dread that is never far enough from our thoughts no matter how safe and secure we may objectively be.
Close to 800,000 murder themselves every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. Many more attempt suicide. But this post isn’t about suicide, nor, do I believe that suicide is it, but rather, the clearest, most salient piece of evidence that it exists. And that it should not be ignored1.
Away, away, away, away, away, away
Away, away, away, away, away
Is it connected to something objective? Something outside the mind? Is it some survival mechanism gone wrong? Or is it an ember of rage due to some ancient injustice?
Some religions believe in the story of Adam and Eve. In the Garden of Eden, God cared for his two children. Everything was provided for, so long as they didn’t get greedy. Then one day they did, and everything fell apart. Adam and Eve were cast out to care for themselves and nothing has ever been the same.
I don’t accept the story of Adam and Eve as a literal record of historical events, but I do appreciate the metaphor. Everyone will be cared for, so long as nobody gets greedy.
Well it’s like cranes in the sky
Sometimes I don’t wanna feel those metal clouds
Yeah it’s like cranes in the sky
Sometimes I don’t wanna feel those metal clouds
But someone did get greedy. I doubt anyone knows exactly when the first selfish thought occurred. I suspect, for many populations of early humans it was a necessary survival mechanism to stockpile goods in order to survive winter or to improve the rate of survival between hunts.
There are, no doubt, many interesting conversations we could have about why Europeans were so much more advanced at warfare and so much more driven to take things that didn’t belong to them. However, I argue that the theme of Me, before You, emerged long before the embers of the Holy Roman Empire began sailing around the world, fucking up every culture they encountered.
I tried to run it away
Thought then my head be feeling clearer
I traveled 70 states
Thought moving around make me feel better
The mightiest ancient civilizations bequeathed many technological gifts to those that followed, but none have had a more devastating, lasting, and profoundly misunderstood impact than the injustice of separating the commons from the fruits of their labor and the resources of the world left here for us all by putting a wall around it, then loaning, renting, or selling it back to us later.
This great evil. Where does it come from? How’d it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who’s doin’ this? Who’s killin’ us? Robbing us of life and light. Mockin’ us with the sight of what we might’ve known. Does our ruin benefit the earth? Does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night? -Private Edward P. Train, The Thin Red Line
Today, while modern industrial robber barons and Wall Street titans pick over the remains of late capitalism around the world, I see the cause of it returning. The dread, the angst, the fear that we will not get what we need, that we’ll lose what we have. That we won’t be taken care of. That it’s not all going to be OK. Even if it is for me.
All my life I’ve been taught that it was a selfish, self-centered fear. That it was a personal problem, and the solution for it is medication, meditation, therapy, introspection, self-care. It’s all about the fear, never about the source of the fear: That I won’t get what I need, that I will lose what I have, that I won’t be taken care of…
It’s anything but the horrifying awareness that one man’s luxury is a higher priority than another man’s survival.
1If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please, please get help.