October 21, 2013

What More Can One Expect From A Savior?

I've never been one to pray. Always felt futile to speak to someone who is never there. But sometimes, usually after midnight, with my headphones on I hear a voice. It speaks to a part of me that I've never been sure what to do with-- it's a place of darkness for sure, not a scary place, but one that thrives without too much superficial light. It's the place in which I tend my shame and fear and rage and pain. It is the place born of trauma and separation and addiction, but has surprisingly led to simpler things like wisdom and growth. Some might say, I have sown strength and passion and love from it. Regardless of the emotional enlargement which burrow from its roots, there is one voice who is always there:

Some people have Jesus, I have Elliott Smith to tend my soul. His music is the truest thing I have ever known. The closest I have ever been to the divine. The Buddha might talk about suffering as the state of human existence, but Elliott Smith paints that pain in melodies and melancholy pop songs.

I have written about Elliott before, but I feel a responsibility on the eve of his death to tap into his amazing energy. It is past 1:00 am and I am digging through some old cover recordings to help me find what it is exactly I am trying to say.

Funny that I have chosen to share so many covers when trying to write a post about someone else. I am having a difficult time articulating the connection I have to this artist. There is a very selfish obsession I have with Smith's music. It's as if he has finally given voice to the part of me that I have never been able (chosen) to even hear. The songs seem to be sung by(to) the inner child we all choose to leave in the dark, should he reveal shameful secrets from the darkness. There is a powerful vulnerability and tenderness in Smith's ability to shout the whispers of victimhood.

This year feels extra emotional as it is the tenth anniversary of his death, and I just finished reading Torment Saint.  The book has left me swimming in buried layers of trauma. The dissection of Elliott's lyrics and back-story of his childhood, reminds me of the fragility of my own childhood and the depth of the scars we carry.  His is such a sad, but common tale of the damaged child turned artist. I have been mired in a fog of introspection all week--carrying the heavy burden of emptiness.

A dream: I am in heaven. No saints or angles, no clouds, no vice. no virtue. No god. no judgment. There is a kitchen table, a screen door leading out to some woods. The light is low, candle lit, early evening. A garbage can over run with beer cans. A bottle of wine just opened. The walls are stained. The room is not clean and comfortable. soft music fills the air. Elliott picks at a guitar...

He is smiling. He is sober, healed, whole. Charles Bukowski is on the couch a cigarette dangling from his lips, a bottle of beer in his crouch. Never could give it up he says. He is wearing a robe, the scars on his face soften, but still visible. He is gently arguing with David Foster Wallace about something I can't hear. Kurt Cobain is playing with a young child. They build towers and laugh as they knock them down. You made it, he whispers.

My heroes have all been suicides. Not sure what I want to say here, actually know what I want to say, not able to articulate it. All I know is that there is a pain in my heart, every year at this time, as I take the time to baptize myself in the music that helps me heal. I count my blessings that despite my past, I do not suffer from uncontrollable depression or addiction or unsurmountable pain. I have been burned for sure. I have scars, but my path toward heaven is not as dark as some of my heroes. I am thankful for their sacrifice. I am thankful they could translate our collective pain into the art that helps the rest of us survive. What more can one expect from a savior? A friend to carry the load, we are not string enough to carry. A friend to venture into the darkness and light the way.  A savior is nothing more than a sacrifice. An artist. Maybe I am starting to understand religion after all. Maybe religion is nothing more than understanding that we are not alone and maybe there is no need for god, when we have art and the shared emotional pain of a universe swirling in chaos. We are all saviors, when we share our pain.

So now, when I pray, I close my eyes and listen to Elliott Smith. His songs connecting me to  the eight year old boy I abandoned but never forgot in the darkness. When I am there, I see your scars too, I feel our pain, and realize that I was never alone. I just never knew how to cry out so I as to be heard. Somewhere in these words I scribble, in these songs I hear and sometimes play, in this clutter, perhaps I will find a way to be heard too, In the mean time, Elliott is here for us all.

Why should you want any other when you're a world within a world? 

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