Life Ain’t Always Empty

Many people have been reporting strange or vivid dreams and major changes in sleeping habits over the last few months. Here’s a recent example.

Beautiful blue sky above an immaculate road. Fantastic car, purring, roaring, and hurtling effortlessly forward. Fluffy, bright green trees line the road, anchored by brilliant, thick and sturdy trunks. Grasses wave as we speed by. Jude and I are smiling widely. Cruising, I mean carefree cruising, soaking up all the joy along the smooth road. Like a picture book.

A storm erupts. Violent. We are forced to slow, and suddenly a confusion of traffic builds around us. It’s fast. Wind, rain, and debris begin to blind us, choking us to a near standstill. The storm is tornadic, deafening, punctuated with licks of fire; a shuddering earthquake. It is reducing the trees to splintering scrub, the road to jagged rubble. We scrape and limp the car aside. Sight is obliterated. Joy is replaced by unknowing.

The deluge, tremors, and bursts of thrashing air slow and we can squint to see. Sky clears to an ominous gray, and we see through swirling dust and steam. In front of us and behind us the wonderful road is ruined. The ways both forward and back are masses of rudely jackhammered cinder and giant, craggy boulders of sharp, rebar-threaded concrete. Also wrecked: the sweet car. Everything smolders — undrivable.

So, we check ourselves. We leave our mangled conveyance and the once-smooth road. We are whole. And we begin carefully to walk forward through the mess.

Hmmm. What can this dream symbolize?

Mostly, for someone who has become quite introverted, as I have become, and for someone like me who also enjoys many privileges and resources, the necessary limitations, and especially the isolation imposed upon us during recent months have been workable. Even, at times, pleasant. But you know what? Mostly, this is some bullshit.

Primarily, the uncertainty of the future is bewildering bullshit. The lack of control we have over our own lives is mean bullshit, too. Important to remember — it is bullshit for everyone, individually, and to extraordinarily varying degrees. Also, important to remember – each day, check yourself, and begin carefully to walk forward.

So, I thought everything was cool – you know? Going to be fine. All in this together. Do your part. Help people out. But, just lately, an unraveling. Checking myself each day though I have been, I have seemed something less than whole, and hardly a helper. And when I awaken, instead of looking upward, readying myself to walk forward, I look stupefied into a cauldron. There I see a long recipe of poisonous items have been combined — simmering up in front of me in a queasy stew of anxiety. A few days ago, the calloused thumb and forefinger of my all my insecurities and all my control issues pinched me at the back of the neck, lifted me like a sick kitten, and threw me into the pot. Things went extra dark.

Then I heard a song. If you have been feeling low, you should hear it, too. Rock and roll saves lives.

A Hero’s Death, the title track from the 31 July release by Fontaines DC (2020 Partisan Records).

The insistent refrain of this post punk masterpiece is, “Life ain’t always empty,” and in between the forty or so times that line is repeated, the listener is given a list of actions to take to help make sure your life is full.

“Don’t get stuck in the past.”

“Go out of your way for others.”

“Don’t sacrifice your life for your health.”

“Never let a clock tell you what you got time for.”

I’ve been a casual fan of Dublin quintet, Fontaines DC, but I think I am all in now. I can’t get enough of this tune. An exhausting drumbeat, ripping guitars, “ooh-ooh, bop-bop” backing vocals, and a lyrical delivery that is straight out of the snarling punk rock playbook. But, the magic of the song is that punk’s nihilism and disaffectedness are replaced by a message of positivity that is very welcome.

Fontaines DC

And then my friend, Guy, sent a note that he’s been listening to BBC 6 lately and he linked me to this righteous number:

Nylon Wire by Egyptian Blue from Body of Itch EP (2020 Yala! Records).

Thanks, Guy. Thanks Fontaines DC. Thanks terrifying dream. Thanks flowers and fresh air and coffee and having a nice home and never being hungry and I think I am back. It is so good to have a perspective shifter from time to time. Whether the influence comes from a friend, an experience, a nap with your cat, or even a couple of loud songs. I am back in business for now, a little wrung out and bruised by my time in the poisoned cauldron of negative bullshit. But back, ready to help again.

Thundy & me in a calming mindmeld.

24 june 2020

One Comment

  • Chris Curtis

    Matt, thank you for sharing your talent. You have a wonderful way of writing just what I need to read, when I need to read it.

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