Tuesday, May 11, 2004

I've had one major run-in with insomnia in my life nearly 18 years ago. it was pure hell stemming partly from a prolonged depression and other myriad difficulties in my life. to say it was pure hell is a major understatement.

I've read somewhere that depression, and other attendant mental illnesses, are an occupational hazard for writers. I dunno, but certainly writers are not immune to depression. perhaps it is considered an occupational hazard for writers because writers have ready access to communicable language. writers can speak to others of pain and misery.

guess I'm thinking about this openly because tonight I am exhausted and sick of the atrocities broadcast tonight on the evening news re: Iraq. just turned off CNN after watching the talking heads bicker and prattle over all this shit. one feels absolutely helpless at times, many times, sometimes all the time.

and yet, earlier today at work I'd been thinking of music as a transcendent force in our lives. last night, after reading a little, writing a little and eating a whole bunch, I turned on the TV to watch CNN and instead found myself captivated by some old concert footage of The Grateful Dead on VH1. now, I ain't a deadhead by any means, though I have friends who are, and this is no slight on The Dead's music or its fans.

I don't recall the song and I'm guessing the band was in SF, perhaps at The Fillmore, though it could've been any place. but the camera used crane shots of the dancing crowd and then would cut to two or three individual faces during the performance. and this man: long hair with a thin leather headband, handlebar moustache and wearing a light brown vest: his face was pure ecstasy. the kind of transportive pleasure that comes when you love the band, love the songs and watching/listening to the band play at the first intensity. it was riveting to watch the crowd, and this man in particular. though The Dead was pop it was art at its highest level: emotionally, aesthetically, intellectually acute.

and hopefully, we have all been there with that man watching/listening to a beloved band and/or musician: it is the level of art Oppen refers to when he says:

One must not come to feel that he has a thousand threads
in his hands,
He must somehow see the one thing;
This is the level of art
There are other levels
But there is no other level of art

and of course art is more than to make our lives bearable, and even, if we are lucky sublime. what to make of it, all of it, in these black times. . .


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