“Intensely selfish people are always very decided as to what they wish. They do not waste their energies in considering the good of others.”
-Ouida, Wanda, Countess von Szalras
“Love is always ready to deny itself, to give, sacrifice, just in the measure of its sincerity and intensity. Perfect love is perfect self-forgetfulness. Hence where there is love in a home, unselfishness is the law. Each forgets self and lives for others.
But where there is selfishness it mars joy. One selfish soul will destroy the sweetness of life in any home. It is like an ugly bush in the midst of a garden of flowers. It was selfishness that destroyed the first home and blighted all the loveliness of Paradise; and it has been blighting lovely things in earth's home ever since. We need to guard against this spirit.”
Many people I know have expressed how strange the world climate is to them right now. No doubt I can understand how they might feel, but I’ve just crawled out of living for 3 years with my own personal virus of sorts. I’ve been distanced and self-quarantined, and made cautious decisions. Facing the virus is nothing to me. I don’t say that recklessly - it’s just that I learned to accept the end.
Because of that climate, I have been contained at home with my daughter for several days. She has taken some of this time to reflect on the past. That type of reflection is a dangerous thing for me. It is full of beauty and wonder and all sorts of adventure. We have certainly had a wonderful life together! Those fabulous memories can trigger a bit of sadness.
The virus will run its course and will carelessly destroy the sweetness of life for some. It will waste no energy considering the good or health of anyone it decides to inhabit. I suppose this is an understandable trajectory for an entity that exists to “graze” on a host so, in this case, I can sort of understand that kind of selfishness. If the virus does kill us, I would guess that's bad news for it? It can no longer infect or replicate unless it has spread to another host.
When recalling memories of trips to the beach, or the mountains, or making waterslides with a hose hung over the top of the playset, or going to concerts, or simply hugging (and the list goes on and on) I cannot understand the inability of a person to be content. I guess that’s what a grazer does. It lives selfishly off of its host until it can find another to move on to - and then another and then another... A virus is incapable of experiencing joy.
It’s a crappy analogy. I just haven’t posted in days and these are some of the thoughts that have been playing around in my head (insert puzzled face emoji). It’s just when I think I’m completely over it, there is something that will remind me and that reminder will baffle me. I can choose to mull over it and start searching for answers that don’t exist or I can move on and listen to childish songs like today’s offering that bring a devious little grin to the corner of my mouth.
This is a beautiful pairing of two of my favorite artists. Miki Berenyi of Lush sings "Ciao!" with beautiful contempt and brattiness while Jarvis Cocker of Pulp sounds off with flippant arrogance and disinterest. It is an unsophisticated and brash breakup song. It should be noted that this doesn’t truly reflect my personal emotions - I have no intention of ever seeking the love of another…never ever again! If you’ve had the virus, perhaps you can sing this song to it (and I do mean COVID…not the one who broke your heart).
When You Have Forgotten Sunday: The Love Story
- And when you have forgotten the bright bedclothes on a Wednesday and a Saturday,
And most especially when you have forgotten Sunday -
When you have forgotten Sunday halves in bed,
Or me sitting on the front-room radiator in the limping afternoon
Looking off down the long street
Hugged by my plain old wrapper of no-expectation
And nothing-I-have-to-do and I’m-happy-why?
And if-Monday-never-had-to-come -
When you have forgotten that, I say,
And how you swore, if somebody beeped the bell,
And how my heart played hopscotch if the telephone rang;
And how we finally went in to Sunday dinner,
That is to say, went across the front room floor to the ink-spotted table in the southwest corner
To Sunday dinner, which was always chicken and noodles
Or chicken and rice
And salad and rye bread and tea
And chocolate chip cookies -
I say, when you have forgotten that,
When you have forgotten my little presentiment
That the war would be over before they got to you;
And how we finally undressed and whipped out the light and flowed into bed,
And lay loose-limbed for a moment in the week-end
Then gently folded into each other -
When you have, I say, forgotten all that,
Then you may tell,
Then I may believe
You have forgotten me well.”
I took a wonderful class in my undergraduate years called the History of Rock and Roll. I got a "D" in the class because I always skipped test days. This was my third term on my first go-around as an undergraduate. I'd just met the girl I was going to marry and my heart or mind wanted nothing to do with the university and everything to do with her. I still loved that particular class though and went just to listen to records spin in the auditorium of the music building.
I was super-stoked when the class landed around 1976 and punk rock was thoroughly explored. Then it moved on into the 1980's and thumbed through all the great post-punk bands. This took music back to the British Isles and the political climate of that region. One band discussed from the podium was a group of Marxist Christians called The Housemartins. My initial reaction was not pleasant. I thought them to be a wanna-be bunch of Smiths and dismissed them for the most part. A few weeks later, driving around with my girlfriend, I noticed a cassette in the glove box. It was the second album from the band, "The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death". After giving this a good listen, I was sold on the bands peppy beats countered with sharp political lyrics.
My girlfriend then introduced me to the group that formed from members after their breakup. "Welcome to the Beautiful South" from The Beautiful South became a staple of our courtship and was a favorite band of ours for years to come. We actually drove three and a half hours out of town just a few days after our first child was born to see the band perform in a rare U.S. appearance - bad idea for sure but, I suppose I'm glad I got to see them live once.
Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway continued to write witty and biting lyrics but the subject matter had shifted from politics to the institution of marriage and relationships. We'd sing along joyfully to often upsetting tales that focused on unhappy marriages, abuse, neglect, and brokenness. Yet again, I found myself in a mindset that wondered how anyone could fall into such a mess that could make you fall out of love with someone. It was happening to her and I, sadly, was clueless to it.
Today's offering was one that really made me happy. It was so over-the-top brutal that I couldn't help but enjoy singing along, "So if you walk into your house and she's cutting up your mother, she's only trying to tell you that she loves you like no other."
I remind the reader that, even though I am in a pretty great place these days - considering the crap I've been through and the crap my daughter is going through now - I still lament love lost and I still believe that none of this had to happen. It could have been fixed had she been willing. I can completely feel the dark undertone of this song like never before though. And it isn't a threat...please don't misunderstand. But you should be aware that, "The perfect kiss is dry as sand and doesn't take your breath. The perfect kiss is with the boy that you've just stabbed to death."
“Everything with me is either worship and passion or pity and understanding. I hate rarely, though when I hate, I hate murderously.”
- Anais Nin, Henry and June: From “A Journal of Love”
“O serpent heart hid with a flowering face!
Did ever a dragon keep so fair a cave?
Beautiful tyrant, feind angelical, dove feather raven, wolvish-ravening lamb!
Despised substance of devinest show, just opposite to what thou justly seemest -
A dammed saint, an honourable villain!”
- William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
It is difficult to have to sit back and watch helplessly while someone you love is mercilessly devoured by a force out of your control. It may be even more difficult to resist the urge to respond to the tormenter with hate.
I grew up being taught to love my enemies - to pray for them. I was taught to turn the other cheek and to not return evil with evil. I mocked catchphrases like, “hate the sin but love the sinner” but I still applied those ideals and welcomed anyone and everyone into my life with open arms - perhaps too open.
Today’s offering is a flippant one. I hope you understand that I am actively resisting hate rather than pursuing it. I am not guiltless but I am hopeful that I’m able to rise above and not stoop to the same tactics that horrible people are actively implementing against my precious daughter.
For Bible haters, feel free to close the browser window now. For those interested, here’s a short list of reminders for me and you - if you are resisting the urge to hate:
Exodus 23:5 / Leviticus 19:18 / Job 31:29-30 / Psalm 1:1-6 / Proverbs 10:12 / Proverbs 25:21-22 / Obadiah 1:12-13 / Matthew 5:43-48 / Mark 11:25 / Luke 6:27-36 / Romans 12:14-21 / Romans 13:8-10 / 1 Corinthians 16:14 / Ephesians 4:32 / 1 Peter 3:9
There is much more where that came from and I don’t particularly appreciate it at this very moment.
Blessed may you be if you are being persecuted (Matthew 5:11)
May your day be full of love.
“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.
Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.”
Mark Kozelek is one of my favorite lyricists. He paints surreal relational landscapes that explore toxic love between partners and family. His words are haunted by love lost, heartfelt nostalgia, and force me to examine a moment - perhaps too much, causing me to analyze rather than enjoy existence as it unfolds. He was a force that helped to sever my music snobbery around the age of 17. Landing on the 4AD label in his early years, this midwestern ghost was drawing influences from all over the place. The likes of Nick Drake, Lou Reed, Joy Division, and even John Denver spilled out of his song. He covered Denver, Simon and Garfunkel, Kiss, Michael Jackson, Modest Mouse, ACDC, and countless others. He was able to completely transform the music of someone else and make it his own. It wasn’t simply a cover, but a reinvention. That reinvention is what broadened my musical appreciation.
Today’s offering, “Take Me Out”, comes from the second album (known as “Rollercoaster”) of his band Red House Painters. There isn’t a bad song on that record, so you need it in your collection. As I was collecting songs to express my love for my former wife over the past three years, I kept landing on this song. I didn’t feel like I could include it in a list because I did not completely understand the lyrics. I probably still don’t understand the lyrics but I have (as I mentioned earlier) over-analyzed them instead of just enjoying the pure beauty of the song.
This song seems to me full of loving for a former and, in fact, that former is dead. However, the voice seems to indicate that whatever relationship did exist was tainted. It was a mess that he was having difficulty piecing together and wanted some type of release. Perhaps there was guilt or a simple uncertainty to weather or not things could have been worked out. So, he’s wanting to find a way to let go of any heartache related to memories good or bad - to be taken out, instead of back in - out of struggling, wrestling, “what-if’s”.
I’m probably miles off but that is the rudimentary interpretation I’ve given it. It definitely could not have been included in a mix that was loaded with songs that said “I’m sorry” or songs about loneliness. This song is sad but it has a subtle bite - and that is not an unusual trait of a Kozelek song. This current playlist that is being compiled are definitely songs of disappointment in the woman I once loved. Now free from her grip and now that my eyes have been opened to her deception, shallowness, heartlessness, and thoughtlessness - I can offer a delightful grouping that, though still loaded with heartache, projects sadness in a different direction. This gives you a bit of a break and allows you to let go of some self-pity!
There are relationships that I do understand. There are people I love being around. Those are my focus and my hope. “All other ground is sinking sand.”
“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
-Mark 8:36 (KJV)
“Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos. That is the way we all see ...each other in life. Vanity, fear, desire, competition-- all such distortions within our own egos-- condition our vision of those in relation to us. Add to those distortions to our own egos the corresponding distortions in the egos of others, and you see how cloudy the glass must become through which we look at each other. That's how it is in all living relationships except when there is that rare case of two people who love intensely enough to burn through all those layers of opacity and see each other's naked hearts.”
“I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there ’s a pair of us—don’t tell!
They ’d banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!”
- Emily Dickinson, I’m Nobody! Who are you?
I’ve had very little experience with minimum wage jobs. Even my first job, at sixteen, was at an antique toy shop where I earned a percentage of the collectibles I sold. I have always made an above average wage. When I was first married, I was making twice the minimum wage at that time and now I am well beyond that. I’m not proclaiming this information to brag. Also, I'm not rich - unless you are comparing me to people in third-world countries. By that standard, me talking about how I still struggle to make ends meet becomes embarrassing. It is only presented as a foundation for todays tale. The woman I was married to for twenty three years was never satisfied with my wage. It was never enough - never.
By our sixth year of marriage, we had moved into an amazing house. It was in a wonderful location and setting - a beautiful old farm house that had been rehabilitated but was still full of character. It was exactly what my spouse wanted. I loved it also, but I couldn’t afford it. Rent and utilities were taking up two-thirds of my take home pay. It wasn’t logical and it wasn’t something my wife was willing to budge on.
There were so many factors that were playing a role in complicating the situation. We didn’t save money and when we had extra, we were starved to “buy” something so we usually did. I tried to push most of this to the back of my mind. Now that we were on our second child, I was pretty content to just be experiencing a family. Looking back, I can see that my partner was regretting the path she had chosen. Much of that regret started to manifest in fabricated illness. On top of expensive housing, I was now accumulating medical bills from trips to doctors and emergency rooms to figure out what was surly consuming her body and leading to her demise. I’m still paying those bills today.
Fast forward six years and we were still living beyond our means. Any pay raise that came my way was diminished by her need to present our family as a torn out page from an Anthropologie catalogue. It was a constant battle. She was unwilling to make small sacrifices in the name of saving money so that we could eventually live the way we wanted. For her, the problem was always that I didn’t make enough money - that I had lost ambition - that I was, essentially, a loser. She wasn’t wrong about me losing ambition. I had been beaten down pretty thoroughly at this point and always succumbed to her wants. At the risk of elevating myself, I’ll tell you that I did everything for her. I gave her my soul.
This was the period that she told me that she had lost all love for me. She started a business of her own and, even then, informed me that she was starting this business because I was a poor provider and she was doing it to provide for our kids. It is interesting to note that all of the marketing, branding, design, illustration, manual labor, set-up, break-down, cleaning, maintenance…what else…was done by me. But, it was her business. It was a good one. It was good because this was one area where we worked well together. She had great ideas, I had great vision, she had great direction, and I had the artistic ability and a solid background in construction so that I was able to make it happen. It was actually exciting to me and I didn't mind doing what I did to make it succeed.
This same period was when my spouse started to cultivate a relationship with a psychic. I did not like this at all but I did not stand in the way of her pursuit of this charlatan. This woman began to whisper ideas of great success, fame, and fortune. It all seemed to be directed at her and my son but did not really include me or my daughter. This was also a time when my son started to have a bit of success in his life and “her” business started to have a great deal of success - people were ravenous over it. The business ended up having a story written about it in a very upscale white American magazine and soon to follow were a long line of independent producers wanting to ink a deal for a television program featuring my spouse and the two girls who were in business with her. Then an investor came into the picture wanting to build this vision to something even larger. Although I continued to fully support this vision, her criticism of me grew. Her disinterest in me got stronger and stronger.
Fast forward three years and the business had fallen apart but her engagement with the psychic was stronger than ever. Crystals were lining up around the house. Ritualistic notes about success were found under pillows. Prayers to unkown gods would fall from the underside of drawers. And Mercury was always in retrograde - apparently wrecking havoc on the chi of my family’s existence. These were strange times being orchestrated by a vicious charlatan.
The more intense her drive for money and fame grew, the more I pulled back and wanted as little to do as possible with money. This, among other things, drove a wedge between us. Her focus was on building her name and ensuring that our son became some type of star. The vision of the psychic told her he would be a famous star within three years time. He is doing fine and chasing his dream still but that three years has come and gone and he’s not a famous star. Fortunately he sees through these lies as clearly as my daughter and I do.
No longer blinded by lust or fear, I can pursue beautiful things. But my heart is still breaking. Not only for my daughter (and for less severe reasons, my son), but for my former spouse. She is a victim of everything I ever warned her about. She chases (what she perceives to be) love, fame, and fortune. What she did not realize was that she had love and she was rich beyond measure with a beautiful family. Her willingness to give all of that up in pursuit of something that continues to elude her is tragic.
Perhaps, one day, she will be arm in arm with “the one” - jet setting across the globe in the limelight. I could care less. I can look back and say that I was privileged and wealthy beyond measure. I can look at my two children now and know that my creator has made me a rich man.