O Death is a song that I started writing earlier this year, specifically about staring into the face of COVID. I originally meant it to be the opening of the album, a bombastic metal/orchestral/hip-hop piece that was a rallying cry to all of the themes of the rest of the “rock opera” that is My-So-Called-Emo-Life
(oh how the women swooned for you, Jordan Catalano. If only they could know you’d turn into the Joker. I related more to the geek on the show, Brian Krakow)
Every morning as I wake up, I run through my news and blog feed and catch up on anything I might have missed while I was asleep. I tend to float through a variety of sources, but many are small-”l” libertarian bloggers or organizations. It’s a mix of opinions and ideas, a hyper-saturated rainbow and spectrum of philosophical slants in the town hall of my head. In a way, it’s like the ongoing conversation my ADHD brain would typically be having with itself.
I do my best to maintain relationships with people I don’t necessarily agree with because there are other areas where we find commonality. If I could narrow down the principle that I hold most dear, it’s this: cliques must be broken, and bonds must be forged.
My attention was brought to a new article by Bari Weiss. I think it’s essential reading. Even just the opening paragraph is worth noting:
“Thought comes before action. Words come before deeds. Media that profits from polarization will stoke it. Lies — may be harmless for the moment, maybe even noble — create a lying world.”
Her primary focus in the article is 19th-century German poet and literary critic Heinrich Heine.
I wasn’t aware of Heine until this morning, Looking at his painting, one can’t help but see a young proto-emo. It sounds like he was a little bit of a Germanic Mark Twain. In 1834, he wrote a piece that predicted what would happen to Germany and Europe in the next century.
“Christianity — and that is its greatest merit — has somewhat mitigated that brutal Germanic love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered, the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame. This talisman is fragile, and the day will come when it will collapse miserably. Then the ancient stony gods will rise from the forgotten debris and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and finally Thor with his giant hammer will jump up and smash the Gothic cathedrals.”
I encourage you (after you’ve read the rest of this!) to read the rest of Bari’s article. It’s excellent but I also think it's important. I bring it up because I feel like it has parallels to O Death.
Last week, it felt like we reached the precipice where I’m not convinced that there’s anything other than fire and death on the other side of the chasm. My heart has been in a place similar to Bari Weiss’. Even outside of the context of Heine writing about the fall of the Church, the underlying thrust was that the old gods never leave. They’re always in the background.
There’s a certain amount of impotence one feels when they see the a storm on the horizon and feel like you can’t do anything about it. In Greek mythology, Cassandra was cursed to know the truth about the future. She knew what would happen. But, as much as she could tell and proclaim, there wasn’t anything that she could do about it.
Like Heine wrote, staring into the unknowingness of quarantine felt like watching one of the old Gods, maybe Hel since Heine was talking about the Nordics, walking across the plains and harvesting. As the months have gone by, I feel like the storm that I initially saw in COVID expanded into other areas of unrest, some more than justified, some through opportunism.
I tried to channel some of that frustration into O God. Too often I feel like I can see off into the future and not want it but know that it’s coming anyway. Death is always on the horizon. War, like the Rolling Stones sang, “is just a shot away”, and there’s always some sort of storm rolling in. (Have a listen to my favorite cover of Gimme Shelter by singer/songwriter Ashley Cleveland Her husband, Kenny Greenberg, is an amazing guitarist as well).
For all of the hype I try to give No_System, a lot of times, it feels like I’m not talking to or persuading anyone. I can influence the micro, but I feel like I have no power in the macro. That’s why I believe in trying to create open lines of communication. My fear is that as social media continues to break down into smaller and smaller bubbles, the dialogue will stop entirely.
The only way back from the precipice is to be able to see personhood and value in the ‘other”. It doesn’t mean we have to like everyone. I fully believe that you could hate everything about someone with every fiber of your being, (AND work against them ceaselessly), while still acknowledging that they’re human. (Note to the reader: I also admit that I have a long way to go in this area.)
I wouldn’t regularly use the term “brave” as a way to describe myself. I feel like the definition of bravery is making the choice to do something even though you’re afraid. I’ll admit that I’ve been a little terrified about writing this post. To quote myself,
“I worry about even rapping these words
Not knowing how interpretations will be heard
If I can’t get past even that
How are my actions going to disturb.”
All of these pieces, like Survival, the first track I put out last year, are meant, if anything, to let people know they’re not alone. I hope the sentiment and emotion on display here can help you to maybe give you some catharsis as well.