You were sharing a good conversation with a new friend, over two cups of hot tea at a local hipster café, around two a.m. after a Star Slinger concert.
And inevitably the conversation led to tastes in music (well, in all truth it was you who led it there, but you’d rather forget that detail and avoid regretting it).
You were interested in your new friend’s tastes because he certainly shares taste with you in some areas, so maybe he does in others as well. As it turns out, he does! And this delighted you, but then of course your question was echoed back. And you didn’t have the forethought to expect this because you weren’t in the answering position.
Very plainly and very selfishly, you wanted nothing more than to get to know this person sitting across from you. You wouldn’t have liked the question yourself, but you had yet to identify with him enough to consider yourself in his shoes. At that point, you were still trying to explore shared territory and find grounds over which to identify….
That’s why it was an act of selfishness, because it demonstrates your inability to include into your realm of identification those who are not ostensibly like yourself, which is also your realm of care. That your standards for relatability are so scarce, and that you only seem to care about those with whom you relate, shows off just how petty you are.
But hey, don’t get hung up on that! Seriously, you’re beginning to give yourself the impression that you’re a depressed wreck.
And wouldn’t that be, like, a total bummer, heavy, dude, and like, totally depressing?
What they say must be true: “When a depressed person realizes he’s depressed, he isn’t happy about it.”
Anyway, back to taste in music. You’ll deal with that later on or repress it like usual.
So he asks you who your favorites are. And you go off for a minute about how hard a time you have at trying to condense all the music you love down into a neat, digestible list—and how hard it is to choose all-time favorites, or even recent favorites, when every song and album is a unique experience to you—and how you blah, blah, blah, other bullshit filler that’s probably true but you were really just stalling off making any committed decisions.
Then you go on for a few minutes about music that you remember really liking when you heard it because it was so new to you then and introduced you to so much and really expanded your mind and that maybe these artists would be better termed “influential on your taste in music” rather than “best examples of” your taste in music because etc., etc., and once more you unintentionally produced a clever way to avoid directly answering the question.
Thankfully, your new friend was compassionate and said he understood where you were coming from in everything you said. And you really appreciated being let off the hook, especially in spite of the fact that you were originally the one to cast the line.
But for your friend you did name two artists who sculpted your ears: Beethoven and Daft Punk. By saying “Beethoven” you were furtively dodging the need to admit you don’t know the names of the influential artists whose pieces drive Disney’s Fantasia, whether or not Beethoven is actually among them. And by saying “Daft Punk” you were trying to sum up your experience discovering electronic music.
Well, you didn’t have answers then. But,
You’re happy to be able to report that has changed! A band requiring the introduction “favorite” has finally occurred to you! You’re not sure how long this will last, but it’s true for now, and ‘for now’ is good enough for you for now. So! Your favorite band is … (drumroll:) Arcade Fire! And your favorite album is The Suburbs!
And yes, you do anticipate looking back on this fact in due time and lamenting the existential cliché that you are. But,
Everything about where you are these days—spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally, intellectually—is keenly reflected in their music. You can’t ignore it and you don’t want to.
Arcade Fire is grim, austere, and even occasionally pessimistic. When you connect most with it, it summons apocalyptic visions of the present to your mind. You feel angry and called to action, and Arcade Fire carves out anthems of that disaffection! But simultaneously Arcade Fire bristles all over in hope and awe. Compassion covers the album like skies cover the universe in a starry, shimmering gauze.
To feel certain that the lovely fire of goodwill is still burning even in the hard rain of this world and even in the airless rooms of our hearts. To know that no matter how badly it burns us, we cannot put out this fire. To feel free to trust that no matter how well we cover our eyes, goodwill is giving light just as steadily….
The beauty of this belief as it is mournfully and swellingly told by Arcade Fire … resonates with you. And try not to forget that.
Next time somebody asks you about your favorite bands, at least you’ll have the option of replying with a decent attempt at candor.
Also, if you wanna get better about your depression, maybe you ought to start seeking some advice about it. Just a suggestion.
Also also, don’t you think listening to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata while you write about depression could be a touch too self-indulgent… ? Haha.
something depressing that happened some time ago
The car in front of you finally pulls forward, so you turn your key in the ignition and turn your lights back up. But suddenly you see the car in front of you, stopped, mere feet away from where it was. So you slump back in your seat.
It’s a little past three a.m.
You have to wait a while more before you’re able to bring your window in line with the microphone screen.
Eventually that time comes and you roll forward, and you quickly turn down your music, The Fall of Man by The Middle East, just as the climactic second chorus begins to roll in. You change your mind and change it over to the radio. You know when you turn it back, it will automatically adjust to a few seconds before where you left off; that way, you can enjoy the beginning of the chorus again.
You flip down the switch for your window, and hold off a second before venturing your voice into the screen: “Hello?” You clear your throat, noticing the funny way your voice lifted at ‘-lo?’.
“… Be with ya in a moment!” replies a light, male tenor.
“Alright,” you say in instant condolence, not even registering the likelihood that this response went unheard.
You wonder if you should take this opportunity to turn your CD back on, but decide against it. Instead you surf the radio for a tolerable station and settle on the local pop-channel. The saxophone is just picking up on Alexandra Stan’s Mr. Saxobeat.
After a brief period, “May I take your order?” spills out of the speaker.
“Yes,” you say, eying the bright advertisements on the translucent menu-board, “I’ll have a McRib please, the meal, and to drink I’d like….” You search the picture list of soft drinks for the perfect choice. None stand out, so you say, “I’d like a Sprite.” because Sprite sometimes reminds you of ginger ale.
The meal displays on the screen and the cashier rejoins the conversation, “What would you like to drink with that?”
You blink and smile, and say again, “I’d like a Sprite please … and uh,”
The drink displays and you look at the McRib again. And it’s as if your hunger has given you greedy, green glasses to look through. So, metaphorically, you let your glasses slide down your nose and look back at the picture with skepticism. You ask the cashier, “Are the McRibs good?”
The cashier says, “What?”
And you say, “I’m asking you your opinion on the McRibs. Are they good?”
Then the cashier hesitates and says, bashfully, “I … I uh … I don’t eat this.”
So you laugh and decide, “Well, I’ll have another McRib, just the sandwich.”
The sandwich order displays, the cashier says something you don’t quite catch, and you send your thanks out the window before you pull around to stop behind the car from earlier.
You go to put the CD back on, but interrupt yourself and remember to raise your window. Now you’re fee to turn up the volume (or free from the risk that turning it up will bother anyone). So the second chorus of The Fall of Man descends on your car and sweeps away a part of you. And it is loud.
And it is sweet, and bitter too—like the best hot tea, like the Old Testament, and like the suffering light of a cold, white morning! But not even one of these analogies occurs to you at the time, true as they are…. No, you are far too enfolded by the sounds surrounding you.
By the time your ears are hearing the notes of the coda, the car in front of you is driving off and you are driving forward. The cashier slides the window back, and at once several things strike you (mentally). But in order for this to happen something has had to happen already: namely, a failure to strike you.
Your mind never attached a mental image to the disembodied voice that had talked to you! It never even approached that next step! Evidently, your mind was focused on feeding you instead. The McDonald’s ordering-process is so unchallenging and so streamlined, and your mind is so anxious for and prone to relief-seeking that it hypnotized you instantly And so, coming to the window, a depersonalized person confronts you.
Your mind has left you to negotiate this deep cognitive gap without even thinking about it.
Immediately every detail of his appearance meets your eyes. He is a young man, he is close to your age (just like most people in this college town), he is thickset, he is black, he wears his hair in a kind of faux-hawk, he wears glasses too, and he has to wear a uniform: and everything, his age, race, face, hair, it all catches you off-guard!
And from out of this living, breathing, human being came a voice—visibly formed by the lips, teeth, and tongue of a moving mouth. “It’ll be seven twenty-four.” He says with a silly smile.
And you smile too. You laugh because it’s a little dizzying. You feel like
[Recent insert: Honestly, you haven’t reread everything you’ve written heretofore, to use a formal term. And honestly, you aren’t intending to.
The point of all this is that it took something as meaningless and yet ironically meaningful as the interpersonal landscape of your local McDonald’s drive-thru to awaken you to the disconcerting truth that you fail impressively at considering other people, to the extent that you subconsciously deprive everyone of any shred of humanity.
And so on, and so forth, communicating the ultimate asshole you are.
And who is Alexandra Stan?
Whatever. The point after the point is that you really ought to take everything less seriously, because you’re totally freaked out over negligible details.]
You are wondering:
That sympathy when you were ordering was so instant, so then … was it unreal?
Your mind conjured compassion quickly, thoughtlessly, and that can’t be good … can it? Real sympathy and real compassion are not easily come by, so then what was this… ?
[Recent insert: … Hmm.]