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But there are tides in the body. Morning meets afternoon. Borne like a frail shallop on deep, deep floods… She went under.
So much of the inspiration for my music comes from literature. I read something that hits at a nerve in my body or mind or soul and wonder, “Why?”. Sometimes writing songs is simply my way of asking that question and exploring it in new ways.
I read the line above in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and, like with Baldwin, I remember the moment vividly. I looked up from the book and had a whole series of thoughts: if the moon orders the waters of the earth, and if humans are 60% water, are there tides within us also being ordered by nature? Does that explain our emotions or instincts or innate knowledge or sense of purpose? Is there a bigger picture here, in the way we are so connected to nature? Does it tell us what we need to do? If so, are we listening?
It made me think about “finding your passion”, “living your purpose”, and “achieving your dreams”. I like to think of inner tides as the intuition we have about which directions to go in life. But while I’m drawn to this ideology, I’m also terrified by it. It assumes that humans have innate demands placed on them to find and do one or a very limited number of things, and if they don’t do those things, they’ve wasted their lives. I’ve felt this pressure acutely. If there are tides within us, pushing and pulling below the surface, shouldn’t our lives be spent trying to follow them?
This song exposes my fear of what happens when the tides are ignored. If I can’t figure out what they are trying to tell me, or if it’s too hard to try, does that mean I will necessarily succumb to a meaningless life? I’m scared that its demands should be obvious, and that I am a fool for not following them. And that one day I will regret so much of my life because I wasn’t brave enough to try.
But honestly? I’m not sure I believe all this anymore. In some way, it seems, we do have tides within us. But the song portrays everyday life as a kind of betrayal of them. It assumes that people who haven’t “figured it out” have done it wrong, as if anyone could ever figure it out. I wield purpose as a weapon and ascribe meaninglessness to people who do not follow my ideology.
If there is such a thing as hypocrisy, if humans can ever really be faulted for failing to live up to ideals they were never made to reach, then I hate hypocrisy. I strive to be aligned, ultimately with whatever it is inside me compelling me forward. But living life isn’t meaningless. Meaning is made, whether we know we’re doing it or not, whatever kinds of lives we live. Tides, though powerful, are also mysterious.
And maybe it’s okay if the mystery eludes us.
Tune in next Friday for the next installment in my Companion Stories Series for the song Nero.
Words are the backbone of my music. They often reference powerful ideas that strike me in my readings or develop from my life experiences. The creative expression of these ideas sometimes begs for musical form, and other times it comes out on the page. Here is a selection of my lyrics, poems, essays and other writings.