On December 4th, I wrote a blog titled Sometimes We Cry, as I shivered watching the rain on my social media newsfeed window. Perhaps I was seeking some drop of truth behind the streaming technics. But the scroll’s code kept washing away in the downpour. So, I softly shut my eyes and turned on the radio to let the flood of sounds and voices behind the signs and names wash over and carry me away.
I chartered a vessel to steer my writing when the radio couldn’t find the Frequency anymore: Alastair MacIntyre‘s “The Virtues, the Unity of a Human Life and the Concept of a Tradition.” My binoculars were blurry; maybe the Rearviewmirror would sharpen my sight or turn my gaze toward new horizons. In the following days, I continued the post, each day adding a track to the playlist and additional links from my feed — new voices joining the chorus on deck as the Band Played On.
As it happened, the entirety of the post beyond the original entry without additions was lost at sea. No treasure found, and all the dashed lines on the map washed away. But the sun rose over the horizon the next morning — and it’s time to welcome a new voyage. Starting out with that little scrap saved from the flood, here is my attempt to rewrite what was washed away from the first time I set sail — and also record a new playlist to sing in my heart at sea as I begin 2015’s Odyssey.
Sometimes We Cry (original content included with Track 1, “Sometimes We Cry” by Van Morrison, on A-Side)
If the narrative of our individual and social lives is to continue intelligibly — and either type of narrative may lapse into unintelligibility — it is always both the case that there are constraints on how the story can continue and that within those constraints there are indefinitely many ways it can continue.
– Alasdair MacIntyre, “The Virtues, the Unity of a Human Life and the Concept of a Tradition”
My playlist is often the heart and soul of my practice. You can scroll back to the “When Words Fail, Music Speaks” quotable quotes image on your Facebook newsfeed right about now. It’s easy to ignore all of those frequently posted platitudes. To pass on by without really noticing. And to end up feeling “abandoned in the wasteland.” But however strange this strange social media world we inhabit for some of our time is (and yes, I am aware I am skating toward a “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” territory here), if I don’t own it as worthy of attention, then I must admit to a whole lot of distraction (and dismissiveness and degeneration in effect). And that’s not the story that I want to write.
But words fail me at the moment. And so, I’ll do some Facebook newsfeed stream of consciousness and let these accounts drive the action of this chapter:
2. “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” by Bob Dylan
You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast
3. “Little Earthquakes” by Tori Amos
And I hate and I hate
4. “Life on Mars” by David Bowie
Now she walks through her sunken dream
To the seat with the clearest view
5. “Thank You” (cover by Chris Cornell, live version; original by Led Zeppelin)
Thanks to you it will be done
For you to me are the only one
Driving back from Boston with my husband and son after a wonderful Christmastime visit, we listened to “Memory Games” on TED Radio Hour. Among other speakers on the topic of the malleability of memory was Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who also won a Nobel Prize in Economics. B-Side is guided, in part, from his insights shared in the segment “How Do Experiences Become Memories?” I’ll note that the links were intentionally fished out and arranged Out of Time, as opposed to the streaming, (somewhat) linear presentation on A-Side.
All of us roughly know what memory is — sort of the storage of the past, such as we have it. It’s the storage of what we know. It’s the storage of our personal experiences. It’s a very big deal…
We tend to confuse memories with the real experience that gave rise to those memories…
There is an experiencing self who lives in the present and knows the present, is capable of reliving the past, but basically it has only the present. And then there is a remembering self…who maintains the story of our life…the remembering self is the storyteller…
What defines a story…are changes, significant moments and endings. Endings are very important…[We remember things based on] the peak and the end. There is a good evolutionary reason for this…[for an animal to store a memory] what matters was how bad the threat and whether the story ended well. That’s what the animal needs in order to plan the future, to decide whether to have that encounter again or to avoid it at all costs…
[Simple, everyday moments are] lost forever…Our psychological presence is said to be about 3 seconds long. Most of them don’t leave a trace. Most of them are completely ignored by the remembering self. And yet somehow you get the sense that they should count, that what happens during these moments of experience is our life…
I don’t think you can tell [what’s real and what’s not]. I mean all of it in a sense is some sort of reconstruction, except some reconstructions are better than others…I don’t think we can easily tell when we’re reconstructing and when we’re remembering…
Some memories really have the appeal of the visual perception…Doubting what you remember is a little less odd than doubting what you see, but it’s also a pretty odd experience because some memories come with a very compelling sense of truth about them. And that happens to be the case even when memories are not true…
– excerpts from Daniel Kahneman’s segment, “Memory Games”
1. “Tumbling Down” (cover version by Venus in Furs on the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack; original by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel)
Like a peppermint eaten away
Will I fight? Will I swagger or sway?
2. “Into the Black” (cover version by Chromatics; original by Neil Young)
There’s more to the picture
Than meets the eye.
Hey hey, my my.
Out of the blue and into the black
You pay for this, but they give you that
3. “I Shall Be Released” (cover version by Nina Simone; original by Bob Dylan and The Band)
They say everything can be replaced
They say every distance is near
So I remember every face
Of every man who put me here
4. “Cloudless” by Cranes
Like the things that never go away
And all the things you love
And all the moments that never end
And all the things you tried to say
You live up there
5. “Past the Mission” by Tori Amos
Past the mission
Behind the prison door
Past the mission
I smell the roses
6. “Only One” by Kanye West and Paul McCartney
How you doing?
I think the storm ran out of rain,
The clouds are moving.
Hello my only one remember…
You’ve got the world cause you’ve got love in your hands
And you’re still my chosen one
So keep on…one day you’ll understand
So hear me out
Bonus Track: an unrecorded, a cappella version of the last stanzas of Eurydice by H.D.
At least I have the flowers of myself,
and my thoughts, no god
can take that;
I have the fervour of myself for a presence
and my own spirit for light;
and my spirit with its loss
though small against the black,
small against the formless rocks,
hell must break before I am lost;
before I am lost,
hell must open like a red rose
for the dead to pass.