Wednesday, June 01, 2016

You and I

I suppose I should start with an apology for drowning, it seems odd to have to do, but for reasons that I somewhat understand, you seem to be holding a grudge against me for drowning. Trust me, when I slipped into the W____ River that night 19 years ago, I had no intention of drowning. It was not a suicide, it was a lark, a spur of the moment decision that tragically turned into the last decision I ever made. I drowned that night in Memphis, and it took nearly 5 days for my body to be found. I took my voice, and my talent out of the world, but it was by accident. We live in a culture that kills artists, it wants them to die, people that talk poetically are devalued, and while culture didn't kill me that night, the river did, it was bound to happen sooner rather than later.  Therefore, I apologize for drowning, I hope that you accept this letter as a mea culpa, and as our 'last goodbye.'


I was an artist, and I carried a light that you refused to carry yourself. You admired me and you let it stifle your art. We all do it, I did it, and you will do it again with someone else, but your art, while not music like mine, is still art. You let me carry the light that you were afraid to carry yourself. But, I drowned, and now it is up to you to pick up that light, and maybe carry for yourself. If you are lucky, and I hope to fuck you are, then you might even carry (if only a little way) for other people as well. Be the inspiration you wanted me to continue to be, you are still alive, and can do it much easier than I can. There are people who tell you regularly that you are a writer, you scoff, and pretend you're not, and maybe you believe that deep down in your soul. People tell you that it must be a terrible place inside your mind, and I get that. I understand that it really is a terribly confusing place inside there. There are these half-formed ideas screaming at you like backbench members of British Parliament trying to shout down the Prime Minister's speech that they disagree with. These ideas aren't arguing with you, they aren't fighting with you, they are pleading with you, "write me DOWN, godsdamnit.."

I understand you try, you do what you think is your best, when we both know you could do far, far better. You let the critic's stones and arrows wound you too deeply, and retreat into sullen silence, and refuse to write. By doing that you let them win, they silence you, and the light you need to be carrying is extinguished. Here's a little quote that explains it much better than I could, not that you didn't already know this, but sometimes we all need reminding of the obvious.

 "In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."

 It is like abusive parent, that adore the oldest child, but give them the worst of their behavior, be prepared to get it, accept it, and move on. It is one price you are going to have to pay, if you want to express yourself poetically, and try to create art.  It is not the only one, there will be others, and you will have to pay them as well. Maybe, all your art is just a dream your soul is having in order to reach out to other people in order to communicate with them from a safe distance. You are going to have to close that distance, and get close to a few of those people, and it's going to hurt. They are going to love you, adore you, and then condemn you, but never truly understand you, and that's fine. That is called living, and you have to do it, because I can't, I drowned.

Don't stay with me under these waves tonight, the river that took my life is mere miles from where you live right now. The city that was the last stop on the tour of my life, is where you are living yours. I just happened to get there about 6 years earlier than you did, you walk the same streets I did.  You have, I am certain, taken the time to find the places that you know I hung out, to visit, and ponder, in your anger, why I am not around to carry that light for you anymore. Don't give yourself up to the desperate trend of hero worship. I was no hero, and neither are you. But you can try to be, and maybe you will be to someone like I seem to be for you. More than likely, you won't ever be as "famous" as I was, and that's ok, you don't really want to be. You don't create mass art, you create personal art, don't want to be famous without content, that is as awful as awful can be. You don't use your physical voice, but you still have one. People have told you that when they read you, that they can hear your voice like you are talking to them, that my friend, is a quality to be admired, and exploited. If you are in their head, then you are halfway into their hearts.

Don't let those slings and arrows wound you too deeply, that you reach for that gun. There will be someone who finally loves you for real, when you are out of fuel and understanding, unfreeze your heart, and go get her. She won't just dawdle there in the middle distance waiting for you to get your shit together. She will be worth having, but you have to not be afraid. You might die a little in your art, and that's fine, art is, in many ways, dying in a very public, very poetic way. You will climb into an empty bed far, far too many nights, but those lonely nights will be worth it, they will teach you the value of the nights that she climbs into bed with you, if you are lucky. You will create many an artistic moment with her. Spend nights making love, stripping your ego down, expressing yourself wordlessly, collaborating on a moment that is inspirational in a way you can never imagine.

Pay the cost for the life of sin that your art (in many ways) forces you to lead. Good stories, like good songs, rarely come from working some office job for the majority of your adult life whilst shuffling paper, and people from one inbox to another. Don't let the fact that the rent is due deter you from living the live you art is going to demand of you. It is a demand, and it is a price you are going to have to pay, whether you like it or not. The rent, in the grand scheme of things, isn't.  You are certainly going to have to keep body and soul together, but don't sacrifice one for the benefit of the other. Of course, this is easy for me to say/write, for two reasons. One, I'm dead, I've felt the soil falling over my head and the cares of this mortal coil are no longer of any concern to me, Secondly, I had talent, and the guts to try to live by it. I am not so sure you do, and that, dream brother, is your tragedy to live, I am sorry for you and for it, but there is fuck all I can do about it. Even were I alive, and I know you really wish I was, we would have never crossed paths. Therefore, any help I could have provided you would have been minimal at best. This is, at the end of the day, your burden you are going to have to bear it.

As you stand there in the half light looking out upon the river that took my life, I hope you understand that you will never happen unless you choose to happen. Let the sea (river) take me again, say your last goodbye to me, let go of the resentment you have at me dying, go kiss her out of desire, not consolation, and carry the light I dropped in front of you. It must needs doing, and I can only hope you choose to do it. The risk is worth the reward, and when you die, and trust me you will, and it will be much too soon, someone like you might just look back upon your (wasted) life as well spent, look down at the light that you have dropped, pick it up, and carry it forward for you, for me, for all of us looking for a state of grace in our art.  

your dream brother,

JB














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