Wednesday, June 13, 2007

a moment of clarity

I know I tend to bluster here a bunch and complain about things almost endlessly. Largely this blog is just the pointless grumbling of a guy who's too cowardly to tell people off in real life. I mean, why would the world care if someone cut me off, if I got a traffic ticket, if I'm sleepy from working too much, etc.? In short, they don't.

But, beneath all of the complaining and crap that comes from me on a daily basis, there's the heart of a very susceptible humanist and a hopeless romantic. It's rare that I let my guard down completely and show just how much things truly and deeply effect me. Amanda sees it quite frequently, but the rest of the world doesn't. I think it's part of being an artist. It's common to say that artists are tasked with creating something out of nothing, but I think that does artists a disservice. Artists create something out of themselves, sculpting something new from a wellspring of emotions and personal experiences. As far as I'm concerned, that wellspring is mine alone, my source of inspiration and my creative capital and I guard it closely.

That said, every now and again, something affects me in a way that kicks down my barriers and strips away any and all pretenses that I may have about myself that I'm indifferent, ambivalent, or apathetic to the world around me.

This morning, as I drove into work along the same path that I take every day, a random sequence of events touched me deeply and broke my heart. I was listening to our local alternative rock station when a new song came on by a band called Plain White T's. The song, "Hey There Delilah," is so deceptively simple. Just a solo voice, a single acoustic guitar, and light string accompaniment. It's an approach that's been done so many times in the past and can be so trite if done wrong. But this song ... the lyrics to this song are so pure. Such a sincere statement of longing, of love, and of optimism. With each line of the song, I could feel it soaking into me, saturating deep into my bones.

Hey there Delilah
I've got so much left to say
If every simple song I wrote to you
Would take your breath away
I'd write it all

It pulled me in, and I found myself smiling lost in a wash of sense memories. Not specific events, mind you. Just feelings. Just an overall memory of what it feels like to be young and in love, what it feels like to be completely enraptured in another human being, just the relief and warm security of knowing that I'm loved.

And as the song continued, I simply slipped deeper into this mode of simply giving myself over completely to the influence of the song and its effects on me.

A thousand miles seems pretty far
But they've got planes and trains and cars
I'd walk to you if I had no other way
Our friends would all make fun of us
And we'll just laugh along because we know
That none of them have felt this way

And it was then, as I turned onto Lombard Street, with those last two lines still seeping into me, that I passed a skinny skeleton of a man standing on the curb. He was bald, lanky, his over-sized clothes hung from his body. His face was contorted in pain with his mouth wrenched into a wide-open frown, some sort of silent moaning. His arms twisted as if trying to tear themselves from his body and his hands were clawing at his own stomach. No one paid any attention to him as they passed by him on the street.

And we'll just laugh along because we know
That none of them have felt this way

There before me was the dichotomy of the human condition, pure love and pure loss mashed together through my windshield in the middle of another random drive into work. I'm not exaggerating when I say that my stomach clenched like I'd been hit in the gut. I felt compassion for this man that I rarely feel for anything, compassion driven by the waves of appreciation I'd been experiencing just seconds earlier for my own life.

Sitting here a few hours later, I find that I can't get the image of that man out of my head. And yet, strangely, I can't seem to shake the warmth from that song either. I suppose I shouldn't fight either. I don't know how to create a piece of art that would be able to express what I felt at that exact moment this morning. But I know that I'll file that moment way and draw from it some point later from my wellspring of inspiration.

1 comment:

Kyle said...

Just wait till you have your first child. I don't know if your wife and you want to have kids, but if you do get ready for a lot of these similar emotional awakenings. I'm a fairly new Dad (Bridget is 15 months old) and in the 15+ months since Bridget was born, I've watched, what seems to be, endless reports on children who have been mistreated, even abandoned. Santa Maria, Ca (30 minutes from our house); infant found in the back seat of an abandoned car only days after being born. Somewhere in Texas; infant placed in a microwave as a form of punishment and the Dad, if you can call him a Dad, even turned it on for 10 seconds. His wife coincidentally is blaming the Devil for her husbands' actions, but that's another blog entry for another day, haha. I won't torture your emotional center by including links. Of course I usually hear about these atrocities as I sit at my desk taking a break and making the mistake of checking news sites on the web.

Where I live, a woman has finally gone to jail for running a daycare and locking the kids in cages for hours. Every morning when my wife and I drop Bridget off at the daycare, I cringe. "How can I know if our daycare is a good daycare?" I keep thinking about how sad the irony is that we can only have so many kids. I'm not the type who wanted many kids, two at most, maybe. But our kids are our only chance to get it right, to save their lives, to give them the love and support and education they need to avoid the ugly sides of life. Imagine the baby in the car, 8 weeks old and already sentenced to a hard life. Under state custody, foster homes, if the parents do finally regain custody they don't sound like the kind of people who will offer the child anything other than a life of bare minimums…just enough to keep the state from taking the baby again.

Then I drive back to our town. We pick up Bridget from the daycare. She's happy and clean and smells like the outdoors. We get home, and Bridget sez, "Bye Bye" just cuz I'm putting my coat on to go clean up the dog poo in the back yard so that she can have a nice big, clean lawn to play on. It's in those moments that I get really sad. I realize that I can't save the worlds children. I don't have the room, the money, the skills. Ironically the more kids a person has the less time they can spend with their children. Especially living in SB where it's dammed expensive to raise a family on an artists pay. So this is it. This is my chance to save one child and I owe it to her and her kids and their kids to do it right. Maybe I can help save one of them from becoming "a skinny skeleton of a man standing on the curb, clawing at his own stomach." And for those people already lost, looking for help (/need), Bridget, Jen and I will be at the local shelter doing all we can. Thanks for a great post.

And by now I'm sure you're saying, "Who da hell?" Haha, Fellow GANGster, we met a couple of times at E3/GDC. Great Blog you have here, haha.