There are two things that I turn to when trying to make sense of myself, other people, or the world at large: I clean every accessible surface in my house and I do so while listening to my most loved albums.
These are not uplifting artists, nor are they uplifting albums. However, it isn’t altogether unusual to take comfort in music some would call disconcerting or depressing. As a matter of fact, two of my favorite authors have written about the practice.Take, for example, what Stephen Chobsky in his infamous work The Perks of Being a Wallflower said about sentiment transmitted via sine waves, though in context what he was speaking of was not on the surface “happy”:
. . . And I thought about how many people have loved those songs. And how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs. And how much those songs really mean. I think it would be great to have written one of those songs. I bet if I wrote one of those songs, I would be very proud. I hope the people who wrote those songs are happy. I hope they feel it’s enough. I really do because they’ve made me happy. And I’m only one person. (Stephen Chobsky)
I also immediately thought about what another favorite author said in the text of his novel about a group of three consummate music snobs which was later turned into a movie, High Fidelity:
People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands —literally thousands— of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss. (Nick Hornby)
Since then I have been wondering this: am I attracted to these artists — these musicians as well as these authors because I am sensitive and clearly so too are they, or did I happen upon them, therefore cultivating some extra sensitivity within myself? In a time when there is much lamenting that no one knows how to express any feeling but rudeness, it’s a question worth pondering, I think.
As for the answer, I’m not sure. Sensitivity is often rebuked and avoided in interpersonal relationships, feelings often stuffed down and ignored within our own selves. The point, and the helpful thing that these other artists do for us, is that they give voice to the things that we cannot dare to, even in the context of our own internal monologues. It’s too frightening to acknowledge its presence there, nevermind allow ourselves to “say” what we would like to there; easier to sing along to our truth articulated by someone else. That’s as good a place to start as any, I suppose, so I’ll try to sing loudly.