Monday, February 16, 2009

Which underlies everything

Mark/BP (Bass Player) says my fatal flaw is a stubborn belief in the underlying goodness of humanity. Maybe he's right.

I did write the lyrics to "Where the Living Starts" -- lovingly known around the office as "The Asshole Song" -- whose chorus is:

Everyone in the world is an asshole
But underneath has a really good heart
So let's air it all out then let it all go
This is where the living starts

These lyrics came out of the loss of a very important friendship in my life, and my ongoing struggle over the next several years to reconcile the substantial beauty and joy of that friendship with the betrayals that finally ended it forever. I asked myself over and over, how could both be true? Was it the best friendship of my life or was it the most terrible deception in my life? How could it be both? The answer I finally accepted was that it could be both because human beings are both: "We cheat and deny, we scowl and deride, but we can still choose the loving cup."

Loving people and accepting love from other people is hard. Maybe it's the hardest thing. We are fundamentally separate, so the question of whether or not we can believe in other people -- whether it is possible to bridge the distance between us -- is ultimately something we cannot know. What do we have to go on? We have the other's word, our own self-knowledge, and our understanding of people in general -- trusting in any of these things requires a leap of faith.

Maybe it's a foolish leap. Maybe it will be my undoing, as BP tells me it will. What I know about myself is that underneath all my bullshit is a pure desire to connect. What I believe I understand about people in general, and what I really mean when I sing the chorus of "Where the Living Starts," is that this desire is our common bond, no matter how many ways we find to refuse it. I believe in the end, when we give our final words before the executioner, those words will be of love.

So the only thing left to question? The words themselves -- the word of the other. So much rests on this -- our ability to communicate with each other, our willingness to speak and accept truth. But then, there's nothing on which I'm more likely to stake my life than words.

(Okay, maybe love, but then, as I think I've just concluded, for me words are love, just like food is love to my Italian cook friend Nick.)

Those who know me won't be surprised this is where I ended up: words matter. Any blog entry on any topic runs the risk of ending up here, if I am the one writing it.

I read a line in a book this morning -- I'd Like, by Amanda Michalopoulou (which I recommend highly). "I'd entered hundreds of homes whose owners had endless shelves of books and believed in words more than anything else in the world." I read that line in the middle of the page and felt less alone in the world -- more connected to those hundreds of fictional people, to the character who'd met them, to the writer who told me it was so, and through her, to humanity.

This, too, is why I write, whether I am writing lyrics, blog entries, stories, or a few words scribbled on a coaster I dug out of my purse to tuck under someone's windshield wiper. This relentless word-love comes from the same source as the rush I feel singing for a bouncing, dancing crowd, which is the same source of the lightning that strikes my core when I meet the gaze of the person I love, which is nothing less than the desire to connect, which underlies everything, which is -- you got it -- where the living starts.


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