I love this cartoon:
I feel like Charlie Brown’s kindred spirit at the best of times (premature chrome-dome, no fashion sense, unrequited love for the little red-haired girl). This cartoon just cements it – tomorrow I go shopping for zig-zag shirts.
Mr. Schulz has posed a question for the ages. Does listening to depressing music make you sad, or do depressed people simply choose to listen to melancholy music?
Here’s my two cents worth on the matter. From my perspective (and I swear this isn’t meant to be a cop-out), it’s a bit of both.
I have always had a symbiotic relationship with my record collection. In many ways, it is my best friend. I’ve been told that I tend to put a noticeable distance between myself and other people, even my closest friends. I doubt that anyone knows my favourite colour (cobalt blue), or what I want to do when I retire (putter around a cabin in the mountains, watching wild creatures wander through the yard), or even what I find most attractive about a woman (her voice and what she has to say). The metaphorical wall I’ve erected around myself has been remarkably effective at limiting the number of emotional relationships I’ve shared with people.
But despite the impenetrable Fortress of Solitude, music is always right there at the centre of my soul.
My music is there when I’m out for a three-hour walk through aspen parkland. My music is there when I’ve had a particularly good day at work or a good night at hockey. My music is there as I sit around the campfire, summit a new pass on a hike, or wait in a departure lounge for a plane.
And, yes, music is there when I’m feeling blue. It waits for me with open arms and a reassuring embrace. It doesn’t judge. It doesn’t mock. It simply understands that not every day is going to be euphoria. It knows that someone who has to work so hard to suppress his roller-coaster of emotions just to stay on an even keel is going to melt down from time to time.
Today is an odd day. The calendar says it is springtime, but it’s been snowing since 4 a.m. The pavement is wet, while big wet flakes continue to accumulate on my back lawn, now 4″ thick. Maybe it’s the strange weather that is lending everything a sense of disorder. Something just seems off-kilter, out of balance, incomplete. I want to be somewhere else, anywhere else. There’s an emptiness, a void; a yearning and a burning that can’t be extinguished. Like the wise man once said:
I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields…
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for
Right after I post this meandering collection of words, I’m going to take the fourteen steps down to my basement, cue up the stereo, and re-establish my usual dent on the sofa. At times like these, my record collection is my salvation.
I can’t speak for everyone. But I know that when I’m feeling dislocated and disjointed, music helps to ground me. I don’t think it’s as simple as saying that depressed people listen to sad music, or the act of listening to sad music will depress someone. Reality is more complicated than simple cause and effect. I do think that there is something incredibly powerful about music, something that taps into our humanity. Something that makes us feel a little less lonely on a snowy Saturday night in April. Something that defies a proper explanation, but is still very real and profound. I think people in a certain mood are always going to gravitate toward a certain kind of music, just to remind themselves that someone else out there feels the same way. The music doesn’t depress them – it offers them a refuge. An arm around their torso and a head on their shoulder.
A quick check of iTunes will reveal the tracks you listen to the most. Apparently, the top of the Craven Hermit charts goes something like this:
- “England” by The National
- “Undisclosed Desires” by Muse
- “Lucky” by Radiohead
- “Adventures in Solitude” by the New Pornographers
- “How to Fight Loneliness” by Wilco
- “Mess” by Ben Folds Five
- “Transatlanticism” by Death Cab for Cutie
- “What I Have To Offer” by Eels
- “The Scientist” by Coldplay
- “Naked As We Came” by Iron & Wine
- “Both Sides Are Even” by The Boxer Rebellion
- “Drive” by R.E.M.
So, not exactly AC/DC’s greatest hits then! But there’s very few things in this world that I would take in trade for my relationship with these tunes.
I wonder if Charlie Brown ever managed to find a copy of Transatlanticism on vinyl. I bet he’d love it.