If I Had Someone Else’s Voice

Music is an extraordinarily important part of my life. I’ve never been good at creating music myself, but I need it around me all the time and I’ve always been drawn to musical people. I have dance parties to bad ’80s songs in my kitchen. I like going on road trips by myself, because I turn them into massive sing-a-longs. I associate certain songs with certain people, and I like being able to connect to people through shared musical taste.

But it’s more than that.

I realized something recently about my relationship to music, and I wondered if it held true for other people. Then I read this quote from Frank Ocean: “When you’re happy, you enjoy the music, but when you’re sad, you understand the lyrics.”

And that’s exactly it. I usually connect most strongly to music, and particularly to lyrics, when I’m struggling.

Case in point:

Good News for People Who Love Bad News by Modest Mouse was released on April 6, 2004.

A Ghost is Born by Wilco was released on June 22, 2004.

I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning by Bright Eyes was released on January 24, 2005.

I feel like if you listen to these three albums, you’ll know who I am. And you’ll probably know me better than you would from years of conversation or spending any amount of time with me. I’m in “We Are Nowhere and It’s Now.” I’m in “Hummingbird.” I’m in “World at Large.”

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Even if things end up a bit too heavy

[1] I saw this on a tumblr post recently:

“Depression is humiliating. It turns intelligent, kind people into zombies who can’t wash a dish or change their socks. It affects the ability to think clearly, to feel anything, to ascribe value to your children, your lifelong passions, your relative good fortune. … You alienate your friends because you can’t comport yourself socially, you risk your job because you can’t concentrate, you live in moderate squalor because you have no energy to stand up, let alone take out the garbage. You become pathetic and you know it. And you have no capacity to stop the downward plunge…” (complete post here.)

I mostly can’t relate to this post at this point in my life, but I have in the past, and I do find honesty in the words. (This is also a relatable take on depression.) I could probably be diagnosed as depressed, although it’s been years since I last went to a therapist, and I’m highly skeptical of psychiatric practices and the pharmaceutical industry. I can tell when I’m being manipulated, and I’m resistant to it in a way that most people must not be.

I do take depression screening tests regularly, though—morbid curiosity—and I usually fall somewhere in the category of mild depression, even on good days. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about philosophy and my place in the profession/discipline. The two are not unrelated. Of course, this isn’t true of all people who do work in philosophy, but it is true of me. And Foucault. And John Stuart Mill. And William James. And Nietzsche. (And Boris Yeltzin, oddly.)

Depression screening tests always trip me up on this question: “Do you think your future is hopeless?”

Well, of course I find my future to be hopeless. I find everybody’s future to be hopeless. I’m a tiny little piece of matter in a vast and indifferent universe, and someday I’m going to die. And you can give me all the platitudes you’d like about carving our your place, sharing your life with people who care about you, doing what you can with the time you’ve got, but I don’t work that way.

There’s a reason why most people don’t process their thoughts the way I do. Most people don’t think about the big picture, and that’s the first place I go. The big picture is not a happy one, but it’s not a sad one either. It’s indifferent. And that’s okay.

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