Knowing What It’s Like: Why Jeff Tweedy’s “Warm” Made Me Cry

jeff tweedy_warm

WARM. Credit: dBpm Records

This isn’t an album review. This a story about a person who was curled up on a couch, severely sleep-deprived, full of anxiety about life and death, listening to Jeff Tweedy’s Warm for the first time.

I’ve written about Wilco before. About how their music and Jeff Tweedy’s lyrics are one of the few things in the world that makes me feel tethered to it, not alien. About how one of their songs, lyrics I have tattooed on my body, saved my life in a not-quite-metaphorical way.

It sounds odd to say, but I forgot that I’m probably always going to be a little bit in need of saving until I started listening to Warm.

Warm is mostly a quiet record, more folk heavy than rock, with songs built around the acoustic guitar. And it’s easy to listen to, until it punches you in the gut.

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Semicolons, Suicide, and Permanent Reminders

how-to-use-a-semicolonI don’t talk much about my tattoos.

Since none of them are visible, I’m not sure those of you who know me even know I have tattoos.

If you ask me about any of them, I’ll probably give you the lighthearted story, the surface story, what they look like from the outside. One of them I’ll even laugh off as a joke. Of course, they’re all of those surface things, too. The decision to get any of them was pure whim. (And, I assure you, you don’t get a tattoo on an ass cheek without having a sense of humor.)

But underneath, in those layers of dermis stained with black ink, they mean something to me. They’re symbols and words that represent pieces of myself.

You see, they’re all things I’m afraid of forgetting.

They’re all things I’ve permanently inked on my body so as not to forget who I am.

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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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