The Dark Night of the Soul *Revised*

“… There’s no fighting the ways of the universe. In the grand scheme of things, he is insignificant, and what lies in store for him is what lies in store for us all – a story of increasing humiliation.”

 “Oh shoot”, I thought to myself, “I hope no one saw that”. Cautiously, I peered over my shoulder. There sat a boy on an exercise machine; smiling – possibly even laughing, but he may have just been breathing hard. I seriously need to remember not to dance in the break room while waiting for my lunch to heat up in the microwave. But it’s something I can’t help – music, rhythms, and any type of sound can send my body in to a subconscious state of movement. It usually starts with my head, pulsing back and forth; soon my shoulders side to side, and before you know it my hips are swaying left, right, and all around.

Richard Miller, author of The Dark Night of the Soul, summarizes a variety of various author’s works, (novels, personal memoirs, etc) one of which was Martin Amis’s novel, The Information. In reference to the quote above, I don’t want to be ‘him’; ‘him’ being, Richard Tull, a character in The Information. I don’t want my life to be a story of increasing humiliation. But the more I read about The Information, the more I realized I am most definitely ‘him’. In my case, however, I am not embarrassed by my choice to write. Amis makes one really consider why we continue to write in this world or even keep the literate arts around, by giving us a glimpse of our world through the eyes of his Richard Tull; a man who so desperately wants to change society with his written word. An honorable aspiration, don’t you think? But the more Richard fails to become published, the more he is convinced that everything he does is worthless. Why bother to read and write if it is all in vain?

“Back in school they never taught us what we needed to know; like how to deal with despair, or someone breaking your heart. For twelve years I’ve held it all together but a night like this is begging to pull me apart. I played it quiet, left you deep in conversation. I felt un-cool and hung out around the kitchen. I remember I kept thinking that I know you never would, and now I know I want to kill you like only a best friend could.” (Brand New, Seventy Times 7)

For me, it is not in vain. For the majority of my life, I never made any lasting ‘human connections’, which Miller claims we need. Many have attempted to fill this space with various mediums; books – fiction and non-fiction, poetry, movies, music, TV shows…  Music caught me first. There was a definite space in my life that was empty and lonely; in need of fulfillment. That’s when my good friend, Nick Peterson, introduced me to a whole new sound. “You’ve never heard of Brand New?” he asked, “They’re my all-time favorite band! I promise you’ll love them”, and I did. I loved them, and still love them. I love their lead singer, Jesse Lacey. He is a brilliant mastermind behind a microphone, spewing out lyrics of depth and proportions that no one has ever reached before. His ability to connect with anyone is almost unreal. One may think “They’re just another band”, but then you find a song that hits you harder than anything else has, and before you know it their albums are the new soundtrack to your life. They send my whole body into convulsions of head-banging, plie-ing, hip-thrusting, pirouetting, collapsing, tondu-ing, back-bending motions. The combination of the music and my body’s urge to dance was so overwhelming, yet I knew that space was filled. The cavity in my chest was so full; the space between my heart and ribcage literally disappears when the melodic tones of music enter my ears.

However, then Miller continued with, “… We no longer live in a world where human action can be explained. We have plenty of information; it just doesn’t amount to anything”

And he’s right. I can’t explain my reactions to music – they just happen. Even more, they won’t amount to anything. I’m most certainly not an accomplished ballet dancer.  Also, my deep internal connection with Brand New and Jesse Lacey means nothing to anyone else in the world. If that’s not bad enough (forget feeling sorry for me), what is even worse is people whose music and dance HAVE had effects on the world are already forgotten. I’m willing to bet the names Marie Taglioni and Phillipe Taglioni mean nothing to anyone except well accomplished ballet dancers, and those who have invested time into studying dance history. Marie Taglioni probably felt her intricate footwork would be remembered for centuries due to the way it revolutionized ballet. Her father, Phillipe, probably thought that he would always be remembered and be a household name for creating the pointe shoe, which changed the way choreographers could dictate dance and expression. Furthermore, what about Tchalkovsky? His musical compositions created such brilliant tones for choreographers to work with that the overall product was unlike anything audiences around the world had ever witnessed. These people have done things with their lives that many consider incredibly important and successful; but still amount to nothing. No one knows who they are. Miller points out at the end of his essay, that even he won’t be remembered, even though his writing has been a learning tool in schools. Eventually, even he will disappear from the minds of scholars.

“We live in the Information Age and all the information is telling us that whatever we have done, whatever we are doing, and whatever we plan to do will never have any lasting significance”

                It’s horrible to think that something that makes me feel so complete and connected is essentially worth nothing. Everything Brand New and Jesse Lacey have worked for will eventually dissolve away. There will come a time when their albums will no longer be for sale, when their tours have closed, and no one knows their name. There are so many people on this planet it’s only logical to think, “Of course I won’t impact everyone”. But for me, that keyword is ‘everyone’. Who cares about ‘everyone’? What matters in the end is you, and if you feel you have impacted at least ‘someone’. Miller knows his writing has been used in schools, but he doesn’t know those students. He has no idea how his writing has effected them. All he knows is that someone has read his written word; it has left people feeling happy, sad, completely changed or not affected at all. Sooner or later the works written by ‘Richard Miller’ will be nothing and he knows it. He knows he’s insignificant and yet he continues to write. THIS is why those gifted enough to mold words onto paper ought to continue to write. The impact the arts can have on lives is unique; you never know how it will turn out. However, we know from history the effects that it can have. Bibles, propaganda during war, love poems for a new crush, and suicide notes left behind for loved ones; they all leave people with a different feeling. Journals are window to the past. People say, “A picture’s worth a thousand words”, but anyone can fake a smile. Only words themselves truly describe the way a person feels. They teach us right from wrong, how to fix something that’s broken, or how to find our way when lost.

So if we really are just a blur in time and spec in space, why do we do what we do? Why do people commit suicide? Why do some people have all the riches in the world while others suffer and scramble to make it through another day? Why are so many people unhappy while others feel they have all the happiness in the world? Miller states, “The course of any given individual life cuts through or around a set of institutions charged with responsibility for nurturing both a sense of self and a sense of connection between self and society – the family, the school, and, for some, the church or the house of worship.” He mentions all of these things that are so integrated into our personal lives and societies life. They can be separate or together; hopefully an equal balance of each. These are the things that keep us going – the reason we do everything we do. We want to please our family, we want to make friends, we want to do well in school, and for some, want to develop a connection with special deities. Yes, we are a spec in space, but we are a beautiful spec in space. Perhaps even the prettiest. Our names will be forgotten, but we have all been given the chance to impact someone else, who will hopefully impact another. Nick Peterson did this for me; Brand New did this for me, and as Miller says, “The only way out is through.” You have to get through something to get somewhere.


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