Nietzsche’s last action before he went insane was to collapse to his knees and embrace a horse who had fallen in the streets of Turin. Nietzsche was overcome with sympathy, pity and feeling for this creature that day and it seems only too appropriate that such a man as he, who had sought to remove human emotion from all things, showed such overwhelming human emotion in that moment. Nietzsche made a philosophy from condemning pity as an act of weakness and Christianity as a religion of pity, and yet his final act before going mad was one of vaulting pity and sympathy. To embrace a dying horse and weep openly in public - oh tell us what to make of this, oh you ubermenschen!
At the time of this Nietzsche was attempting to reevaluate all values; to systematically come up with a philological system of defining morality in a post-God world, as he saw it. But, as it happens, for all Nietzsche fought against God, God, in the end, seemed to overcome him. For the great war against pity and sentiment that Nietzsche spent most of his life waging, to have it all end in the tearful embrace of an animal, seems to me, to be an act of God touching him directly. After this incident Nietzsche was institutionalized and declared certifiably insane.
Nietzsche denied God, famously saying that God was dead, and took on the task of reevaluating morality. And yet, who can do the work of God? How many men have since thought as Nietzsche did? How many of us out there currently today think as Nietzsche did? More than ever there are multitudes! We are all quite sure that we are capable of devising moralities to suit us: sexual moralities, substance use moralities, work ethic moralities, familiar moralities - essentially whatever morality we can think of - we’re all quite sure that we can make them fit in a way that will maximize our own immediate pleasure and gratification at the same time. We seek to redefine words like duty, fidelity, justice, chastity, purity and faith in ways that will fit whatever evaluation of morality we have made as of that moment, that will maximize our own fleeting idea of what the “Will to Power” is.
In our modern age so many of us continue to believe that God is dead… and yet, in the end, what makes us think that we won’t go as insane as Nietzsche did for taking on this belief? At some point God touches us all and brings us to our knees before Him, His power, His strength and His love. This moment can come in the streets of Turin beside a dying horse, on the death bed during our last days as we see, as if for the first time, the eyes and hearts of our families (of those who brought us into the world and those we have brought into the world) or at any time in between - but I tell you - it comes. I tell you this too: God is real, and He has made wonderful codes for us to live by. We cannot make anything better than our God has made them for us already. Let us all be wise. Let us all stop trying to do what does not need to be done. Let us stop before we, like Nietzsche, lose our minds as well.
I spoke to you with tightly shut eyes, and felt like crying. My love for you was the throbbing, welling warmth of tears. That is exactly how I imagined paradise: silence and tears, and the warm silk of your knees.
Just like a bird that sings up the sun
In a dawn so very dark
Such is my faith for you
Such is my faith
And all the world’s darkness can’t swallow up
A single spark
Such is my love for you
Such is my love
There is a kingdom
There is a king
And he lives without
And he lives within
- N. Cave
I said I’d base the remainder of my twenties on whatever I felt after hearing Trouble Will Find Me. One of the songs from the album that has connected with me the most is Heavenfaced. Three years ago I said that High Violet seemed to be an album about longing to go home and struggling with the idea of what and where home was (or if it existed at all). It was a New York album in many ways; living and dying in New York but daydreaming of some idea of safety and wholeness one might experience by leaving New York. Listening to that album three years ago, I understood that; not because I had a connection to New York, but I knew that feeling of being stuck. Both Matt Berninger and I have, I think, again grown in similar ways and now I’m not sure if we’re sadder or better or just different for it… but I don’t think we’re so concerned with anything on Earth anymore. Trouble Will Find me is not about New York, Ohio, America or anywhere… it is about Heaven. It’s not a blood and soil album like High Violet… it has fixed it’s gaze in the sky. And over the last year, so have I.
Heavenfaced sure is where I’m at now in my life. It’s definitely one of the standouts from TWFM and the one that’s going to make me proudest to be who I am. It’s going to keep me grounded each and every time I fly off the handle and it’s going to get me back on the path when I stray away from it. High Violet was about being a good man, being good to those you claim to love and doing right by them because of your heart; because it’s who you are. And for that it was one of the best albums ever written. TWFM is about being even more than that though. It’s about facing God at the end of all that and being able to say “it was worth it. Being good, believing in love and loving you, God, were worth it for me. In my life. And now I will live forever.”
Here’s another thing that’s different about TWFM from High Violet. TWFM is an album for single people. Very single people. And that’s interesting because one of the reasons I’ve always loved The National is because they are one of the few bands who have captured what it is to be married, to have a child, to have the worries and responsibilities of a fully formed man; the very grown-up fear and trembling that can still find a person, even when they are more/less settled in their life. And for me that’s a lot of what helped define High Violet as an album that no-one else could make or would dare to make. In it’s way, TWFM, is a lot more of the typical album you’d expect an alternative rock band to make because it’s about more typically alternative rock emotions: loneliness and lost love. Unlike most albums that are about these things though, The National give us them in a nuanced way that only The National can. Where High Violet was about things not being perfect, but accepting that as a part of living, TWFM is about not really accepting that at all. But in the same sense as High Violet was okay with its worldview, so too is TWFM. This time it’s not a achieved by accpetance and “maturity” though - it’s achieved through revelation and transcendence. The revelation is that there is a greater truth than that of this mean world and that this life is only a temporary and transitory thing. I mean, what difference does it make when we’ll all arrive in a perfect Heaven one day?
And so, in many ways, TWFM is an album for people who are not as “technically” far along in their life as the man who sung on High Violet was. But it’s a spiritually more developed album. It’s an album about a life that has gone in reverse….
And that happens.
And I relate to that because I know what it’s like to think you’ve got life and that you’ve got a house and a garden and a love and a plan and then to just… find out that though you’re a year older you have less foundations in those fixed things than you did when you were a year younger. And I know what it’s like to feel that despite the fact that you have grown to be more grounded as a person… you have lost the physical ground on which you used to sit. And that’s what TWFM is really all about.
Listen - this is what it all comes around to: High Violet was rooted firmly in reality. On Earth. In very Earthly ideas about living a good and moral life. TWFM just tells everything that is worldly like that to kiss off into the air. It doesn’t live in New York and go out for dinner with friends, and walk around with it’s headphones on and defend it’s family with an orange umbrella… it lives in memories of the past, in wild hopes for a future in Heaven, in the glorious abandon of binding reason, and in beautiful disregard for what people say is possible and what is not. TWFM fixes it’s gaze somewhere beyond the Manhattan skyline and sees the bright, white beautiful Heaven that hangs over it. And it knows that if there is a Heaven then NOTHING is ever impossible. And so Matt Berninger becomes unhinged in time and space.
Because nothing really dies.
And nothing really starts or ends.
And everyone we love will be in the fields with us someday, in something that is bigger than what we can understand right now.
And in there is a certain kind of sadness in this, but it is a very beautiful and hopeful sadness. It is a more beautiful sadness than the mundane, city colored sorrow of High Violet. “I don’t want you to feel pain,” she said to me. And darling, I don’t. But I need you to understand that I do often feel the kind of sadness that TWFM is about. And I want you to know that I am glad to feel it. I am blessed to feel this kind of sadness because it’s not the nihilistic Lana Del Rey sadness and it is not the diplomatic grey sorrow of High Violet. No, it is a beautiful sadness that reminds me always of what is true about life, love and God. It is only in the embrace of this particular kind of sadness that we can be reminded of the promise of relief from it, and of the day when a perfect promise from God is come.
I see now that my girl is a dream that I can have every night and she is more than her Earthly flesh.
I see now that she is more than her physical hand in mine.
I see now that she is more than I can own in any sense.
You know, I am so far beyond being in love in a High Violet fashion that seemed so mature to me then. I am absolutely free and in love with her all the same. More than ever. But I don’t need any validation of that in this world anymore. I don’t need any confirmation or token in this world to have that or know that. In my mind I am in her arms, and thats all that matters now.
Hey, my believer! I’m a dreamer now! I’m a dreamer! And my dreams are more real to me than my reality. And I don’t need it to be any other way. And I don’t think Matt does anymore either.
Because we can see the glowing lights. We can see them every night.
This abyss… and what of it? We have no ribbons tying us together now. I put my hope into a jar, behind a panting, locked it up and left. What more is there to do than that? The men you throw yourself at now are frightened, freezing animals. I was, I am and I will be a light in the dark. And I am back in the city, just trying to live and to be a reasonable man.
Berlin-Tegel is like no other airport I’ve been. You walk in off the street and you are literally getting on your plane. It takes five seconds. Berlin is like this, everything works in a different way here. Nowhere is like this place, and I’m sad to leave. Thereare people I miss at home and I think it wouldn’t have been much longer before I’d have begun to miss them too much to not come home. But I’ve been glad to be away and to come to know a city that reminds me of myself in so many ways. Germany always has. Berlin always will.
I’ve struggled with dual personalities my entire life. Someone once told me that there was a bad snake and a good snake living inside all human beings. “Which one wins?” is the million dollar question and the million dollar answer is, of course, “the one you feed.” So we live our lives trying to feed the good snake by being around healthy people, going to safe places, nourishing our soul and walking in the light. For me, it has always been Germany and the spirit of the German people which has represented this inner struggle with good and evil most profoundly. I went on the Third Reich walking tour on Tuesday and one of the questions that always seems to come about is “how could this have happened?” To me the answer to this question is simple: someone started feeding the bad snake. Across the board it seems to be a great truth that whatever gets fed gets strong- be it for better or for worse. And here’s the thing about evil: it gets fed easily because it comes in so many forms and its forms are often times much more insidious than forms of goodness. Evil can be bureaucratic, hegemonic, mass marketed, branded — you name it. And it gets in your bones very easily and very sneakily. And the bad snake grows.
For me, recognizing where evil actually begins and decapitating it at its head is becoming increasingly important in my life- even if that simply means skipping to the next song when Lana Del Rey comes on my iPod. It’s the hardest thing to do at this level because it’s so easy to excuse: “what’s it going to hurt if I just listen to ‘National Anthem’ a couple times?” Well, it’s like alcohol: you don’t always realize that it’s affecting your judgement at the time, but it always is. You wake up the next morning and you think “how did I convince myself that my decisions and judgement weren’t being affected by those drinks last night? How did I convince myself of that lie?” Even just a few drinks, even just a few songs- it might not necessarily cause a decipherable problem, but it opens the door. Thats the thing about evil: it’s sort of like that ancient myth about vampires that says they can’t enter your home unless you invite them in. Evil is the same. Evil doesn’t push itself into peoples souls uninvited. It waits until they give it a knowing glance and open the door just a crack.
So if you’re like me and you really always feel the presence of those two snakes inside you, constantly vying for food, it becomes so important to use discretion; to really try and gage everything, every place and everyone you surround yourself with. I remember once asking an ex-girlfriend while we were reading in bed, “Don’t you ever want to read anything else?” She was, of course, reading The Bible as she usually did.
“I can read the greatest book ever written. Why would I want to read anything else?” she replied.
“I mean, don’t you ever want to read a novel or something?”
“If it doesn’t have God in it what’s the point? It just doesn’t appeal to me,” she said. A few minutes later when I looked over again she was fast asleep with the Bible clutched to her heart. I knew it wasn’t true exactly that it didn’t ‘appeal’ to her as much as it was true that it appealed to her too much. And so she was wary to engross herself in anything that didn’t have God at the centre of it. And she was right to do that because for us, I mean, for people like her and I, it’s the only way we can have it. I used to take her Bible from her when she fell asleep with it like this, close it up safe and put it on the bedside table, then I would kiss her eyelids.
Did you ever feel it it when you were lost in those nightmares?
It seemed that no matter how much she prayed or read that Bible the nightmares would find her all the same. She wore Christ like armor because she knew the darkness was everywhere armed and without armor she was not the type of person who could ever withstand its attack. If she kept it away all day it found her in her dreams I think. Sometimes she’d call out in her sleep and I’d put my palm across her forehead above the bridge of her nose “just keep the darkness away from her, God. Just keep the darkness away.”
When I think of Berlin it makes me cry. I connect very much with the idea of this city; to this city as a representation of myself. “Berlin shows it scars” has been something I’ve heard a few people here say, and it’s very true. Everywhere you look there is a memorial to the dead, refurbished buildings where Stasi and Nazis once levered unheard of acts of cruelty, marks on the road where a massive wall once went up over night and divided a whole city in half for thirty years. Berlin hides nothing from anyone and it is inspiring in its honesty. It has humbled itself before God and you sense that there is a goodness to the city. But to say it has been a rough journey to get here would be an understatement of the largest degree. Berlin has struggled with demons. Berlin has nearly killed itself a few times. Berlin has hurt itself in the past so deeply that it has permanent scars cut into its arms. In most places where the wall once was you now just find ruts in the road that look like nothing more than sewage grates or tram lines. But then someone says to you, “you just crossed over a line that would get you shot at one time. And you shudder a little and feel cold. You realize that that’s not an accidental scratch you just breezed over… it’s a deep cut; it’s a scar. It doesn’t look like much now, but it’s that secret that we know.
Berlin has done things it’s not proud of, but does not hide that fact. It confesses it’s sins, repents for them, humbles itself and then displays the scars and bruises for all to see. It too became all too familiar with “fresh starts” and now it keeps its wounds out in the open to remind it to not go back into the dark places ever again; the places where it was taken apart. Just look at your scars Berlin and hate the dark. Hate the dark. Hate the dark.
Berlin is a city that does everything it can to remember to feed the good snake. Because here’s the scariest thing: the good snake will never completely destroy the bad snake, but the bad snake can completely destroy the good snake. If the bad snake gets fed enough, while the good snake is starved continuously, the bad snake can gobble up the good snake in its entirety. The bad snake has the capability to not only break our soul but to break our body and our hope of Salvation as well. Yes, I’m talking about suicide. In this way the bad snake, fed to an extreme, can come to eclipse everything and destroy everything about us. The good snake, unfortunately, can never completely eradicate the bad snake in this way. There is no opposite to suicide. And we have to live life with the knowledge that even God keeps Satan around. We don’t always understand why evil persists and exists in God’s realm and why God, who is so much more powerful than Satan, tolerates Satan’s existence in the world. In his wisdom God does though. And we have to accept this hard truth that Evil can be fed to the point where it will swallow us up whole and destroy us completely while Goodness, on the other hand, will never achieve that decisive end of completely defeating Evil.
Yes, Evil will always be in us to some degree. What’s important though is that we keep it dormant, malnourished and paralyzed. And for us who are weak, or have suffered something in our past, something that has made us more susceptible to the permeating power of darkness in our lives, this becomes our constant employment. We must devote ourselves to feeding the good and starving the bad. For people like us there’s just no room to muck about with Lana Del Rey, ouija boards, cigarettes, and the plethora of sexualized everything that surrounds us. We’ve just got to snuff it all out the moment we sense it creep in and hug our family, read our Bibles, meet a dog and remember ourselves as children instead. I think I’ll always dream of seeing you again one day, years down the line, glowing…
In a white dress…
In a flash of bright light…
Snuffing out all the moments where darkness crept in and kissing each other clean.
To kiss each other clean, now that is what true romance means.
Sometimes I know we lie to ourselves. We tell ourselves a lie about the dark thing that we want to do: “oh it’s fine. It’s not dark,” or maybe “yeah, it’s dark for others maybe, but if I approach it from a different angle, it doesn’t have to be dark for me!” And maybe some stronger people can do this, but I’ve learned enough and gained enough humility now to know that if there is one true thing about myself it’s that I am dreadfully weak. I have issues with self-esteem, anxiety, paranoia, addiction. I know I’m never going to really be able to change myself or to “fix” the problems. People are who they are. They are made up of the ingredients that they are made up of and that is the basic truth of the matter. But we can learn the tricks of strength. We can learn how to control our manias so that they do not control us. And we can learn to have faith in ourselves and our ability to exercise control.
Listen. Everything stays with us. Our scars, our weaknesses, or mistakes… But God’s love, our truest romantic loves, our truest friendships, our hearts and our souls also stay with us. Everyday in Berlin I heard Ian Curtis in my head singing that opening statement from ‘Twenty-Four Hours’: So this is permanence.
Ah, permanence… What a beautiful word. Perhaps it is the most beautiful word we have in our language. So when they say what did you think about in Berlin? What did you see? What did you learn? Where did you go? I will say:
Grimes has a song called “Be a Body.” I once read an interview where she said the phrase came to her at a party while she was on E and looking around for someone to make out with. Emotionless, detached and truly nothing more than a body. That’s the saddest thing in the world, when we become just a “body.” When our body becomes an object and our mind and heart just dead matter that drives it into the night to be used, abused and numbed.
There are vast catacombs of emptiness and loneliness that people can feel. People can feel these things and while there’s no shame in it, we have to recognize that these feelings are extraordinary rather than ordinary. It saddens me when people start to think that their emptiness is their neutral, “normal” state of being. But I’ve been there. Feeling like a body happens, but we really are meant to live to be so much more. The best advice I can give to myself and others is to never get comfortable with your sadness, loneliness, emptiness or brokenness. Never accept it as the status-quo of your existence. Because it’s not.
I think about last Tuesday and meeting a girl who was lit up, high on travel, new friends, kissing and Jagerbombs. She was a ball of energy that night. She said she was leaving on Thursday and going to go all around the country in a car- wherever the wind took her. She was going to go eat a hamburger in Hamburg. I was in St. Christopher’s again Friday night and I saw her. I never thought I’d see her again in my life. “What happened to eating a hamburger in Hamburg?” I asked.
“I got really drunk on Wednesday night and didn’t end up doing it.”
“So you’re just staying on in Berlin then?”
“Well, I was supposed to be going to Oslo today, but I got absolutely wrecked last night, and should have been at the airport an hour ago…”
There was no life in her anymore.
“I’m going to go take a walk,” she said as she looked waywardly into the street. And then like a weightless specter she floated out.
I saw her again later that night at the bar, but it was now completely like we didn’t know each other anymore. We said nothing. We avoided eye contact. Finally at one point I saw her on the stairs.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “I’m great, I’m going to Hungary tomorrow.”
“Okay. And you’re sure you’re alright?”
“Yeah,” she said forcing a smile, and then she kept on down the stairs.
There’s no way she was alright.
And that happens a lot with brokenness. We work in cycles of breaking and fixing, breaking and fixing. We light up and we burn down, we light up and we burn down.
Being around so many travelers this week has got me thinking about this great cycle of breaking and renewing that we live in. We can get crazy addicted to the feeling of ‘renewing ourselves’ and so we constantly break ourselves down so that we can feel that great rush of renewal that we know will wait on the other side of it.
Some of us who are Christians go through something not altogether different with our faith. I read this passage from a book called “The Blessings of Brokenness” that goes:
“One of the things I have discovered through being broken […] is that after brokenness we can experience God’s greatest blessings. After brokenness our lives can be the most fruitful and have the most purpose. The dawn after a very dark and storm-wreaked night is glorious. Feeling joy again after a period of intense mourning can be ecstatic. A blessing can come in the wake of being broken.”
Because that wave of pure joy (that comes when we find our way back to God) can feel so insanely good, for some Christians it can become an addiction. To get that wonderful feeling of cleansing renewal again and again requires them to experience brokenness again and again as well. Constant and consistent joy, although it sounds amazing, can sometimes feel boring when a strong hit of joy after a period of brokenness sounds like a great drug.
And, like I said in an earlier post: it’s just like traveling. You get to a city and it’s all brand new. You light up and you get that rush; that first year uni, frosh week rush. But it doesn’t last. And you sort of like that because that way you know that when you move on to the next place, where you’ll start completely over again, you can get that rush again.
Sometimes we even move our relationships towards their ends because we’re fixing to get onto a new one and get that first flush rush again. We have this mindset that life is something like cocaine… that we have to take hits of it to keep us “high.” We don’t know how to just be happy or to feel the joy of permanence in salvation, love, vocation, location, you name it…
I’ve tried so long to work on this in myself. When I was younger I felt like life was “hits” that I was taking and that if I didn’t keep it fresh and new I’d go into my neutral, status-quo state of brokenness. Now that I’m older I can see that it is true that brokenness is extraordinary - not ordinary. And from this realization that brokenness is not the neutral state in which we exist when we’re not being saved, or swept off our feet, or lit up by the city I’ve become liberated to start thinking of myself as always in the light and can focus on loving that. Life surrounds us. Joy surrounds us. We don’t need the rush of a joy hit after brokenness if we can truly just come to love living in constant light. And yeah, there’s no massive torrential downpours of joy here, but rather just a gentle rain that washes over you all the time.
Now I don’t want you to think that this makes me any less of a romantic. It just makes me a true romantic. Romance doesn’t have to be mixed up in nihilism. This is something that I think a lot about when I listen to Lana Del Rey. In her music there’s this conception of romance as a nihilistic thing peppered with ideas of ownership, materialistic thrills and hyper-sexualized affirmation. And, okay, look: I’ve dated, made out with or pined for more Lana Del Rey’s over the course of my life than I can count anymore. And yeah, I’ve been Lana Del Rey for a lot of it too. I know that romance is an easy thing to get mixed up in our society with a lot of other things. We learn sicko versions of romance. If I ever shied away from romance it was because it scared me; what I felt we both attached to romance scared me.
And in some way that’s my fault. I know that I let fears, and lethargy get in the way of being my best self. When romance was to come, I wanted to make it true romance. I know it shouldn’t ever have been “to come” - it should have just been. I should have found the time to figure it out right and to have done it right (for crying out loud it was more important than any of those e-mails, any of those concerts, any of those events ever were!) I just wanted Wuthering Heights instead of Born to Die. But I knew that if I, myself, didn’t give it the right amount of thought and time I’d go Born to Die. Our lives already had enough of that. You know, I used to get scared of myself too. Well, maybe you don’t. Just know that I’ve been you. Maybe I am you. I’m just older.
Like almost every person on Earth, I commonly feel this pressure to be funny, witty and engaging. I’ll say things, laugh at jokes and act in ways that I’m not sure I agree with. It happens in heavier doses when I meet new people. I sacrifice aspects of myself to try and fit with aspects of what I perceive in others.
On Friday night I met a guy and we talked in the hostel bar. At first I think we both had expectations that maybe we’d meet more people and we’d go somewhere and we’d have “fun.” Our talk was meaningless, surface chatter and over the course of the night it became increasingly obvious that we were neither of us the personalities that we had, perhaps, hoped we’d be when we first met. I think that in our own uniquely selfish ways we had both hoped that, in the other person, we were meeting someone who would be super outgoing, hyper-social and, generally, the life of the party type. In our meaningless, cotton candy way we were hoping for someone whose personality would lead to “fun.” Someone that we could sacrifice something of ourselves to become more like and in-turn it would lead us towards having more “fun.”
There’s this overwhelming idea of what “fun” is and how utterly important having it is. We can’t even let friends go out for the night without reminding them to “have fun!” Instead of these constant reminders that society normalizes for us to “have fun” what if we instead started calling out after friends as they were headed out “make a difference!” “do good!” “be strong!” “help out!”?
There is a wonderful sense of relief when you let go of the pressures that society places on you to have “fun.” The early part of Friday night was marked with a lot of looking around the bar. Were others looking at us? Did anyone want to meet us? Were there people having “fun” that we could get in on? It was Friday and we were in Berlin. One feels these kinds of pressures everywhere, especially on weekend nights, and especially in a city you’re always being reminded is “thee party capital of Europe.” Eventually the point came though were it just stopped mattering. We ordered two ciders and he suddenly asked, “So does the ring mean you’re engaged?” I looked at my hand. The ring my parents gave me when I graduated elementary school.
“No, I’m not engaged,” I said. “I would like to be engaged one day, but I just can’t seem to make it work. I really did love this one girl.”
“Yeah,” he said. He looked contemplative for a moment and then for a the first time I think I heard his real voice say “I know what you mean.”
Everything just rolls away in those moments. I was now able to speak about home, my friends and the things I believe in about love. That I hadn’t just wanted to do this from the beginning suddenly seemed so silly. Suddenly meeting people or going out or having “fun” didn’t matter because this was better. This was with God’s hand on my shoulder again. I’ve felt that before. Meeting people and trying to be something I’m not; worrying about what we’ll do and where we’ll go. And then someone will bring up God or love and I start to see them: those ones whose faces light up. And you spend all night talking about love and God. And you feel embarrassed that you thought you had to be anything else at one point, had to go anywhere else than wherever you are, had to say anything else than what is in your true heart.
Here’s one thing: you’ve got to have the faith that you do have a true heart somewhere inside you.
Some people feel so lost that they don’t even know when they’re faking it or not.
Listen, I know your true heart even if you feel that you don’t. Even for those times you feel so broken and wrecked that you’d rather believe the lie that you truly don’t have one to begin with.
You can break what you have, but the rest of its mine.
So do what you want with all those spinning, tumbling molecules of yourself that you don’t really understand, but I know the real you that lives at the very centre of you. Everything you break, that hurts you, that cuts you only goes to a certain point. And you can have that. The wolves can all have that. The real you is mine. When all the rest is broken and falls away, what is left will always be mine.
Heart and Soul.
Some things made sense for me last night about dark places and being part of groups. Here’s what the Sage Club is: an elaborate labyrinth of tunnels, bars, alcoves and dance floors. It’s the kind of place where you go to kill off any remnants of your soul that might be remaining in tact. I felt the same way I do when I walk into The Brain back home, but this was The Brain on steroids. Sage is a never ending nocturnal word of lost souls. But in some sense I existed “outside” the place last night. The whole experience was a novelty. It wasn’t an actual place I was going that was tied to people I knew who were there or that was tied to an image of myself that I was promoting in any way by being there. What it was was a one-off experience and that’s it.
There’s no chance to do that at home. Everything means something at home… and I sort of love that. Everything should mean something in a place you set your roots down into. When you’re far away, just sort of floating in a no-mans-land of soupy existence, you find that you get an odd spectators seat to the way lives are lived. You become part of things without being a “part” of them at all. In Sage I saw a bunch of people whose going to Sage represented something about who they were. For me, I felt like going to Sage represented nothing about who I was. You can’t get that at home. Every time I step in The Brain I know what it means. We all know what it means when our lives are all set up and we go places.
When our lives aren’t set up at all and we go anywhere we’re sort of exonerated from the symbolism of the endeavour. That’s why you can do anything in the first weeks of university. Nothing really represents you, rather it’s just you searching for footholds. But after that first month when you’ve planted your life down a little, the things you do and places you go start speaking for you and meaning something about you. I think you can get addicted to traveling in a certain sense because it allows for the constant ‘starting again’ feeling. You’re constantly able to do things without them representing who you are at all. You never have to have a planted, consistent self. You’re in the first month of your first year at university whenever you want and all you need to do to get there is hop on a train.
I met some more people on a four hour walking tour yesterday. We went to dinner and played mini-put in Kreuzberg. Three of them left to go catch a bus to Hamburg after the mini-put and I went on with the two remaining to Sage Club. Being with travelers is sort of an odd thing because they just up and leave your life before you even really know them. The whole thing reminds me of first year university, but without any guarantee that the people you’re with will still be in the same country as you 24 hours later. Travelers are all so open to friendship because they’re hungry for connection far from home; from the familiar. It’s an odd thing, the people you meet on the road and the relationships you have. You force yourself to make friends and you let those friendships sustain you for a night or two. But then those friendships leave and move on and go away and you ask yourself: did I take what I needed from that?
Last night I did something I’m not used to doing: I made cold call friends. The kind recommendations of a friend of my brothers, and I met them at a hostel and we went to a karaoke bar in Friedrichshain near the wall. It reminded me of something from a Gaspar Noé film. An Australian girl told me to come travel around Germany with her and some friends in a rented car and kissed me. “You’re such a babe,” she said in the neon lit world of a rented karaoke room.
“No, not me,” I blushed. I never wanted to want this.
I walked home in the early morning hours all the way from Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße snapping pictures the whole way and thinking. It’s weird how sometimes we can be hit with realizations in a snap. I remember in October, I thought I was doing so well; so stable. Did I feel romantic feelings for my ex-girlfriend? ‘No,’ I told myself. ‘No longer.’ I wasn’t lying to myself because this is what I truly felt at that time. Then one night in November after a string of good nights sleeps and what I thought was general well-being, I stopped being able to fall asleep and my appetite vanished. One night in the very wee small hours I felt God whisper her name in my ear. What matters? What is planned? What is transitory? And what is permanence? What is God’s will for us and what do we push for with our own free will? How do the two play against one another? Now we are still just children looking into a dirty mirror. One day we shall know the answers. As I collapsed into my bed around 6 A.M. I thought ‘but not tonight,’ I drifted to sleep. ‘but not tonight…’