Before you read on, I’d love you pre-save my new single Lucy. It’s out on Feb 28th. Pre-saving literally means Spotify will let you know when its out. That’s it! No money. No time. Just a chance to hear my new song as soon as it’s released.
I’m experiencing existential dread. It’s a rare occurrence but it does pop up once a year like clockwork, always on the day of, or the day before my birthday. I can’t quite recall when this phenomenon started occurring but it’s been at least the last ten years, definitely since my 21st and quite likely since at least five years before that. If there’s one thing that scares me it’s the inexorable drifting of time, so much so that I’ve been reading Alan Burdick’s delightful book ‘Why Time Flies’ in an effort to slow time’s creep; funny how we use man’s one finite resource to examine man’s one finite resource. Lately the creep has started to become a jog and I fear I’ve left the summit of some unforeseen mountain and this jog will shift into a madcap helter skelter headlong tumble to the bottom.
Of course that’s a little darker than it needs to be, for I’m in still in the prime of my young days, but it’s hard to shake the sinking feeling I get once a year when the month of February rolls around and the mystical goat-fish hybrid departs the sky for warmer pastures, leaving behind a youth with a large bucket of water and a desire to be kidnapped. Amateur astrologer I am not. Galactic sceptic is probably a better description. Not that I am sceptical of the galaxies, more that I’m sceptical of anything that smacks of voodoo, and indeed anything that works against man’s ability to self-determinate. Hence there are a vast array of things I’m sceptical of, including (but not limited to): the risks of getting cancer from microwaving Tupperware containers, any of the conspiracy theories about Bill Murray’s final words in Lost in Translation, treating anything at all with ‘essential oils’ (I get that they smell good, but surely if they were ‘essential’ the government would be putting them in the water), using single strokes when loosely played double strokes basically sound the same, and anyone on the internet who claims they’ve got a secret you can learn in five easy instalments of $9.99.
I’m not really sure where I was going with this, but it’s worth slightly digressing to describe this particular brand of existential dread. It’s not really a ‘dread’ per se, more of a slight sinking in my stomach when I think about my birthday. As I get older I’m getting moderately better at thinking about myself (even if I tend to discount my own thoughts and never act on fixing my issues) and I think I’ve come to the realisation that while I like people making a fuss of me, I don’t necessarily like being the centre of attention (why am I a singer-songwriter? lol). So every year I’m striking this balance where I want people to adore me, but I don’t want it to be a perceptible thing, more of an unacknowledged elephant standing one room over and quietly trumpeting to itself. And in the midst of this existential stomach sinking I’m also dealing with the thought that I’m getting older and the one thing we can’t turn back is the ticking limbs of time and it all spins and spirals and sometimes get to a bit too much (which is odd because I’m a) generally quite emotionally resilient and b) happy with myself, this is one of the only things that trip me up… lets have three cheers for honesty).
To combat this I’ve started to write myself a yearly letter on my birthday, talking general drivel that I think I’ll find interesting later on. It generally settles into a discussion of my mental state and the positives and negatives that I perceived in the year. This started four years ago and it seems like a relatively achievable habit, something that I’ll look back on in fifty years with some fondness. I’m growing more and more attached to the concept of recording my thoughts and feelings as I waft through this life. Without physical evidence I tend to discount entire swathes of my life and the medium I identify with most to capture an essence of today is the written word. I firmly believe the written word is man’s greatest achievement. As an interesting side-note, in 1991 the ‘Guinness Can Widget’, the small plastic ball that used to come in cans of Guinness and ensured a frothy head on your beer beat out the internet as the greatest technological invention of the last forty years. Something to be said about man’s priorities I guess.
Invariably, as I write down my thoughts and feelings and fears of the years behind and the years to come, my existential dread starts to diminish. It’s still there, but rather than a bubbling sea of stress, it’s more like a little almond of agitation, something I can tuck into my pocket, or put behind a pot plant and forget about for a while. Funny that I find my mindfulness not in the active stilling of my mind, but in spilling out on the page all the hopeful clutter that inhabits me. This term ‘hopeful clutter’ is something that will start to make sense over the next couple of months I hope, culminating in the next phase of this project.
I’ll leave you with an excerpt of Alan Burdick’s beautiful book:
“We (or at least the rest of us) reach this boundary whenever we ponder the cosmic. We imagine by analogy and metaphor: that strange and vast thing is like this smaller, more familiar thing. The universe is a cathedral, a clockworks, an egg. But the parallels ultimately diverge; only an egg is an egg. Such analogies appeal precisely because they are tangible elements of the universe. As terms, they are self-contained—but they cannot contain the container that holds them. So it is with time. Whenever we talk about it, we do so in terms of something lesser. We find or lose time, like a set of keys; we save and spend it, like money. Time creeps, crawls, flies, flees, flows, and stands still; it is abundant or scarce; it weighs on us with palpable heft.”