I get lost in the night, so high I don’t wanna come down
Revelry, Kings of Leon
Think of the Bible.
I think of the copy I bought a few years ago. A paperback one for secular people who like footnotes with their King James. I bought the King James because it’s language is beautiful and the best bits of the Bible are still more beautiful as poetry (if you’re an atheist things like this help). The only other Bibles I can think of are in the drawers of hotel rooms. My Gran was religious. Presbyterian. I assume she had a Bible. Certainly, surely, a New Testament. I wonder what happened to it when she died?
One thing that boring, wankers like me know about the Bible is that it was composed by many people across time, that it was edited and compiled, and represents – in its current form – a series of historic decisions that, once bound in black and bashed by the hands of priests, has the illusion of timeless solidity and truth. In other words, as a symbol of timeless solidity and truth it is bullshit. As a source of inspiration and provocation, however, it is wonderful.
It occurs to me that each of has our own Bible. Each of us has an edited, compiled collection of the bits and pieces of memory, and relationships, and songs, films, and books that are our well. That place we go back to when we talk to ourselves or share ourselves with other people. When I think of it though, I don’t imagine it as a book, although you could – a pleasingly disheveled book with bits of pages interleaved, and photos added in – I think of it as a dark place inside me, as if I were the earth, my skin the soil, and the roots of the trees my bones; the tendrils of the grass above, the worms inching ahead, and the thunder of footfalls dimly intruding into that slumbering part of me: the soil in me that holds close inside it an old tin box, with rusted seams.
When you dig the box back out of yourself and prise the lid off the contents is never quite the same. Some of what was there is gone, some things new have been added, some objects have lost their lustre, others have gained a new shine. How the objects seem to connect or disconnect from each other alters each time. There are usually, though, a few items that timelessly endure, and form a core. For you, that core is the core of yourself. You may not understand why, and they may not be good things. In the core of yourself might be pain. Grief. Shame. It’s not a good or a bad place. Just a place. A reference point inside you.
This is why I write like I write. Why I often put things together that seem like they don’t go together. They go together. The missing thing between two disparate objects is us. We are the storyteller, and the storyteller is the sinew.
I remember one of the last times I visited by Gran in her own home. I felt then that it was probably a last visit to that house, and that when she died or moved out all the objects in that house would cease to have meaning, as if she were the sun making each part of a solar system spin and hold in place, as if she were the sun and what the sun brought to this house of things was sense. Without her the transistor radio, and the armless armchair and the wooden parrot on the mantelpiece would be so much junk. Laughable, nonsensical junk, and not the National Radio pips at lunchtime, or the place where my childhood jerseys had been knitted, or the woodwork project of an only son.
Junk. Like us. Bones for the boneyard. Ash for the earth.
I think I’m telling you this because of Kings of Leon. Their good songs make me feel a certain way. They are the type of band that makes me want to be in a band again. They make me feel the way it felt to be inside the music, and in control of it somewhat, to know that when my hand dropped the pick on the strings a chord would come out and layer across the rolling drum and bass line. But it also reminds me of other things. Of seeing Interpol play at Vic: seeing the stagelights swing up out of the darkness, as the first notes thundered across and then through us; and of being drunk at parties out on the coast where the stars wheel around those dead beach suburbs at night with the salt sea tang of loneliness and a hunted guitar line can make it seem like you’re not alone. For a time.
In the aching guitar, the off beat drummer’s hands, the wounded voice I can see the beach at night. Coming down past the empty playground, and the locked up swimming baths, to heaped dunes with silvery grass backs pushed and pulled by the wind off the sea. See the beach strewn with the debris of the waves, and across the inky rippling satin sea with the white threads of breaking crests the heavy, solid broken ridge line of Kapiti Island. Can you smell it? Can you feel the sand under your boot? And can you hear the waves which tirelessly breath in and release, grinding mountains to dust on your fingertip?
Dust on a fingertip.