You shouldn’t listen to Josh Tillman if it’s winter

I

At a bar they were playing a song that I hadn’t heard for years.

You know the day destroys the night.  The night divides the day.

It was 1991 when I sat on the steps of the Regent Cinema One after seeing The Doors and felt like I’d seen a vision of Jesus.  “That,” I’d thought, “is who I want to be.”

Morrison was a brilliant lyricist.  In the music that surrounds them, with his voice, the words are beautiful, and cryptic and alive.

The plan to be Jim Morrison did not pan out.  Any plan to be someone other than yourself is, perhaps, doomed from the outset as success would look like being someone else; someone who already existed.

Anyway, when I got to the end of my Doors obsession I had concluded – thanks to reading the drummer’s autobiography – that Jim was probably a deeply unhappy and destructive person to be around.

II

Then there’s the problem of time.

I found it hard to recover from reading that there is no centre, that the earth is rotating and orbiting a sun that itself orbits another centre, which orbits another centre, and so on and on, each orbit taking durations that increasingly defy the mind’s capacity to understand.  Never mind the centre will not hold.  We don’t know where it even is.  The centre.

I’ll tell you about the heartache and the loss of god

Time, Carlo Rovelli tells me, has no unity, no direction, no present.  Etcetera.  I don’t understand physics.  I never will.  I do understand though that the way our minds work has little to do with the idea of times as linear.  Words, songs, tastes – they are emblems that when touched by the mind – take us suddenly elsewhere, folding now back on then or nowhere.  We are never here.

III

I worry about Josh Tillman.

I tend not to read interviews with “the artist” but the words of his latest album suggest a man unravelling in a hotel.  Quite a lot of I Love You, Honeybear was funny.  Something that is not true of Pure Comedy or God’s Favorite Customer.  I suppose that this is the connection my mind made between Jim Morrison and Josh Tillman.

The material that The Doors released after Jim’s death – An American Prayer – is half beautiful, and half dark, and terrifying.  As Jim comes out of Roadhouse Blues and talks to the audience you can hear the sycophantic audience responding to his invitations, before the whole slumps into a chaos of howls and derision.

I remember when I was reading the end of the drummer’s autobiography hearing a lot of the songs again and feeling terrified by them.  Partly because I was still drawn to those songs despite the darkness that seemed to be lashing around underneath them.

Like a carcass left out in the heat

This love is bursting out of me.

IV

The leaves on the trees outside the window at the front of the house are beautiful in the morning sun.  Against the blue winter sky.  In the back garden the magnolia is finally bare now, and I am sweeping up the leaves out the lawn and piling them in papery heaps into the big rubbish bag I will drive to the tip.

The moon is a curl of a thing.  The start of a new year.

The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
I sometimes think I’m on the verge of understanding existence.  It is something to do with circles, clocks and Bach.  I am almost sure.  In the universe with no centre, with each part in orbit about another part, and with each form in the business of being born and dying – another cycle – there must be some meaning?  The bud and fall of the tree leaf, and the tide, the hand on of life from mother to child, and the slow swing of the milky way about its axis.  Fifty trillion moving parts across time in durations not measurable performing perhaps one rotation entire from big bang to big collapse: one inhale and exhale.
V
Can we resolve the past?
Lurking jaws, joints of time.
I was sitting on the bus yesterday with Rosamund going to her ballet class and I saw the clouds moving swiftly, unspooling across the sky.
It’s something to do with that.  Dancing.  To music.  The bus moving.  The clouds.  The earth.  Josh. Jim.  Your inhalation.  I’m 45.  You’re 7 and as cute as a button.

 

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John-Paul

I wrote a book called Kaitiaki o te Pō