“Don’t Look Down”

An excerpt from Marginal Eyes, Chapter Seven

My songwriting hit a peak in the fall of 2004, when I spent countless hours in my parents’ basement, unbridling my mind at the keyboard. Whereas the lyrics I wrote that spring for my audition were full of angst toward religion, my newer songs began to focus more on my desire for worldly transcendence. For the sake of appealing to a wider audience, I was careful not to write anything that might come across as preachy, but I shared real feelings framed within the spiritual philosophies that I had started studying. In “Three Lives,” I wrote about feelings of weariness, as if at twenty-four years old, I had already lived a lifetime. That’s how it felt in my bones, but it also connected with the so-called spiritual concept of being a soul stuck within a drab prison of flesh. I tried to put into succinct, poetic words how I was now trying to overcome the darkness I had been experiencing.

There was much less hope than emotional dissociation in my thoughts and words. While beginning to frame my broken human perspective as “spiritual,” I turned cold toward my own humanity, hoping not to really experience it but rather escape its pains and complexities. Another song’s lyrics portrayed the sorrow of some distant war widow, as I exhorted her to give up feelings for a man whom she had clearly lost and wouldn’t see again. The grief for what it seemed I had lost (I thought forever, at that point) could have gone on endlessly, and yet I had to move on from it somehow, if I was to go on living. Pushing myself beyond grief in a calloused way, I saw no reason why anyone should care about feelings of loss and pain, especially with the idea that God would save or bring back things or people that they loved. That didn’t seem to me anything like God’s MO, which I was growing more and more convinced was about stripping everything away so that we gave up human happiness.

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