Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Minor Fall and the Major Lift

I stumbled on this article in today's Salon, written by a guy who was in a poetry class with Jeff Buckley. I don't know what about today or my mood, but whatever it is, the article's exacerbating it. It's just one of those days when you wake up from a long, strange dream (one of my many apocryphal dreams, a recurring theme since I was a child), with leftover emotions that I can't shake no matter how many cups of coffee I drink.

Anyway, as you know, I'm signing up for some postgraduate classes next sem. Frankly, I don't think I miss the classroom setting, especially since I've been teaching workshops for a few years now and will be unused to being the lectured instead of the lecturer. But I do think it's going to help my writing, since I feel that I've been working for so, so, so long in magazines that I'm starting to get into a writing rut. Or a career rut.

Sorry for the aimless angsting. This may or may not have something to do with the fact that I'm turning 30 in about two and a half months, or it may just be a temporary mood thing that'll go away as soon as I take another nap. Also, I'm going up to Sagada tomorrow night, and that's always meant weird mood swings for me. I don't have my copy of Jeff Buckley's Grace right now, but if I did, that's what I'd be listening to right now: the complex guitars, the fragile vocals, the strange, painful, beautiful lyrics.

Right now, the song playing in my head is Jeff Buckley singing a Leonard Cohen song:

I've heard there was a secret chord
that David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't care much for music, do you?
It goes like this:
the fourth, the fifth,
the minor fall and the major lift.
The baffled king composing 'Hallelujah'

So much in that song about a song. Where does music come from? Divine inspiration and ecstasy, or brokenness and despair? Or both: "I don't care if you heard the holy or the broken Hallelujah."

I had that discussion with my friends a long time ago, when I asked them if they'd rather be happy or good at their art, given that the two were mutually exclusive. For years and years, the pretentious little snots that we were said we'd rather produce good art than be happy, until we really got going on life, and finally got to taste what real unhappiness was like. Then we all decided that it wasn't all that it was cracked up to be; when I asked them the question again, years after college, everyone agreed: happiness over art.

Well. I'm counting on God not being that cruel, that good art and happiness can't be had in the same lifetime. I'm tempted to say, too, that I wouldn't care if it were a short life, just as long as it was fulfilling and happy--but, well, that's not the kind of thing you say when you're about to go on a trip.

Jeff Buckley walked into a river and disappeared when he was 30. He produced good art. I sure as hell hope he was happy.

Here's a poem that he wrote:

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