A conversation with John of Impossible Songs at lunchtime – how often does that happen that we find ourselves saying something that’s true but we didn’t know it until we heard ourself say it? I expressed some preference about making music and afterwards it resonated for the whole afternoon. Over the last few months there’s been such a swirl of confusion in this head about the music I want to make, or rather, the music I have to decide to invest my time, money and energy in. It’s not just bands or collaborations with people, it’s what kind of music I am to make and how I am to make it. Because I can’t do it all – I’m too busy, old, confused, isolated, inept, ugly, responsible, distracted, employed etc etc – nobody could. Later, after JuJutsu, driving past the airport on my way to pick up Pest from work, a decision seemed to manifest in clear terms about a dilemma that’s been pressing heavily is related to all this. The decision seemed to involve spending time and effort in recording. The decision was inspired by an album I was hearing for the first time. It seemed simple, clearcut, a relief and a joy. I couldn’t wait to get at the computer to put down a note of a new groove, again inspired by this album. Ninety minutes later, cursing the software (FL Studio), unable to do the simplest thing easily or quickly, I felt sickened and downhearted, my decision wobbling again.
Disappointment is the one constant in life, but it is also our most eloquent teacher. ‘It shouldn’t be like this’ we whine, as if it mattered. But that’s the lesson – the map is not the territory, ‘should’ is not a building, but – if we can step back to get it in focus, it’s a screen on which is displayed the most intimate details of the machine that we are most of the time. And only in seeing it do we have a chance, just for a second, to step outside it.
I’m a lucky man – I can make a decision to do this or that and be able to put it into effect. Either way there will be good times arising and either way there will be disappointment, and at times I will wish I had done the other. That’s normal – it’s part of the machine to believe that achieving a goal will make everything OK. It won’t – everything will never be OK. When joy comes – and it does – it’s not as a result of our efforts but when we put aside for a second the effort to make ‘my’ everything OK and do a favour for someone, or look at the sky, or otherwise let the world in. The irony is that to get to the stage where we can do that takes focus, effort and some goal-centred faith: it doesn’t often come to the unprepared. It’s a struggle to be able for just one second not to struggle, but there we go.