When I first thought I wanted to write an editorial on why music is the linchpin of our happiness I was excited, precisely because I was thinking about that famous Kerouac quote about the mad ones, the ones that shoot across the sky like spiders and burn like a Roman candle.
I constantly think how I can get to be “mad,” how my life can shed all the cultural nets (much the same nets Stephen Daedalus says he will fly by), and become some sort of void, orifice, gaping aperture, that exists not as perception but as being. It’s a sort of amnesia, the type that forgets the world’s weighty fog and demystifies existence. It’s moment living, one blink to the next.
Now when I think about this question of how to get to this place, my answer is usually “I can’t.” And when I think: what is the thing that can get me there, usually I find there is no such thing. But the closest thing I can find that does get me to such a place, is music.
Formally, I know nothing about music. But having said that, I don’t think formal terms are necessary to describe the purity that music sometimes makes me feel, more so than almost any other art, be it literature, painting or burlesque. It’s rare that even music makes me mad.
This “no strings existence,” is sort of like a rhythm I rarely sink into, a note, notes that I hardly ever catch the tune to. But when I do I sink in, click in. The trajectory of my life isn’t firing along a line but bouncing along a staff of notes, undulating. It’s not a trajectory anymore, but a beautiful presentness that has something of a musical quality to it. I’m launched into a sphere, a sphere in a void of darkness, where surroundings pop out and the world is forgone. It’s like the stages of a fired rocket slowly falling down to earth, leaving a denuded stripe of energy.
Of course, as soon as I am aware, as soon as our human self-consciousness intrudes what appears to be an almost superhuman experience, it stops as abruptly as it starts. Just like John Stuart Mill said, “Ask yourself whether you are happy… and you will cease to be so.”
Certain songs in certain moments give me certain happiness — a loose floating, a simple ecstasy reverberating with only vague pulses of feeling. Some would describe it as happiness, others as purity, and more still as both combined. Either way, music is able to conjure feelings, to organize life into a distilled breath.
This, though, is relatively random, and quite diffuse. If one were to try to disassemble and refute my argument, it would be quite easy, because the evidence is ephemeral. It does not exist as an object to be seen and touched, or even investigated. Sure, music can be dissected, but the aura of one’s existence cannot. There are few “evidentiary” reasons to side with me. But that’s the thing, evidence for musical explosion is like trying to express empathetic grief. Such a thing does not exist. Vague circlings are the paltry compensation to a grieving friend, and that is all we are capable of.
Feelings are unique, abstract, and most of all random. But music is a marvel because it tries to revive our deepest feelings of purest ilk. It is great, in part, because it can do what no other media can. That is, music can play to us a soundtrack, make our moves a motion-picture. We no longer struggle with life, we dance with it.