By: A.R. Minhas
There are moments in my life where I feel everything is scripted. I feel conversations that happen around me are familiar, and I’m stumbling into something that exacerbates that feeling. Now, I recognize that I don’t normally do this, but I felt compelled to write something just because I was fascinated by this weird phenomenon of synchronicity.
On Thursday night I came back home exhausted. It was a miserable day, and I was flooded with regret. My performance at work had been poor for quite some time, I’m not in the best financial situation because of debt; I’m seeing my peers accomplishing a lot more than I am and, of course, I’m not writing as much as I’d like to. The latter was the one thing that was weighing on me a lot because writing is more than a hobby for me—it’s how I define myself. It has become a part of my identity, the one thing I know that I enjoy. However, I’m caught in a cycle of procrastination and self-doubt. At that moment in time, I’m trying to forget the dreadful day I’ve had. My last refuge was music, and I want some sonic relief. I turned to Youtube on the Smart TV.
I listen to Marilyn Manson, just like I have since grade 9. Manson has been a philosopher to me for most of my life; his songs of absolute desolation, rejection of mainstream ideology, and his total devotion to individualism has helped me come to terms with the fractured reality of life. In many ways, his expression of individuality has shaped my own. I can’t stress enough how important Marilyn Manson has been to me— a lonely kid growing up in Pakistan, and afterward in Canada, and now a lost twenty-something. But he wasn’t doing it for me tonight. I’m depressed. I’m defeated. I’m restless, and I have an undefinable sadness growing in my chest. It’s like feeling thirsty even after you’ve had a large gulp of water, or feeling like you have an itch on a phantom toe jutting out from the side of your foot. It seems like I’m not achieving what I was meant to and it gets claustrophobic. I listen to Leonard Cohen and the dark tones he left behind (may you rest in peace, sir!). I listen to Fareed Ayaz & Abu Muhammad bellow a spiritual plea in their performance of the song ‘Kangna’, which is a very moving experience, but I recognized that I can enjoy it only if I completely let myself go, but this nagging feeling chained me to who I was at that moment in time: a man drowning in an unnameable sea. I listened to a couple of other songs that were randomly generated. And then it happened, on the suggested tab there was this song called ‘Table for One’ by Courtney Marie Andrews.
When I first heard it, it struck every inch of my body. I had a strange falling sensation in my stomach; my nerve endings were tingling, and I had tears in my eyes. The voice, that was the first thing that got me— it had so much hurt, so much dark, and so much truth. It got me thinking about the term I had learned in creative writing class: Duende.
Duende is a term made famous by Lorca, a Spanish poet, who used it to describe an ineffable feeling evoked by art. It’s like the sublime as defined by Longinus but I think Duende comes from a much more darker place—and this was pure Duende. This evoked in me such a physical response, and she sang it with every fiber of her being, and I felt the sharp pang of each and every note that escaped her breath. On my second listen, I discovered her lyrics, and they felt like they were plucked out from my subconscious. When she says: ‘found peace in the redwoods/ lost it 20 miles later,’ I know what she means. I’m sure every human being encounters the feeling of loneliness and of never-finding-peace, always restless, and always looking for something. But this felt personal, like this song, this ‘table for one’ had my name on it. I mean how do you do that? How do you make a song so specific and how did you make me listen to it at that exact moment in time? I don’t know and I don’t care. The fact that I encountered that song, at that exact moment in time was synchronistic. It was only a casual coincidence but it was so surreal. If you think about it, she didn’t create that song at that exact moment—she probably made this song months and maybe even years before I was feeling what I was feeling. What she did was help me define it: the never ending search for peace. There is no peace or more accurately there are only a few moments of peace. We are wanderers trapped in our minds, the ‘table for one’ is us— we are aware of ourselves and that feeling of finding everlasting tranquility is so illusory. I know this sounds bad but it allowed me to understand myself better. I’m so concerned with what will be? Will I ever achieve success? I have become myopic. My worldview is not defined by what I think will make me happy, but what other people expect will make me happy. The truth is that there is never any lasting peace and we are always trying to define ourselves. This was what she was telling me through her song and, at that point in time, I needed to hear that.
It felt amazing that I discovered her music in that way and how it instantly made me have this epiphany. Needless to say, I purchased her album, ‘Honest Life’, and it captures the same sentiment that was offered in the song. Courtney sings the magic of every moment; she is omniscient in her lyrics whether the song is hopeful of moving on like ‘Put the fire out,’ or depressing when idealistic love falls short of reality like in ‘Only in my Mind’. Her voice is otherworldly, breathtaking, and her lyrics cut through the matter and are poignantly genuine.
I recognize that people have different tastes and music is so personal. I also don’t claim that she’ll give you that same spine-tingling experience that her songs provided to me. But I have to acknowledge the terrible beauty in her voice, and the impact that she left behind; if nothing else, to thank her for the music she has made. I do hope that people listen to her, and I hope you feel like how I felt that sad Thursday night. I have left the link to her song and where you can buy the album because we need to support artists like herself. Thank you for listening to this rambling and let me know if you guys like to hear nonsense like this in the future. I appreciate and love all of you! Thank you!
Buy Album link: