" Since what we know of the future is made up of purely abstract and logical elements — inferences, guesses, deductions — it cannot be eaten, felt, smelled, seen, heard, or otherwise enjoyed. To pursue it is to pursue a constantly retreating phantom, and the faster you chase it, the faster it runs ahead..."
As it turns out, friends, this ‘live in the present’ thing that everyone says absent-mindedly seems to be like THE secret to a less than sucky life. Who knew?
Here’s the thing though: The present can be grim. It can be all manner of unpleasantness. Dust, spittle, mangy dogs, the intrusive leer of a strange group of men on the street, a sudden putrid smell, a mass of unsightly razor bumps on the face of some poor soul sitting next to you in the matatu, that gnawing feeling in your chest that you are actually nothing at all, Maina Kageni’s noxious voice …it doesn’t end. All around us, there are little bits of ugly that seem to be symptoms of a much deeper sadness that we all seem to be collectively carrying around. Every. Single. Day. Who wouldn’t want to disappear?
Constantly being anywhere else but where you are has its effects though. Your life gets away from you, quickly running through your fingers like fine desert sand. All of the mental time travelling sucks away at your life force, tiring you completely, without achieving much of anything. Then you go home at the end of the day, worn out and empty. It’s something I have struggled with all my life.
Thankfully, the universe has provided reprieve in the form of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie No.1.
|He looks like a physicist, which would make sense because this is probably what the Big-Bang sounded like.|
If you have ever wondered why art is necessary for a bi-pedal, somewhat intelligent, carbon-based organism, whose only certainty in life is death, you will find the answer in this piece of music.
Gymnopedie No.1 (and Nos. 2 and 3 for that matter, check them out) nourishes and delights without trying to deceive you about the realities of life. It is simple in its sadness, echoing our often hollow existence and grounding the listener firmly in the present. That same simplicity also happens to be so incredibly moving and so exquisitely beautiful, that it buoys the listener from being completely washed away by the waves of utter uselessness that we, as vulnerable, mortal creatures, contend with day in and day out.
For me, this piece is a 3 minute prayer of beautiful melancholy that keeps me rooted in the earth yet reaching for the heavens.
An incantation that restores balance in an otherwise cluttered and confused existence.
P.S. Interesting fact, an interpolation of this piece was used in the chorus of this Janet Jackson song which also happens to have the most early-2000s video of all time. Cue the shiny skin and pet alligators in slow motion.