Funeral


Band: Arcade Fire
Album: Funeral
Best song: “Rebellion (Lies)”
Worst song: The album ender, “In The Backseat,” does not impress me.

On a first (might’ve been second, I don’t know) date recently, my companion and I were talking about irrational fears. She’d mentioned some of the things which she fears — included normal things like spiders and such and less-normal things. But, ultimately, tactical, real things which scare her. Irrationally, probably, but real, physical things.

I don’t think I have such things.

This isn’t to say that I’m brave. In fact, it’s probably just a mindset thing. I’m mostly afraid of things jumping out or surprising me, such that when I saq a mouse scurry across my apartment’s carpet, I recently yelled “Goddamnit!” in a more angry than frightened tone.

I used to be afraid of bugs, but working maintenance for summers oudoors during college was, essentially, immersion therapy for such a fear. I’m still not keen on bugs, but I mostly get annoyed by them.

I, for the most part, live with the knowledge that life is chaotic and shit’s going to happen more than anything. Lots and lots of bad shit. I’ve already outlined my near-nihilism/absurdism — definitely closer to absurdism than anything else — in this space before, so I won’t bore readers with it. Simply, I’ll say this: I don’t have irrational fears because I don’t really fear the chaos as I used to. A spider could bite me and I could die. So what? I could get hit by a bus tomorrow.

The two concepts that scare me the most, though, are the ones that frighten us all and make us desperately want to hide: uncertainty and total lack of control.

I struggle with the latter more than I’d like to admit. While I acknowledge the chaos as much as I do, the notion of a complete lack of control saddens and scares me. Personal relationships are the basis of this, of course. There’s something desperately sad when I’ve done all I can and the end result is nothing.

I imagine some of it is an American thing and some of it is a suburban thing (Fun note: I thought about calling this blog The Failed Dreams of Suburbia.). There’s a certain middle/upper class notion that every kid can be whatever s/he wants to be and, ultimately, that’s complete and utter shit.

I’m a full-grown man and I’m between 5’7″ and 5’8″. This doesn’t bother me a ton; I understand that genetics are what they are and no amount of exercise is going to make me taller. But, because of my height, I am not going to play in the NBA, for example…

OK, well, only 360 people occupy NBA rosters, so maybe that’s a bad example. Let’s go with the dating scene.

Outside of a select few, women tend to want to date someone taller than they are. I do not know this for an absolute certainty, but this has been true in personal ads I’ve come across. Women on the taller side of average tend to prefer a man taller than 6′.

I’m sure there are reasons for this — I’ve been told there’s a security thing in there somewhere — but the reasons, ultimately, don’t matter. I am not tall enough for a lot of women. I could be the most charming, handsome man in the world (note: I am not), but I’m about four inches too small for a lot of ladies.

This is the nature of living on a spinning rock with more than six billion other humans. Just because you may think you are right for something or someone doesn’t mean that thing or person thinks the same. It’s outstandingly sobering and, ultimately, sucks.

My college girlfriend and I broke up in the latter half of 2004 for reasons of circumstance and general malaise. The relationship had run its course and we’d grown into two different people than the ones that’d gotten together. It didn’t help that her job took her to a different city and relocation was not an option for me, though not for a good reason.

This started something of a downward spiral from which I had immense difficulties wrangling free. The actual breakup didn’t wreck my brain like others have since (and did before), but the subsequent lack of things in my life completely wore me out. I focused a lot on my dog and my job and retreated into a cocoon of inactivity.

Really, it made sense: I was at a stage in my life wherein I was supposed to have had the best time. I was in my early twenties, in a new area, with some (not a ton, thanks student loans!) disposable income. But, my shyness and my hesitance to put myself out there completely isolated me within my own mind.

This, of course, went on for almost two years.

I used to talk on the phone with my best friend all the time about girls — this is partially what made us close friends. Around this time, I was completely convinced that I had entirely blown my chance at relationship happiness by not moving north with my ex. I honestly believed that I was a completely acquired taste and no young woman as awesome as she was/is would ever look my way again.

More importantly, I’d not really dated as an adult. Instead, I’d dated in HS and college, wherein being shy as I was/am was not as big a hurdle as it is in the real world. College made me considerably more pleasant (to others, at least) and that sort of development, personality-wise, was vast.

Living alone — albeit with a dog — nearly undid so much of that development. I hate to keep continually compare things to sports, but sport makes for easy metaphors and, moreover, it’s the language of many American men. As such, my best friend and I would later describe my two years of isolation in plain view as the equivalent of a pitching prospect having a major arm injury.

Sure, medical science is such that many arm injuries can be “fixed,” but healing takes time. And time means that prospect isn’t developing into a major league pitcher. Development time means everything to young baseball players. They have to acclimate to the new reality of bigger, stronger players.

My retreating into myself — ironically, mostly watching baseball — was that injury. I lost two years of development time. I could’ve been out in the social scene, meeting people and becoming a real adult. Instead, I ate candy bars and played lots of video games and, shockingly, got fat.

I also didn’t pay attention to culture at all during this time. I ended up listening to old soul records all the time and picking up whatever record Ben Gibbard recorded. This is why I never got into TV on the Radio and the same reason it took me years to enjoy Funeral, one of the most acclaimed albums of my lifetime.

I ranked it decidedly low on my best of the decade list last year at 47. It should have been 30 spots higher.

Funeral understands the context of the greater world in a way that few records do. “Une Annee Sans Lumiere” largely speaks of an unfair world and sort of exemplifies the rest of the record. There are forces beyond our control and there are forces we have to change. The record speaks of difficult times — adolescence, early adulthood, city life, nighttime. But, the record is not downcast. There’s hope in the song, though it glimmers less brightly with each passing day.

It’s aging, it’s fate and it’s life. I’ve grown a larger appreciation for it as I get older.

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