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13 December 2017 @ 08:08 pm
reckon luck sees us the same  
a year and a half ago i joked to a friend that orpheus was my high school boyfriend. it was one of those things blurted out with barely a thought, but i heard it, stopped, and thought about what i’d said. in its own way, it was true; and, in its own way, it was important for me to realize: not in the least because it started a book.

music informed my development in a number of ways. music taught me different ways of approaching and appreciating something that may have deeply confused me the first time i heard it. music taught me that an album i loved wasn’t always a pleasurable listen; in fact, sometimes the albums i loved most were also the ones that frightened me or gave me a headache. i loved music, so music taught me a lot about love: what i loved, how i loved it, how experiencing that love changed me.

a tale of three aprils:

i checked out in visible silence from the library where my mother worked because of the cover art, which felt like something i’d draw. i sat in my new ecru beanbag chair with my new headphones on, entirely unprepared for what i was about to hear.

the only other tape i’d checked out from the library to that point was men at work’s business as usual. even just three seconds in, i couldn’t say this was anything like that. i couldn’t say what this was like, except that it shook up images and atmospheres from dreams i’d forgotten, or previous lives, or the universal unconscious, or who even knows. somebody made this music, i thought, but where did they get it from? it struck me for the first time that there was so much music out there about which i had no idea, to which i might not even have access: what if i never crossed paths with my favorite artists?

i remember the exhausted exhilaration, the fear, the urge to steal the tape for myself. my mom had only been working at the library for a few months, so i didn’t, but that was my first glimpse of the sacred relationship between music and theft.*


the power went out before school one morning. because we couldn’t be trusted in the cafeteria, we were herded into the gymnasium. two windows as opposed to none, i guess. it was still quite dark. annoyed with my friends, i slipped away so i could climb up onto a stack of gym mats and listen to remain in light.

in this period, i frequently routed my earbuds up through my clothing and wore my hair loose so i could leave them on all day. what i’m saying is: the wire from my headphones was a tactile presence between my breasts and over my abdomen. i was okay with that. orpheus and me in a stolen moment, making out on gym mats in the almost dark.


i’d been sick with an upper respiratory infection for a week and couldn’t think straight. the doctor apparently felt i was at increased risk for pneumonia. in order to avoid it, he told me, i needed to rest and avoid cold air. so the next morning, i got on my bike and rode to the neighborhood strip mall. without a coat. in weather that might have topped off at 50 degrees. teenagers.

from the drugstore, i bought junior mints and a bar of yardley triple milled rose soap. from the video rental place, i bought talk talk’s laughing stock, which i’d been courting for a year. bending to unlock my bike’s combination chain, i broke into a cold sweat and only just barely didn’t throw up a half box of junior mints on the rack.

still, i survived the two largely uphill miles home and collapsed on the living room floor. shaking from exertion. dripping with fever. “that doctor was sure right,” i deliriously informed my feline friend as he licked my eyelids, historically a successful resuscitation technique, though this one time it could have been for the salt. i crawled upstairs and took a hot bath. i crawled out of the tub and into my bathrobe. in my bathrobe, i sat on the corner of my recently floored boxspring and pried my new CD out of the clamshell.

the sacred relationship of music and theft: this album should have scared the junior mints out of me, but because i’d allocated resources from my physical wellbeing to get it, and/or because my brain was strange with fever, and/or because of some other reason, i heard it like i’d never heard anything before. not that i could say what i was hearing, except for that it shook up images and atmospheres from dreams i’d forgotten, or previous lives, or the universal unconscious, or who even knows. i remembered who i was. i remembered who i wasn’t. i closed my eyes and let “ascension day” take me wherever it wanted me to go.

so where does music want me to go?

where does love want me to go?

along with the artists for which i proudly wore shirts, there has always been an artist, a few artists, an album, a mix tape of songs, a show i recorded off the radio: something i regularly listened to that i didn’t talk about, that i didn’t share with friends, that i kept for myself. sometimes by accident, sometimes by subconscious intention, sometimes by overt herculean effort. i wasn’t sure why. i felt guilty about it. at first, it felt so good to share music. at first, i wanted to share every song that i loved with every person who was willing to hear it, and i wanted to hear every song that meant something to someone i loved. it was play for me, it was one of the safest forms of sexual contact. orpheus was my high school boyfriend, after all, and the only one who ever gave me mix tapes back. good thing they were all so good.

then again, that could very well be why nobody gave me mix tapes back.

then: i got into a bad fight with one close friend. i'd introduced him to one of my favorite albums and, consequentially, his favorite band. as much as i loved playing musical matchmaker, as much as i loved the compersion trip i got off of introducing someone to something they found meaningful, i found that sharing music could have some ugly consequences. after the fight, not only could i not really listen to that album any longer, i couldn't listen to anything from that band; it all made me too angry and sad.

then: another close friend really didn’t like me to have media i wasn’t sharing with her. she was jealous of anything that took my attention away from our friendship, and she was very jealous of the music i listened to most. this wasn’t a problem until it was. when it became a problem, i understood something important about love:

but i couldn’t iterate it at all for a few years. i struggle to iterate it even now. i was already practicing it, to the best of my ability, and i practice it still. i will try to explain here.

active listening, for me, means engaging without attachment to outcomes.

maybe i will delight in what i am about to hear, maybe i will be disgusted by it. maybe it will change my life in some way, probably it will change my life in some way, but i have no place trying to define such a change in advance. i am not going to understand everything about a song in one listening; in fact, especially when i love a song, i am never going to understand everything about it, and i have no interest in trying.

that is an important ingredient in love for me: something about it will always remain a mystery. as it should be. each instance of contact has the potential of offering something new, but that’s never to be assumed. assuming i will “get something” out of every instance of contact with anyone or anything i love means objectification. it traps that person, creative expression, or idea inside my expectations. it forces my limitations on them. it violates both our boundaries. it makes who or what i love into a thing. i don’t like mixing up love with expectations. i don't demand the beloved to be who i expect them to be or do what i expect them to do. i want to experience them as they are: the being i am in love with.

love, for me, means engaging without attachment to outcomes.

i do not submit to my culture’s current mainstream interpretation of seduction, which can have everything to do with control and commodification and very little, if anything, to do with love.

seduction should not be anywhere near the rape spectrum. unfortunately, because of the world we’ve made, it is. it’s become a way of manipulating one person into surrendering to another’s will, often using tools to impair the will of the person being seduced: gaslighting, pressure tactics, inebriants. oh, god, reclaiming speak: it’s power-over, not power-with. it risks erasing the will of the other, turning our very bodies against us.

many of us have been wounded by seduction-as-weapon. through sex. through marketing. through social ambition. through politics. through society brainwashing us into believing that seduction can only ever be used as a weapon and you better be the one wielding it or you will only ever get used. the overculture’s interpretation of seduction means engaging exclusively because of an assumed outcome. relationships resulting from this kind of seduction aren’t about “who do i want to share my life with,” but, instead, “who can get me the best version of what i want as quickly as i want it?”

consumer love sabotages the development of agency. fuck, it promotes the attitude that agency, that of others and ultimately your own, is nothing but a pesky obstacle to material success. it totally is, by the way. developing one's free will is a horrible way to succeed in business, no matter what line those seductive bootstraps are trying to feed you. that's a truth you can take to the bank. or not, but anyway.

probably it’s because of my history, but the only way seduction works for me is if it is mutual. shared seduction. an invitation to go deeper, to share sacred risk, to revel in mystery. to experience what is there, even if we cannot understand it, in the moment or ever. to embody sacred will. to honor the other’s will as sacred. to surrender to each other.

where does music want me to go? where does love want me to go? nowhere i need to be forced. nowhere i need to force anyone else. maybe where we already are. so: where am i, really?

gratefully in audience of orpheus, as i’ve ever been.

*NOTE: this is a mystery, one about which the author has written dozens of pages that she can never show anybody. please understand that the author is not condoning literal theft in any way shape or form. it both is and isn’t more complicated than that.
music: grouper - we've all gone to sleep