You take a few steps up to the stage, and go to the microphone. The people behind you take their places. The lights in the house go dim. The people before you disappear. You make as if the entirety of the world is here, now. You give yourself some kind of redemptive task to fulfill. You commence the conjuring. The music murmurs. You speak.
Two hours later, you thank the people for the gift of their evening. Mostly they’re on their feet, uncertain of what might have just happened. An hour later, you’re in a hotel room somewhere, more uncertain than they. By the next unruly morning a trickle of testimonials, praise songs and reviews come in. They persuade you of the endeavour. Something happened. It’s still happening, they say. You must continue, they say. You’re not as sure as they are. You put your stuff in the trunk. You get on the bus. You do it again. You continue, uncertain of how to.
An unthinkable number of detailed demands and grinding got-to’s precede those two hours. These Nights of Grief and Mystery are among the most unnaturally occurring of things in a distraction-loving world, if ‘natural’ means ‘effortless’, or ‘meant to be’, or ‘in the cards’. The people at home: our grief debt to them borders on the unmanageable.
I will say this: the world out beyond my little life has been unmade in some deepening way. Perhaps by the last thirty months, or by something that rode those thirty months into town. “Rough Gods“: that’s what we called that something. The hurt, the edgy sorrow: they’re palpable out here. There’s a bruise of a kind on the public good. Stranger Days are upon us, and winter is in the wings.
We might be artists of some sort out here. I don’t really know. We’ve traded the mirror imaging of the untested days – that older understanding of ‘what art’s for’ – for the prismatic refracting of a troubled time. The spectrum: that’s what’s left after those two hours. The constituent parts of an Old Hurt. The primary colours, and then some.
The other night, we drove way into the green mountains of Vermont. It was a tent, it was a frosty night, and the place filled with farmers. There was just enough ambient light that for once I could see the faces. The majority were young people. And they meant to be there. And it showed. All night long they looked at me. “Go on“, their look said. “Tell it. Tell it all. Don’t hold back. Let me see my world in what you say.” That night, there was a righteous, riotous, almost keening response to Fate, the first of its kind. The kind I knew the piece deserved, or required, or both. The kids heard Fate, bless them. And they made sure we heard them. Bless them for that, too.
Founder of Orphan Wisdom