The most intense period of song writing for me, which eventually coalesced into Bedtime, was from about age 18 until about 24. At this time, I lived in a tiny, beautiful pastoral region of California called Santa Cruz County. I saw myself always as a worthy rock musician and recording artist, someone who’s job it was to make records into which people could lose themselves and find pieces of themselves they could not choose to look for. I wrote music to deal with my issues, because I wasn’t about to talk to anyone, and if anyone found out that I was different, I would surely fall off the face of the earth, or whatever outcome was the worst possible. Music was essential, I could not cope with things without it. It was safe, predictable, it filled my needs and it was private, and it was mine.
I also thought it was my job to go on tour, play shows, be on TV, do the whole 20th century mass-media rock thing. But my introverted master kept me from taking the necessary steps toward large populations, being out every night and making a spectacle and a product of myself. I needed my quiet, foggy little Mexican landscape, my room, my steady job that provided for my habits and my sanity. l gave myself a lot of shit for not being Keith Richards: a famous, influential, touring, professional, drug-hungry sex machine. I thought everybody else was like that, or at least all women. It’s always what I wanted most that I thought I could never have, that was the hardest thing to just have.
Chronic anxiety, depression, self-medication, and the persistent thought of “what the fuck am I going to do” pervaded every corner of my Mexican landscape. I didn’t enjoy anything because I just couldn’t accept the reality of my situation. I wanted out. But I look back on all of that fondly and know that I always was doing the right thing, because God and Jesus and Allah damn it, my choices and habits and neuroses quite simply kept me alive.
We lost a hell of a lot when we grew the frontal cortex. Look at how happy dogs and cats and simians are: content with safety, any old thing to eat, water, shelter from physical harm. Don’t they all usually look so homeostatic and robust? Their batteries are at the fullest possible charge at all time. They don’t have the nervous system components that drive something to starve itself, harm itself, or sabotage itself in order to survive. How in the fuck would that work, anyway?
Well, humans are great at it. Notice how, as technology, opportunity and society advance, the more diseases of the human body and mind proliferate. Why is it that with all the choices out there, all the people to see and talk to and all the ways to get food, shelter, predictability and purpose, that people are more and more stricken with anxiety, depression, lack of attention and physical/mental malaise? Choice is a killer. The frontal cortex is new and we are not at all in touch with how to make it work for us.
Walter Benjamin wrote in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935) that humans are not yet able to make technology work for them rather than the opposite. The frontal cortex is at the very root of technology, and a million or so years has not been enough for us to master this incredibly powerful and truly magical tool. I don’t doubt that the frontal cortex can move mountains or do other kinds of Darth Vader shit. Your hind brain is HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF YEARS OLD. It has kept you from being destroyed since you were the ancestral grandfather of the first ever invertibrate. It will never, ever, EVER let you down, tell you you are wrong, or permit you to be destroyed. It is fail-safe. And yet this young punk frontal cortex can screw it up and make you think you have to destroy yourself to survive. Just like that. What the fuck!
There came a point when we apes figured out we could kill lions and bears and huge megafauna that previously were not possibly threatened by us with stones and big bones and clubs and sharp things. Slowly we came down from the trees where the big bad dudes hunted, unafraid of their huge carnivorous teeth. How do those teeth like a stone launched with a sling? Ouch! And so we had access to all the complete protein eastern Africa could provide. Before long, in geological time (remember, if the history of the planet were a clock starting at noon and ending at midnight 2013, hominids came about sometime after 11:59pm), we had our basic needs fulfilled consistently enough that we could begin to choose. That’s when the pärk went to shit, Bärb. We got big, strong, and smart. Our basic needs, food, water, shelter, predictability and later purpose, were met well enough that we figured out that perhaps instead of eating shitty McDonalds off the forest floor, we could do some pushups, scrape a stone for a bit and get that hippo that thinks it’s king. Who’s king now, Hippoburger?
And now the women wanted men with big muscles and big brains who knew not eat the yellow snow and who could get protein from animals, cause that’s what’s up. Now we want warmer shelter because being cold really burns the carbs and that’s just a waste. If you wanted to get a bigger brain, more kids, longer life, you had to get your shit together. No more McDonalds off the floor because it’s there.
In 2002 I knew that I was great at language, music, literacy, analytical artistic thought and empathy, although nobody knew because I thought I had to act like a bigger ape than I was or I would be destroyed. I didn’t want to make all these choices about college or jobs or apartments. I had food, water, shelter, a scattered and incongruous family, predictability in that I knew what I would do with my day, and a purpose: to one day, when I was a big enough ape, be a hero to everyone as someone who delivers their mastery of their own life to the world through music.
As I got older, the nagging question of “what the fuck am I going to do” got so distracting that I had to get stoned and drunk just to cope with the anxiety and depression. How in the hell was I going to get ahead in this world? There was not a demand for my music because there was not a sufficient musical climate in my area because there was not much variety because everyone did the same things because they had very few choices because the cost of survival was too high. I still didn’t want to choose a job from the jobs available, nor did I want to pursue a career from the careers in demand. And I began to shrink. My frontal cortex could not confidently make the decisions and it told my infallible hind brain that something was wrong and I was in danger until I figured it out.
I watch all of the people I truly love and all of the fakes go through this every day. The introverts that I attract to myself fail to get a grip on their anxiety every day of their lives. I see billboards for ADHD treatment and I imagine what it must be like for that perfect child’s brain going berzerk trying to do what it was made to do while everyone tells them that their choice isn’t going to work within the program. I watch the fakes dress like they have never looked at an old fashion ad and gone “damn they looked stupid back then!” They don’t know what else to do. They are terrified of their only selves not fitting into the prescribed plan of life that does not concede to the demands of their gifts. They will pantomime any era of fashion, popular music or social attitude to prove to the world that they are alive.
We’ve all been through it, even the wealthy people and people like Zach whose upbringings were perfect and nurturing. And instead of looking back at your life and damning yourself for not doing better, give yourself some fucking credit, because all of your neuroses, all of your PTSD, OCD, depression and anger KEPT YOU ALIVE. And now that we know that, take a deep breath and realize that we don’t have to do that anymore. We are in control. If we spent enough time teaching our frontal cortex and our hormonal/muscular brain to work in concert, we can finally let the fridge open itself and let the beer float over to our hand.
When you hear about the garden of eden and the fruit of knowledge that brought on all pain, realize what we sacrificed to have this choice organ. Nothing’s good enough anymore! And it used to be all good!. What the fuck kind of promotion is that? Christians, Jews and Muslims, bless them, all come from around the red sea and Mediterranean, just a few hundred miles north of where it all began. And they all will tell you that your problems, undeniable desires and neuroses are SINS and it’s all your fault because life is evil and pain and iniquity, and if you cripple your frontal cortex and the rest of your nervous system and body enough, you’ll be a lot less able to fuck up with strong, convinced purpose, and when you die, something worse than more pain and death won’t be waiting for you. Fuck that. If I drink and do drugs and worry about every note of my music and every nuance of my term papers and every heartbeat of my love life, it’s because MY BRAIN MADE ME DO ALL THAT TO KEEP ME ALIVE. So instead of blaming me, and yourself, for being cärnatic, let’s all drink and screw and blow it to the fact that we are developing our frontal cortex. I’m in control here. I’m going to be very careful how I talk to my lizard brain, because that dude is all-powerful and it doesn’t forget anything. It hasn’t forgotten the feeling of my emotions floating easily from the keyboard drums and the low droning strings sound. It hasn’t forgotten how ready I was at any time to make someone else feel better. And it won’t ever let me down. ::::Fridge::: :::beer::: :::body::: (GULP) :::Aaaahhhh:::