Life is always wildly unpredictable. This is always good and bad.
The worst of times, like the best, are always passing away.
One day into the second half of this year, 2016 seems intent on proving itself more wildly unpredictable than any year in (my) living memory.
Bookended by Bowie and Brexit, the first half of this year often seemed a black-ice skid through the shockingly unexpected. Single words like “Orlando” and “Prince” now conjure sad assocations that wouldn’t have seemed possible six months ago.
After a run like this, it’s understandable if you feel just a little heavy of heart. Bewilderment, exhaustion, anxiety and sadness seem to be felt by a lot of people I’ve spoken to recently.
If you feel heavy of heart, it’s important to acknowledge it, to understand it, and to work if you can to resolve it, to get it out of your system.
Night of a Thousand Stevies
I thank my stars that I’ve been able to take this past week to rest, recuperate and recharge. I thank my stars all the more that I’ve been able to spend some of my week off reading Moby’s beautiful memoir, Porcelain.
is an extraordinary book, describing an extraordinary, wildly unpredictable life. A physically slight, balding-then-bald, relentlessly self-deprecating vegan Christian revelling in the squalour and violence of 1980s New York. An introverted, sober soul, fuelled mainly by oatmeal and organic carrot juice, creating spiritually uplifting rave music for the drug-addled masses. Until he falls decisively off the wagon, relapsing into the alcoholism of his teenage years, consorting with strippers and having sex on the dancefloor at a Stevie Nicks-themed drag night called Night of aThousand Stevies.*
But the sensationalist stories are not really what Porcelain is all about. It is beautifully written, remarkably funny and profoundly human. Much of the book is a loving ode to time and place, to feeling most at home in seemingly hostile environments, which are recalled with photographic clarity. Take this description of the so-called “backstage” facilities at an early 1990s UK rave club:
“There were two folding chairs, and a small fridge with a half-full jar of mayonnaise and some beer. It was cold; every backstage area in England was, without exception, cold. A venue might be hot and steamy and filled with sweaty ravers, but backstage in English venues would always feel like a filthy mortuary where you could see your breath.”
Ecstatic sadness and beauty
Moby also shares vivid moment-by-moment accounts of the creative process that went into some of his best-known compositions: Go (he makes no bones about the blatant, ingenious Twin Peaks soundtrack steal here); God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters; and Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?
I’d quite forgotten about the ecstatic sadness and beauty of the last of that trio of songs. The book brought back vivid memories of gazing at the stars on a clear night many years ago, listening to
Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? on a tape of superb music compiled by my friend Carrie from Pennsylvania. Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? could almost be an anthem for so many people’s emotional reaction to the brutality of the first half of 2016.
The heart doesn’t always feel this way. What seems to be the end never is.
charts a wildly unpredictable decade that ends on a very downbeat note. It concludes in 1999 with Moby all at sea, his mother having died of cancer and his musical career seemingly over. His US record label drops him after his Animal Rights album (which saw him lurch from the spiritually uplifting rave music that made his name into thrashing, basic punk music about, well, animal rights) fails to ignite the charts. He fears for the fate of his about-to-drop new album Play:
“A dozen people might listen to this, my last album, and then I’d have to move to a condo by the freeway in Connecticut.”
The reader that knows anything at all about Moby will know that Play was the pivotal moment in his career, a multimillion seller that was everywhere (to the extent that the reader that thinks they know nothing about Moby will have heard many of the songs from Play hundreds of times).
This, too, was a wildly unpredictable development.
The first half of 2016 was wildly unpredictable. So will be the next six months. And so will be the rest of your life thereafter.
Time for one of my wee competitions.** I will close with one of my favourite quotations on the wildly unpredictable nature of life. Without resorting to the search engine of your choice, can you tell me where I happened upon these words?
“It’s my belief that history is a wheel. ‘Inconstancy is my very essence,’ says the wheel. ‘Rise up on my spokes if you like but don’t complain when you’re cast back down into the depths. Good times pass away, but then so do the bad. Mutability is our tragedy, but it’s also our hope. The worst of times, like the best, are always passing away.’”
* My interest in this book was piqued by a Guardian interview in which Moby says he can recognise people who’ve read the book:
“They have a look. It’s odd being on the receiving end of
that look. It’s a look of knowing, but it’s also a look of concern.
Like, ‘Is everything OK?’”
** As ever with my competitions I am afraid that it does not offer owt in the way of what one might call “a prize.”
- Image at top of page via Wikimedia Commons (then crudely inverted in MS Paint by me).
- Porcelain cover art via Penguin Random House. I make no claim whatsoever for the copyright for this image, and will remove it from this post