Lost in Music

Lost in Music

I visited the dentist with someone this morning. The dentist, a large and friendly Rumanian, a slightly shy bear, was playing Vivaldi: no words, not especially what I would listen to, but something about the music filled the room with a feeling of a very special, loving presence. One on the Side of life. No anaesthetic necessary. Pain sounded as if it had been the last thing on Vivaldi’s mind, and maybe he had intended it to be: Vivaldi was never a well man. Listening to his music it seemed to become one of the last on ours; and this was wonderful because I had been at the dentist because the person I was with had been very nervous of having a filling.

Then I went to a cafe for a coffee and nearly drowned in the open sluice of its sound-system: pouring into my ears, my brain, my body, my soul was the terrible liquid sound of macho self-pity, an earnest man singing about the various ways in which life had never gone right for him. I imagine it never will.  There’s sad music and there’s music that makes you sad, neither of which I could do without – but there’s also the kind of thing I finally left the cafe to avoid. Music that grabs you by the throat and drags you down. Angry music that suffocates and traps. Indignant music: hard luck stories that secretly wish hard luck on others, which see luck as a thing to be jealous of.

Be careful what you listen to. It may come true.

Addiction & the Main Lie

Addiction & the Main Lie

If you’re in charge of any failing operation, whether it’s a body that gets deeply unhappy if you don’t give it what it wants (addiction) or a political party whose members expect certain kinds of legislation (Brexit), the only way out seems often to lie. The truth feels impossible.

The main lie about Brexit seems to have involved the choice offered in a referendum where one course of action (to ‘take back control’), to leave the European Union, the more popular one, was a very risky one.  The risks weren’t spelled out or hinted at.

Addiction presents a risky option as one that feels if not safe, then essential. Something numbs a person to the risk in their behaviour … if they don’t get a kick out of the risk. Denial is an art that doesn’t always involve lying, but it generally perverts the truth. We should treat Brexit like an addiction.



Denial means less pain and more craving. Less denial means less craving but more pain. An aside: denial is often about not wanting to alienate people around you. Making your pain known can have unpredictable consequences. Being in denial isn’t simply about not wanting to accept what is happening in you, or to you. That’s often far less of a problem, especially to someone who doesn’t like themselves, than to lose the people around them. As an impulse, nurtured during childhood, this kind of fear of abandonment is both very understandable and hard to shift. It is, however, possible to shift.  The craving? That’s the medicine you look for to avoid the pain, and it may come on a plate, wearing clothes, in a bottle, in a bookies, in a syringe, standing next to you even when you and they wish they weren’t … it’s all a kind of addiction.



Set your intention: your conscious, voluntary intention, as if you are setting out on some kind of a trip. Whether it’s an Antarctic crossing or a visit to the shops is a matter for your imagination, but if you do, this is something you can come back to with strange effect. I mean, something like this: ‘I am being less defensive.’ Just think that and keep coming back to it, as if you are opening a door onto a room. See what happens.

She Wears an Egyptian Ring, if Only Theresa May did

She Wears an Egyptian Ring, if Only Theresa May Did

I wish she did.

I was listening to Bob Dylan. I can’t read him, because it lacks everything about the performance that I love. He doesn’t do it in writing for me; apart from in phrases, aphorisms, weird lines that go on and on gathering momentum in me, counteracting other words that fly out at me from news stories: deal, betrayal, vote. Each time I hear those they seem more maligned, more battered by the unworldly imaginations of whoever’s speaking them. Caught in a trap. That’s a good one. Lost in Music. I can get lost in music, with all of its intensity and rhythm but only in a way that seems to  set me straight. Robert Browning: Who hears music feels his solitude / Peopled at once.

You can find a piece of music now – on line, in your phone, on a CD, or on a record. Each time it sounds different, if you listening closely enough. I say now, because it isn’t too long you need to retreat to find a time when you couldn’t find a piece of music unless you could find somebody good enough to play it – and then they’d either have had to find the manuscript for the piece, or have remembered it. Writing’s a different matter, unless it goes digital, which it is. Turn off this computer or the server this page is stored on and bang go all the words. Nobody’s going to remember them as they are when they’re read. We’d have words more like music. Perhaps we already do, with deal, betrayal and vote. Words, all their dignity gone.

I wish someone had taught me to read like this and perhaps I’d have something more interesting to say. Don’t get me started on people learning to read.

Addiction: Crossing the Line

Scene of Psychotherapy
Addiction: Crossing The Line

There’s a point that arrives, when I’m helping someone think about their struggles with addiction, that goes something like this:

Them: ‘I wish it could be like that.’

Me: ‘Why can’t it be?’

Them: ‘I don’t want to get lost in all of those fantasies, those dreams again. That’s when I go crazy.’

Me: ‘Maybe you wouldn’t, now.’

People need to wish for things without being obliged to have them, or to feel devastated when they can’t find what they are looking for. Addiction happens when ‘I can’t survive without this’ somehow gets encoded within ‘this is what I want’. It’s the nasty little ghost that haunts desire, and which whispers irresistibly, but so softly it can barely be heard: ‘get it, get it now.’

If you do something, and you keep doing it, and you can’t stop doing it and it’s ruining you, that’s probably addiction.

So while you find out how to curb your dependency, to unhook yourself from that intensity, you may give up a little on wishing.

One day you’ll need to cross the line again and see what happens now.