“This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.” - T. S. Eliot

in Life.....As We Know It

I woke up a few days ago with those lines reverberating in my head.

Those are the final two lines of Thomas Stearns Eliot’s poem, “The Hollow Men” published in 1925.  That’s not unusual for me – lyrics from music and poetry are always roaming around in my head whether I am awake or asleep. The night before, I had been celebrating my birthday and the 4th of July with my son, Matthew, and his fiancee, McKenzy. Our conversation, as it usually does, meandered into discussing the angst and anxiety of the times.

So. Much. Stress.

One of the best parts (besides the fact that they now have to pay their own insurance) about having 20-something kids is that they are in touch with the music of today and Discord and Reddit and all those other places that they keep telling me to go peruse.  So, I always expect to hear some great tunes when we hang out together. 

What I didn’t expect was to have my heart broken.  Our teens and 20-somethings are dealing with so much social unrest right now with bitter national politics, a world-wide pandemic, the economic downturn, lack of jobs, and the protests for equality  and justice. There is just so much stress for them to deal with. That angst, that overwhelming feeling of anxiety, trickles into their social media feeds and into the music they listen to.

Music Can Bring Us Together

My son and his future wife are musical omnivores.  Sound, beat, tone – all of those musical elements can cohesively come together in different genres, from country to opera.  But they are more into metal.

I heard an echo of T.S. Eliot’s haunting words recently when they had me listen to the music of British rock group, Bring Me The Horizon (BMTH). Sound matters to my kids, but lyrics matter even more.  Modern music to me is often “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The words, the intent, the lyrics MUST be right there with the sound in order to make the music matter.

Both Matt and Kenzy shared their favorite song from the band with me.  Thankfully, there are programs online that will play the song AND show the transcription of the lyrics, too, so my aging eyes and ears can understand better.  (Hey, I just turned 55, so I am claiming my crone nature!)

It Broke My Heart

“Parasite Eve” is the newest song from BMTH, crafted while they have been in lockdown due to the pandemic.  It is full of the angst and anxiety of the season, and fit into the conversation we were having. (If you want to know exactly how our teens and 20-somethings FEEL right now, go listen to that song!)

After listening to two more BMTH songs, I had tears in my eyes.  It wasn’t the lyrics or the music.  It wasn’t the sound or the fury.  It was the raw ache.  It was the depression, the gnawing anxiety, the aching desire for something better, the desperate pleading for something better.  It broke my heart. 

You Will Never Walk Through Hell Alone

We stopped the music.  I made each of them swear a vow to me.  Here is exactly what I told my son and his fiancee:

“If at any point in your life - tonight, tomorrow, next week, whenever – you feel the pain and the fear and the anxiety so much that you want to leave this world, then you promise me right f***ing now that you will pick up the phone and call me and say, “Mom, I need to come over.”  Because I promise this, there is so much horror and shit in this world, but there is so much more good.  There are so many evil people, but there are more good people.  And when you feel unbalanced, and that the bad is overrunning the good, then you come to me.  Because I have lived through so much in my life, and there is nothing you will walk through that I can’t walk it with you. There is no pain, no horror, no anxiety that I will turn away from, and we will face it together.  I promise you this, I will be with you no matter what.  You just have to promise me that you will never give it up and end it all.”

At that point, they had tears in their eyes, too. They both promised. And then we turned the music up really loud! And rocked on into the long, dark night.