I had very different dreams before 2020. I mean this both literally and metaphorically. After sharing some finer points about this matter with my best friend, he gently inquired if I suffered from PTSD. I had to think about that for a minute.
I’m sitting up in bed, heartbeat racing from another nightmare. This one was a tangle of lost friends, failed drugstore bathroom lip-piercing operations, unread but undoubtedly horrible text messages, shame, and familial dissolution. I think back. Any triggering events today? Not really… except for dynamiting this leviathan psychic logjam. Ah. Yes. Such things always have unforeseen consequences downstream with me.
“Autocomplete is already fascism.”
Unable to find the comforting quote I am looking for with my usual, privacy-oriented search engine, I resort to Google. I type the author’s name and am greeted with several suggestions. In my weakened and suggestive state I tap on the first autocompleted query.
A barrage of listicles ensnares me for five minutes before I wrestle free and regain my agency, back out, and refine my query with intent and a double-shot of anger. Several more failures before I begin writing this post. Now, it is time to share the quote but I don’t have it loaded onto my clipboard. I give it the Tyler Etters Akashic Hail Mary: clumsily recalling every word to the best of my memory. Dry and raw and damn the author’s name and damn the grammar. Only word proximity and the potpourri jouissance matter. Like a composite criminal sketch via eyewitness accounts, each weeks stale. I type, “in the 20th century we must regard everyone we meet as the walking wounded.” A hit! Ah. Yes. It was Robert Anton Wilson, not Hunter S. Thompson. No wonder my queries were failing:
“Under the present brutal and primitive conditions on this planet, every person you meet should be regarded as one of the walking wounded. We have never seen a man or woman not slightly deranged by either anxiety or grief. We have never seen a totally sane human being.”
— Robert Anton Wilson
Knowing this quote is about a half a century old makes it sting even more. Well, good thing I have a head full of Hunter S. Thompson now:
“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.”
— Hunter S. Thompson
Making the right music. That’s the new dream now. The old ones, the pre-2020 ones, the ones about my career and my family and my friends and my lifestyle and my aspirations and how the world could be and (even worse) how the world is — those dreams are all dead.
Moreover, lots of those people are dead. Again, both literally and metaphorically.
It is important to mourn when a relationship dies. The shift from bandmate to friend, the shift from friend to enemy, the shift from acquaintance to excommunicated, the shift from colleague to LinkedIn Connection, the shift from role model to embarrassment, the shift from inbox to buried: deaths all.
The best kinds of deaths are consensual and controlled. The worst kinds are surprising and violent. The ghosts of these ones can linger for years, sometimes for generations, before they’re exorcised. Their ravenous hauntings are capable of ruining even the sunniest of days.
Here, in 2023, we’re given more opportunities to experiences death than ever before. It is one of the reasons I’ve worked to kick my universally accepted social media addictions so hard. Like caffeine, we’ve all agreed it’s OK to be ingest this shit all day. Freebasing the apocalypse between meetings. Doomscrolling until you OD on terrorism, climate collapse, pornographic solicitations, wails from artificial intelligence, all jumbled together with posts from people you think (?) you actually know and care about. It’s all too much for me to handle. We’re all so many beautiful people and we’re all dying everyday. I’m too empathic, probably too neurotic, definitely too romantic for such a system to ever be healthy for me. (Fuck, I’m thankful I met my wife before the Age of Tinder.)
But death is a form of change and change is perhaps the only constant. I accept this. I do not fear death, nor do I fear letting my dreams die. No, the only thing I truly fear is that I will never change. That I will be trapped in some sort of entropic stasis-prison, where healing is just as impossible as decay. A zombie, chained to my own looping and unresolved traumas. A personal hell of grief and anxiety.
It is becoming increasingly clear I’ve been trapped in exactly this sort of prison for several years. And my old dreams, no matter how innocent and pure, are just as effective prison bars as any.
“Beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life.”
— Hunter S. Thompson
Listening to music, asynchronous or otherwise, is a communal act. And the practices between musicians themselves is similarly chartered. But in 2023, our folk traditions must be haruspexed from what digital entrails are left in our wakes, before they succumb to bit-rot.
If the Golden Age of music social media was heralded by the the MySpaces, Discogs, and last.fms, the Silver Age’s avatars were the SoundClouds, Bandcamps, Spotifys. It then follows are must be in Dark Age. Subcultures can still spread like ivy or lichen across the glossy cubes of Silicon Valley, despite the oppression of the algorithms. Their glass façades can be warm in the sun, even comfortable, if you can follow the changes.
“You won’t find reasonable men on the tops of tall mountains.”
— Hunter S. Thompson
Ending a Dream of Slumber is easy. Simply wake up.
Ending a Big Dream - like the American one - is much more fraught. It is difficult to see a result not named Achievement as anything but that shameful one named Failure. But if you realize your Big Dream was illusory all along, the kindest thing you can possibly do for yourself is let it go as with haste. And with gratitude.