Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry_
We catch ourselves feeling our head shake fairly often. We will just be sitting there, awake and watching, seeing or hearing something and we think aloud or internally, "What the fuck is going on? I can't even imagine or pretend that I understand any of this, or any of that." We are a legion of head shakers. We are a mess of head shakers, crazed and content with the mental wilderness, with its random fits and bursts. The capacity it would take to comprehend all of the perplexities of what happens or doesn't happen for a reason or none at all is matched by what that belief would then shift toward whenever we thought there was a handle to be held onto. It would be like, when you're cracking eggs into a glass bowl and a bit of a shell falls down, in with the slimy yolks. All you think you need to do is throw a finger down into the goo, press the fragment of white against the bottom curvature of the bowl and slide it up and out, but that yolk and that shell conspire to elude. The shell is repulsed by the approaching fingertip, as if they both shared a magnetic polarity. It takes forever to retrieve and if we were to expand that time taken up in this cooking analogy times a thousand, it might be what would happen should we ever think that we're getting closer to breaking through consciously and starting to understand any piece of the bigger picture.
Anais Mitchell is wonderful in the role of questioning, with her odd and laden folk music. She does a terrific job of being of the mind that's connected to that pad of finger that goes confidently in to retrieve that fallen shell and then warping us back with a little smack across the face, reminding us that we're never going to get it. We're never going to get to those philosophical secrets that will burn us for all time. She sings, "Who are you to understand/The ways of him who holds the blade/And who are you to say to him/Him who made ya," after singing about making sacrifices every day, in hopes of reaching conclusions. There's disappointment, however, when we rationalize that every day is just a dying day, bringing us one closer to our final, insignificant bow. She more than acknowledges, or at least, plays with the ideas of higher and lower powers that go far beyond reasoning. She seems to relish the free fall, the thought that everything belongs to the family of the chaos theory and that there's no way of really telling if the laughing we're doing is a product of happiness or just the beginning of the opposite feeling. High or low - it's all relative. It might just be differences in the crowds we keep, the people we share our bed or house with. She sings on "Comin' Down," "I know where my satisfaction lies/Way beyond the blue horizon," and it feels like that could be like knowing about a utopia, or a heaven that might or might not ever be visible, but the looking continues.
*Essay originally published August, 2011