ffc fulcrum

[LISTEN TO THE ARTICLE/EPISODE ON ANCHOR.FM]

“fulcrum” was the first song that was recorded for the album + the very last to be mixed (as it needed to be re-mastered multiple times before i was finally happy with all the levels). it’s working title was “blood moon” (as i began tracking it on the eve of the “super blood wolf moon” of january 20th, 2019). in high school, one of my favourite bands was ned’s atomic dustbin, who sometimes incorporated dialogue from films into their songs (e.g. a quote from “dead poets society” at the beginning + from “apocalypse now” at the end of the song “suave and suffocated”). inspired by ned’s, i’ve done the same over the years with quotes from movies (e.g. “the matrix” + “memento”) as well as philosophers (e.g. peter rollins + slavoj žižek). for “lunacy,” my plan was to do the same + i had initially debated recording selections of kester brewin‘s “getting high” myself (because no audio version of the book exists). but then i remembered the day + age we live in. so, i decided to contact kester directly + asked if he would be willing to record a couple selections of text that i had underlined in his book (which he graciously did for me). and it’s one of these readings that you hear at the start of “fulcrum”:

wherever it is we find ourselves, the gravity of our situation demands that we act, yet the most human response is not flight to some distant hoped-for eden above, nor to fall to the ground in hopeless despair. Whether by writing or otherwise, we need a different story to live by, one that isn’t about abandoning this world, but committing to it. to transition into such a myth – one that pushes us beyond our ache for transcendence – we will need to go to new places and do new things. the first step towards this will surely be about learning to love, looking outwards from the self, upwards from the ground even though we know that it will – at some unknown time – take us.

to summarize the book itself, it’s a lyrical, accessibly existential, autobiographical recounting of humanity’s insatiable drive to “get high,” in which brewin seamlessly examines various interrelated ideas of flight that largely characterized the 1960s (i.e. lsd, lunar exploration and spiritual enlightenment). ultimately, its aim was to encourage readers to reorient their focus from the sky back to the ground where they live, as every attempt in the past to somehow reach transcendence has proved wanting. with this in mind – coupled with my own failed experiences over the years of pursuing otherworldliness – the song “fulcrum” was an attempt to translate all of these thoughts into music using the imagery of a lever. when it comes to our personal + collective attempts to determine what may be on the other side of death, any religious or spiritual concept of faith involves some kind of exchange – a giving up of one thing in order to get something else (such as rejecting the world to gain heaven). accordingly, many look up + away from what they can see to what they cannot; they feel obliged to shrug at death in deference to a wishful anticipation that our mortality is not the end. and so humans like us over countless generations have + will continue for all time to launch themselves symbolically + literally into the sky, because the actuality of our presence on this earth is so often weighty + unsatisfying. we build simple machines of worldviews, philosophies + myths to escape what we fear to be true; namely, that we may in fact have only one life to live. yet, as thom yorke sang in the radiohead song “fake plastic trees”: “gravity always wins.” and no matter how many times we repeat the cycle of absconding our impermanence by attempting to project ourselves into the heavens, maybe we are unwelcome foreigners there. could it be, instead, that we should strive for contentment here + now? what if the pivot-point of the fulfilment we seek is that very connection to the earth where we find ourselves? to say the same thing differently, could it be – as the author of ecclesiastes once wrote – that “there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. that each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil”? i’m inclined to think so. granted, such a view may indeed offer less hope than believing resolutely in some sort of afterlife. however, no one can deny that a life beyond this one is up for debate…it has been for generations – perpetuating othering, division, conflict, violence + conquest – and no one is any closer to arriving at one timeless, unified view that can be agreed upon across our manifold barriers of geography, language + culture. that we all die is the common ground that humanity stands on – not that we will live again. and to be honest, i’d much rather be realistic about what i do know to be true (i.e. that our time on earth is short) than to insist on being right about something that remains to be seen (i.e. that we might overcome death if we do/say/think the right things). occupying a space of near-nihilism is assuredly barren, lonely + disheartening. but i would also contend that it beneficially short-circuits the inauthenticity of hyper-optimism that all too often characterizes escapist religious outlooks (which basely see human behaviour as the disposable means to a greater end, rather than recognizing the innate value in actions/words/thoughts as ends in themselves).

related to all this, in years past i would have found comfort in the iconic “pascal’s wager,” where the reasoning goes that we should err on the side of “rolling the dice” – i.e. having faith – as opposed to not believing something + potentially losing everything. the assumption here is that if what we put our trust in is one day discovered to be false, one has in essence lost nothing. the problem is that such an argument only really makes sense when told to each other on the inside of a group, because it’s there that people imagine they are already on the right side + that they don’t really have anything to lose. however, if one is at the fringe or the outside of a group, it’s much easier to see the flip-side. and for me, it’s never made sense when people say one hasn’t lost anything if the claims of christianity ultimately turn out to be untrue. specifically, if things aren’t the way that those who like to reference “pascal’s wager” claim it to be regarding the afterlife, one’s entire earthly existence is indeed at stake + could possibly have been wasted. for this reason, what appeals to me more than blindly placing a bet with my being is to hope – if there is truth to the assertion that a loving, merciful, compassionate creator God does exist – that such a God would respond graciously with me concerning all of my spiritual misapprehensions. in the meantime, my intent is enjoy what’s left of my limited time here on earth. because whether or not this is all we will ever have, it is all that we know for sure. and while that’s the case, it seems to me, “the best thing we can do is eat and drink and enjoy what we have earned.”

as for the actual music in this track, my desire was that it would be heavy + hard-hitting – like a proper kick to the spirit. i find that many musicians + bands have a tendency to lose their edge or mellow out over the years, which is the last thing i wanted to do with “lunacy.” my opinion is that music should instead become increasingly intense + dynamic. and if i ever write anything else after this album – which i intend to – my plan is to make more music like this.

next time on the fringe faithful collective, the song “leaving, presently” that i would describe as a nod to pedro the lion’s “criticism as inspiration” (in which david bazan sang, “i can write it in a song but never say it to your face”). until then, here is “fulcrum” (which you can freely download or stream anytime at soundcloud.com).

peace + love sisters + brothers.

 


 

FULCRUM

made to be confined / drawn to take our leave from earth
though infallibly we land / bound by physics, down to dust
(sky is calling)
increase our efforts to depart / desolations overwhelm
but no force that we expend / can effect desired ascent
(we keep falling)
still we try + fail; repeat / long for any place but here
til we get to where we want / find that “there” is carbon-copied
(sky is calling)
could it be that we are wrong? / error in the calculation
what if we weren’t build for flight / we’re terrestrial, not projectiles
(we keep falling)

valid
(the password isn’t working)
launch code
(and it’s not just your memory)
missing
(the vessel’s clearly broken – maybe it was never meant to be a getaway)
reset
(rest your feet upon the solid ground)
anchor
(find a chair, make yourself a drink)
fulcrum
(life’s the hinge on which we turn – the grave’s our horizon)

all attempts at peace / speed the progress of regression
emptiness behind the veil / poured concrete; no transcendental
(sky is falling)
there’s no mass that is enough / there’s no changing bleak inertia
motionless we all remain / dreaming up suspended bodies
(we keep calling)
feckless emptying of self / can’t escape our own daydreaming
only long to lift away / hit the gravel – featherless
(sky is falling)
we remain simple machines / gaikokujin of the clouds
pivot-point of non-existence / lacking contact; feeling spectral
(we keep calling)

it’s no secret that we are each mortal
all vitality will soon relapse
our significance is expiring
another useless book upon a shelf
with each breath the void is getting closer
no rescue plan will ever succeed
better to deny illusion’s death-grip
when so little of our selves remain
instead of vainly reaching upward
make-believing with our eyes closed tight
accept as given we are wingless creatures
and that we cannot take our leave from this place
if we happen to regain our footing
existing will not be made much easier
but we might find what we thought had been lost
is found securely planted in the dirt

valid
launch code
missing
reset
anchor
fulcrum, fulcrum

One thought on “æ 16: fulcrum

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