Courtesy Easybranches

When I was growing up, and going through some bullying and shunning in junior high, grunge was on the rise. Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden… these names were surging through the airwaves, videos playing on MTV, the sound was all around. For my part, I listened, but I found it difficult to really interface with the content of the songs. I was much more engaged by faster-paced acts like Green Day and the Offspring. I wasn’t quite ready to fully examine the meaning and thrust of grunge; the more obvious punkish sounds underscored my unexpressed frustrations and anger. It felt, at the time, more cathartic. I didn’t know what I was missing.

Since moving to Seattle, and especially in the last year, many of these bands and their music have come back into my life, and I find myself having a newfound appreciation for their messages and meanings.

Chris Cornell’s sudden and inexplicable death struck a melancholy chord deep within me. I feel that I missed some great opportunities. The more I listen to Soundgarden, Audioslave, and his side projects and solo work, the more I can see parts of myself and my inner struggles in what Chris conveyed in his words and his singular voice. I find myself in another situation where I feel I didn’t appreciate the influence and power of someone enough until they were gone from my life; now, I can’t deny a desire to say and do so much more, to this person and on their behalf, because they made the world, and my life, better for their presence; both are now the poorer for their absence.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve handled my head weasels and the ways in which I’ve been pushed around by my errant thoughts and rampant emotions. While it’s good to know I’m not alone in this, it also breaks my heart at times — why would a thinking, feeling human being wish these things upon another? When I listen to grunge with the ears I have now, I find myself understanding the music and its motivations so much more, and wishing peace for those who feel the same, from the artists to their fans.

Mental illness is not something to be taken lightly. Even when things seem ‘okay’, the victim may simply be projecting an illusion of normality. Worse, something may appear out of nowhere to tip the scales into disaster — one unanticipated phone call, one bit of bad news, one pill too many. When these are conveyed to us, in speech or in song, we cannot take it lightly; we owe it to those we love too imagine them complexly, and offer love and support whenever we can.

We have the music of the artists who’ve left us; we have the good memories of the loved ones we’ve lost. There have been so many casualties — Kurt, Layne Staley, Andrew Wood, Ian Curtis, and now Chris — but we can hear them, and we can remember.

On Fridays I write 500 words.