Welcome again to Shuffle Synchronicities by me, Dave Cowen.
An unusual mix of music & memoir.
Every day I Shuffle my Spotify Liked Songs playlist (41,249 and counting), then write how the song Synchronizes with my life and maybe yours ;)
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"How Not To Drown" by CHVRCHES, Robert Smith
This song, from CHVRCHES’ 2021 album Screen Violence, is a collaboration with Robert Smith, who is the lead singer, guitarist, primary songwriter, and only continuous member of the rock band The Cure.
NME reported that CHVRCHES wrote the music and lyrics about their difficulties with depression/anxiety and success/failure.
Martin Doherty said the song’s release marked the “proudest moment of [his] life in music”, having worked with his musical idol, Smith.
But he also shared that he’s dealt with depression and anxiety his entire life, including while writing the music of this song:
“I don’t remember where I was, but I remember how I felt. Depressed, anxious, isolated and as usual, engaging in the only thing that could bring me enough equilibrium to get through the day and play the show. That is to say, I was hiding in the most remote corner of some venue making music on my laptop,” he said.
He reflected on how he was ready to give up on music before he formed the band:
“I wrote songs for years without making enough money to live. Without ‘success’. Just when I had fully given up hope of making a career out of music, my friend Campbell convinced me to try one more time with [bandmate Iain Cook]. Then I met Lauren and Chvrches was born…I’m writing this because today is the proudest moment of my life in music. Confirmation that even when things seem like they’re at their worst, something good can grow. That whilst I may never entirely conquer my mental health issues, they can be a catalyst for something positive. Relief for a moment or something life changing.”
Fellow band member, Lauren Mayberry, said something similar about writing the lyrics to the song:
“It’s sort of poetic too, how things work out. These lyrics are about a time when I just wanted to disappear, and the only time I ever thought about quitting the band. I felt like I was in over my head at the deep end and not sure how to get back. But I did get back. And if you’ve felt like that, I hope you find your way back too. This is the chapter on what to do after they dig you up.”
It feels like a synchronicity because as I wrote yesterday, I was feeling quite drowned by negativity and depression this weekend.
But last night I read The Book: On The Taboo of Knowing Who You Are by Alan Watts, and have been feeling better.
Or as CHVRCHES sings to start the song:
I'm writin' a book on how to stay conscious when you drown
I wrote about reading the first chapter of this book back in this June post.
Essentially it was a reminder of the Vedanta Hindu teaching that life can be looked at as a game where we are all aspects of God playing out the big play of life, therefore not to take the plot of the play so seriously, because that can make you not enjoy it.
Which indeed does help when your (ex?)-wife tells you she doesn’t want to communicate with you in any way anymore ;)
Why so serious??? What a funny plot point! No, it’s not sort of also maybe spiritual bypass ;)
The whole quotidian drama also made me think of this recent Naomi Fry piece about the photographer Jeff Mermelstein’s new book project #nyc, in which he took photos of people’s text conversations throughout the city.
Anyway, I just Bibliomancied to a page of The Book (Bibliomancy for those that don’t remember is opening a book randomly so as to do divination) and here's what it says:
“Once you have seen this you can return to the world of practical affairs with a new spirit. You have seen that the universe is at root a magical illusion and a fabulous game, and that there is no separate ‘you’ to get something out of it, as if life were a bank to be robbed. The only real ‘you’ is the one that comes and goes, manifests and withdraws itself eternally in and as every conscious being. For ‘you’ is the universe looking at itself from billions of points of view, points that come and go so that the vision is forever new. What we see as death, empty space, or nothingness is only the trough between the crests of this endlessly waving ocean. It is all part of the illusion that there should seem to be something to be gained in the future, and that there is an urgent necessity to go on and on until we get it. Yet just as there is no time but the present, and no one except the all-and-everything, [and] there is never anything to be gained…the zest of the game is to pretend that there is.
Anyone who brags about knowing this doesn’t understand it, for he is only using the theory as a trick to maintain his illusion of separateness, a gimmick in a game of spiritual one-upmanship. Moreover, such ragging is deeply offensive to those who do not understand, and who honestly believe themselves to be lonely, individual spirits in a desperate and agonizing struggle for life. For all such there must be deep and unpatronizing compassion, even a special kind of reverence and respect, because, after all, in them the Self is playing its most far-out and daring game—the game of having lost Itself completely and of being in danger of some total and irremediable disaster.”
What is funny is that I have both been the ‘braggart’ about ‘knowing’ the game and perhaps, therefore, ‘being above it.’
And I’ve also been ‘the one playing its most far-out and daring game—the game of having lost Itself completely and of being in danger of some total and irremediable disaster.’
The latter big time yesterday LOL.
Or to quote Robert Smith and The Cure:
I've made myself so sick
I wish I'd stayed asleep today
I never thought this day would end
And today is sort of the former.
Or to quote Robert Smith and the same Cure song, perhaps I’m imagining people ‘talking up to me’ and saying something like:
But if I had your faith
Then I could make it safe and clean
Oh, if only I was sure
That my head on the door was a dream
And yet Robert Smith in the outro to this shuffled to CHVRCHES song sums up the goal of sharing any of this ‘knowledge’:
I'm writing a book on how to stay conscious when you drown
This is the first time I know I don't want the crown
You can take it now
You can take it now
Take it now
Okay, that’s the two hundred and forty-sixth Shuffle Synchronicities.
Today, in Other! Substacks, check out Alex Dimitrov & Dorothea Lasky’s Astro Poets, who had a horoscope this week that felt resonant to me: Week of 9/19 in Aries: Some things from the past are resurfacing. It’s not meant to make you sad, but instead make you stronger. What you can count on is that things will keep moving forward.