Leave It Open

(What Angels Do To Survive)

“We let the weirdness in.”

It all depends on your point of focus. If your attention shifts off the intended object, where is the background then? Those details formerly serving little purpose but to provide context, now step centre stage. Any supporting structure can take up the mantle of lead role: lighting, subplot, sub-harmonics and overtones, crowds behind the stars, the blank wall on which a painting hangs. What works for art also works for life. You rarely notice your heart beating. Not until your loved one’s; not until your own reminds you it is there with a potentially fatal thump.

There’s a voice, twisted out of shape, distorted, tangled up in itself. Can you hear what it is singing? If you listen hard, right back there, down inside the mix… but maybe you don’t want to hear what it has to say. Maybe it is too close to the truth.

“I kept it in a cage, watched it weeping.”

Maybe the only things which mattered lurked in the background. All those glamorous heroes and heroines – who dazzled you for so long – will shuffle off eventually. The moors remain, long after Heathcliff and Cathy are no more than dust in an unread volume. The shadows still define the streets of Vienna, seventy years after Holly Martens returned to America. “The beat goes on”, as Talking Heads sang. The beat does, but the singing has long since fallen silent.

And what of that sense of self to which you cling: that inner voice and concatenation of memories you dredge up and twist into the stories of your life? They don’t add up to much, do they? How many years have you lived in silence, if you add up all those – at the time so important – tasks you set or were set?

“Say what we’re going to let in.”

It speaks the truth you have buried in there. Not because it is painful. There’s plenty up here on the surface to hurt. No, you buried it there because it is too true. None of it exists. Everything you could ever imagine, everything you ever dreamed: it is all emptiness. You keep thinking there is a way out, but in there is the simple, unadorned fact: there is nothing to escape from and nothing to escape to.

Step out of it all. Listen to the background: the sensations of your body, the noise in the room, all those tastes and smells, your breath, the movement of your chest. Listen to the gentle rumble to breeze makes as it crosses the moor and blows across your ear. You’ll find there is more in a moment than you could possibly remember, let alone turn into a story. You don’t need metaphors, Fairlights or Ferris-wheels to live in that moment.

Once you see the background, really see it, your life will change. You hadn’t experienced those colours before, but once seen, they can’t be unseen. And the world you had previously thought of as so glamorous – their world out there – you’ll see as a pallid imitation. How hadn’t you noticed the temperature in the cinema before? You will see the world recalibrated, rebalanced. Won’t you?

So what are you going to let in? In “Leave It Open”, Kate Bush sings of a babbling mouth pushing “it” all down, keeping “it” quiet. But “it” needs to be released, to be freed, despite itself. It’s there, down there – and there lurk things you might rather were left un-said. In The Third Man there are entire ecosystems functioning just out of sight. They are also creative – in their way. Are you going to invite them in? They’ll run amok, you know. It’s all there, in the background. 

Then you will see how the background and foreground are predicated on a shared delusion, a partiality of the senses, which stubbornly clings to its view of the universe. It infects everyone it touches. It’s ludicrous really. None of it is of greater importance than anything else. How could it be? Trapped in a fallacious entity you call your“self”. It has no more of a claim to a continued existence than a dust grain or a cosmos. It’s a monster in there, gnawing away.  

“But now I’ve started learning how.”

You’ll walk down a road one day, maybe in South London, and that tree – you know the one, the one full of angels – well, it’s just a tree, and those angels are like any other creature, clinging on, trying to find some meaning in it all. They might be duller than before, but somehow, the rest of the world seems all the brighter for it. No longer enthralled, you walk on. Your step is lighter. You no longer see visions. Or rather, you never stop. They will consume you, you know. As they always have. It’s what angels do to survive.  

“We let the weirdness in.”

                        “We let the weirdness in.”

                                                “We let the weirdness in.”

                                                                        “We let the weirdness in.”

                                                                                                “We let the weirdness in.”

(Quotes from “Leave It Open” by Kate Bush, first released on the album “The Dreaming”, in 13/9/1982, through the EMI label).

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