Monday, October 12, 2015

Why I Dislike the 'Life is Good' Motto

There are a lot of things I appreciate and I am thankful for in this modern age, and my iPhone is one of them.  I've heard complaint that the new instagram pictures popping up on Facebook are "depressing" or "too hipster" or "grainy"~ read: just not clear and clean enough for the well-trained eye.  Honestly, though, when I see perfect pictures of seemingly perfect people, it stresses me out. The "Keep it Real" motto that I held onto when feeling threatened by the beast of perfectionism was like a dolphin swimming at me in a sea full of sharks. I'll instagram to that. ;)

It makes me think about the late nineties. Sometime in the late nineties, I started seeing brightly colored bumper stickers with the logo “Life is Good.”  Nothing against the makers of these fine logos, but I remember thinking that in comparison with most of the world's suffering, and even my own small teenage version of strife, the way they struck me was glib: vacuous, empty, neon colored “happiness,” more likely than not, as a reactionary methodology against the dark/emo trends that, I would argue, were simultaneously making hipsters "happy," or at least conditioned for trial in a deeper and more satisfying way.

Hap-what? Yes. As those middle-aged van-driving peeps starting touting the “Life is Good” manual, they were willing themselves into a living bubble: stripping themselves of an all-important concept that has an interesting connection to the new instagram pics: the soulful, mournful tunes were cathartic in a way.  They were keeping emo hipsters… cough, cough… me in line, in a unique-to-certain-American-cities-vibe way. I believe that need to grieve and bleed was an anchor for our sad souls, not an idol. It helped us to face the young adult strife, and boldly fight the battles against rejection or envy with renewed energy.

Why did the emo trend happen? It was, in addition to helping us embrace the daily messiness and the daily fight against the glib-glib, perhaps deeply tied to the Hippie movement. It was the sad, but I would argue, deeply necessary period of repercussion for the wildness of our parents’ generation. We listened to Simon and Garfunkel a generation too late, and guess what? “The Sound of Silence” made us sad, too.  But it also helped.

When I got into Death Cab for Cutie’s album "Transatlanticism," the Red House Painters, and Ben Folds Five’s song “Brick,” (about his abortion with his girlfriend), I needed it.

No really.... Why?

~Sad music helped me to know that I wasn’t alone.  I not only had camaraderie with the artists, I had fellowship and a connection with my friends.

~Sad music became for me a way of dealing with the pain and real grief I was experiencing in my own personal life.... despite the warnings from well-meaning friends and mentors, that offered the exhortation: "certainly the reason you are depressed is because of the depressing music you listen to!"

~Sad music didn’t make me depressed- it cured what ailed me.  Joining the ranks of artists that  had gone before me, and artists living in the same world as me, currently, made me hope for something deeper and more tangible that I could sink my teeth into.

There is a song that was very popular on the radio and was made popular again by the recent "Muppet Movie."  It goes, “We built this city… on rock ’n roll.”

One of the best lines from the song credits several cities for being "this city" that was built upon rock-n-roll.

(I'm looking out over that Golden Gate bridge on another gorgeous sunny Saturday and I'm seein' that bumper to bumper traffic.)

(Here's your favorite radio station, in your favorite radio city, the city by the bay, the city that rocks, the city that never sleeps.)

The song credits the city with the Golden Gate bridge (San Francisco,) the bumper to bumper traffic (Chicago), the radio city (Cleveland, OH) the city by the bay (again, San Francisco), the city that rocks (Nashville), the city that never sleeps (New York City).

In other words, the USA was built on rock-n-roll. It has been a mainstay of our culture as long as we've been around.

This music has contributed to our culture, and it is our culture. It has given gifted people a chance to record what’s in their hearts. It has made legends.  Rock ’n roll has come, and it is here, and guess what? It’s not going anywhere. It’s here to stay.  Perhaps if we could hear and listen to more music by artists who were able to blend the happy and the sad a little better- yeah Mozart, but also bands such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys, and yes, dare I say it, Death Cab... we might just be in for a catharsis that's truly good for us.  And as for everyone else, I hope your life is good... real good. ;)
adding my link to the ACWB


Ashley Anderson said...

I love sad music. That's just me. Even when I'm joyful, even when I'm happy and laughing and life is good... there's always an attraction (for a lack of a better word) to sad things. God doesn't want me to forget that we all suffer and beauty can bloom from those things too!

Tacy said...

Thanks, Ashley!

October Rose said...

Like Ashley, I have always loved sad music (and sad stories!) even in the happiest of times! And I am so with you on Instagram ... I do enjoy me a perfect picture, but the pressure to produce that perfection ... well, it just ain't gonna happen. :) There is beauty in my blurry pics that I want to share!