IMPORTANT NOTE: It is important to understand what this IS, and what IS NOT. This is an entry about the process of death, and the acknowledgement of related processes that are not physical or biological.
This IS NOT support or encouragement of taking one’s own life. If you are having those types of thoughts and are in America, then please call 800-273-8255 for help. For everyone else, please consider looking up your local mental health sources.
I had a conversation with someone close to me recently, and the subject of death came up. It was a surprisingly candid conversation. I won’t be naming the person here.
We asked each other a question.
“What is the one thing about death that bothers you?”
I answered first, and my answer was about the fact that I can’t contact people I know and care about, and tell them about my journey. This could be interpreted as the desire to share. It’s what I do, and why I write.
In asking the question in return, this person told me that they wanted to live long enough to see certain things happening in science, computers, and technology in general.
My answer could be fairly compared to posting on social media, and the other person’s answer could be compared to scrolling and reading social media or the news.
As I thought about those two answers, the other answer seemed way more relevant, so that is where my focus will be going for today.
IT’S ALL ABOUT FOMO, BABY
It’s like you’re waiting for the final episode from the final season of your favorite show, and you don’t get to see it.
FOMO, or “Fear Of Missing Out,” is what keeps the majority of people active on social networking sites. They want to be involved and in-the-know. They want to be up on the latest.
I remember deleting my Facebook account in mid-2014. For the first two months, I dealt with the pain of psychological withdrawals. During the first month, my FOMO levels were very high. But by the end of the second month, not only did I feel fine, but I wondered why I had ever posted anything on Facebook at all.
FOMO might be the biggest concern about death, beyond that part about not being able to un-do it or return, ever.
We all want to know what is going to happen next, which is why people click on that article that has a headline including the phrase, “You won’t believe what happens next.”
I HAVE BEEN DYING FOR MOST OF MY LIFE
My dying process has kind of stunk at times, although I have been adjusting to it. I could probably list out bullet points about the various modes of death. Instead, I’ll tell you my experiences, and you will then be able to make this relate to your own story.
Yes, you have a dying story. You’re dying right now. You just aren’t really acknowledging it. You will later. Or maybe right now.
1982 was a solid year. The fall of 1982 found me starting my senior year of high school. By the end of the year I would be 18 years old.
There was a decent future to anticipate. I’d be off to college soon. Beyond that, I’d have my own challenges and adventures in music, as well as life in general.
The radio played the music that I wanted to hear. If it wasn’t a song I liked, it was still a piece of the soundtrack of the times.
The clubs wanted people like me to show up. Young, energetic adults who were into Rock music.
This was fine for a while, until I started to notice that the landscape around me was dying.
The songs of my day were starting to fade from the radio, being replaced by things that just weren’t as good. When I moved to LA to try to become a Rock musician, the rock scene was mostly dead, and was being replaced by manufactured “glam” or “hair metal” bands. They sucked royally.
Before long, that died an appropriate death and it was replaced by Grunge. I could relate to that more than those skinny glam boys with big hair. But it was most definitely different from what I had experienced previously in the 80s.
People I knew started to fade away. Commercials started focusing on things in which I had no interest. Adding to the distress of this observation was the fact that people I’d once knew [not necessarily friends, although I sort of knew them in school] were getting old.
They were acting old and doing old people things. Meanwhile, I was frozen in time at around age 16, and it would be over a quarter century before I would find out about it.
Musicians are changing as well. The younger ones don’t really care much about the songwriting or arrangements. If it’s not about programming stuff that sounds like music, then it’s about shredding as hard as you can on your instrument of choice.
The 4-string bass gets replaced with the 5-string, and even 6-string [I do play a 5er]. The 6-string guitar gets replaced by a 7-string or 8-string.
Playing a song no longer matters. The audience wants to hear you shred. You’d better be perfect, but you’d also best be young. With the fans, they expect their music representatives to also be cool, good-looking, and popular on social media.
Then things start to get truly real for the person who is slowly moving through the dying process. The people you used to watch on television start dying off. This starts first, since they’re usually older.
This is when the person starts to notice their own mortality. It gets worse when the musicians you enjoyed start dying off.
Next thing you know, you are completely socially irrelevant. The music you loved gets played at the grocery store, or in a commercial for products for old people.
And before long, you find yourself playing songs from the 1950s on a six-string guitar for an afternoon gig at a retirement home.
WHAT DEATH SAYS TO US WHILE WE ARE LIVING
The cultural irrelevance that I feel is kind of like the idea that the party is over. To be WAY more accurate, it’s more like the sentiment of the party is continuing, but you are no longer invited or welcome.
It’s also painful when you still want to do the things you’ve always done, but new physical limitations get in the way.
Our bodies betray us as our minds are sharper and full of more information and experience than ever.
PART-WAY THROUGH AND HOW IT FEELS
In America, your death starts with slowly lowering levels of social relevance. It creeps away from you. At the same time, you move away from it, with work, family, and general responsibility.
The last big thing I experienced relevant to this was in 2016, when I was downsized from a company because I was old. Everyone over 45 who was not in management was shown the door.
We don’t want you. You’re old.
That’s the sentiment.
A CROSSROADS THAT I WAS NOT EXPECTING
As I write this, I am reminded of something my grandmother told me, in reference to my general malaise about being constantly picked on by the jocks.
“The jocks won’t be able to play football or any of their sports in the way they used to do it. But you will have music for your entire life.”
I took this to mean that I’d be able to play drums for the rest of my life. Phil Collins disagrees. Yes, I’ll always have the music itself. I can listen to it. I just eventually won’t be able to play it at all.
Musically, my life has slowed down quite a bit. I haven’t played my drums in a few years. I haven’t played guitar all that much in the past year.
Now, I’m being considered as a guitar player for a cover band that wants to play afternoon gigs at retirement homes. That sounds like a noble cause. All the same, the idea of taking that gig has me thinking about life in general.
I’m actually torn between continuing as a musician, or transitioning over to something else, like writing.
It’s a crossroads that I never even considered to be a possibility.
WHY THIS CROSSROADS? WHY NOW?
Sure, I could go straight to citing how the music business is dead. That would be obvious, cheap, and easy.
For me, I do have an issue with the cultural attitudes toward music. Music and musicians are not respected by our culture.
It might also be a case of me becoming aware of my true cultural irrelevance, and this might be de-motivating me with regard to music. I had been working on a re-make of a song I wrote and recorded [in draft form] in 1985 called “I Want You.”
I got the intro recorded, and a few important ears have heard it. As for the main song, I’m finding that I am getting annoyed with the idea of programming the drums. This would probably be the case if I were 19, because playing drums is infinitely easier for me. Programming drums simply isn’t satisfying.
Also, my efforts keep getting interrupted by things that I have to do. This is the case for most adults, who find themselves doing what they have to do instead of what they want to do.
Could it be that I am no longer enjoying being a musician? Certainly it is possible. It might also be possible that I am putting more focus on things that I had ignored back when I was working toward the goal of being a working musician.
Or maybe it’s how I feel in this particular moment.
It is a weird sensation.
To the point of this entry, it could also be a part of my dying process.
Or maybe I’ve grown past the confines of music, and am expanding my reach, as well as my view of life in general.
IN THE END
In American culture, we tend to view death as an unfortunate moment where something bad happens to you. It’s a case of being here one minute, and not existing the next.
But really, we start dying while we are young adults. It happens slowly at first. Then, right as you start to notice it, things ramp up. That one gray hair now has hundreds of friends who converted, as well as hundreds of friends who packed up and left.
All of this is out of my control. The only thing I can control is how I respond to this, and whether I respond or react. If I were to react, then I’d be upset about how my music interest isn’t as strong as it used to be.
However, since I am working toward responding instead of reacting, I would say that it’s an interesting and unexpected twist in my universe, to be headed in this particular direction.
Where will it go? In the short term, I have no idea. As for the long term, The Age of Starlight will come to an end, just like everything else. And when all of that gets overwhelming, I spend a half hour focusing on where the Universe is headed, as well as human society itself.
My suspicion is that human society is about to go buy a new Corvette and a hairpiece.
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