Notes on what I'm reading

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Jason Molina

Jason Molina's music came into my life at a complicated time. I was living in a new city, trying to think about the right sort of person to be, learning from different people contradictory things. I went to see him play at a small club. I remember that he played for almost two hours, to rapt silence, saying only “thank you kindly” between songs. I had never heard most of his songs before. I was transfixed by them and by him.

Molina's music showed me that it was OK to talk about sadness—deep, unspeakable, awful sadness. That that need not be indulgent. That it could be transmuted into work, a feverish, solemn documentary work, in tune with a sadness that's all around us, a sadness that few of us want to look at regularly, if at all. His ethos reminds me of something the philosopher G. A. Cohen, speaking in a very different context and register, said shortly before his own death:

Anti-conservatives say: ‘Oh, people have always said that things were getting worse,’ and anti-conservatives mean thereby to convey that the conservative lamentation expresses an illusion. But it's entirely possible that, at any rate, certain kinds of things have always been worse than they were before. A wise Hungarian was once asked how things were going for him, and he replied, ‘Oh, you know, about average: not as good as yesterday, better than tomorrow.’

It's that kind of deep sadness about the world that Jason Molina's songs expressed.

After that show, his music seeped into my life, into my outlook, into my writing, into how I think about myself and my place in the world. I'm a more serious person now. I'm a more thoughtful person now. I'm a more sincere person now. I'm a more peaceful person now. In large part, that's thanks to Jason Molina.

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