Open letter to the universe (or one musician who shall remain nameless)

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Album art from the 1980 album Waves by singer-songwriter Mike Batt

I started writing this a couple of weeks ago, not necessarily intending to send it (because fan mail is inherently creepy, isn’t it?), but just to get the thoughts on paper. It was literal paper, too. I started with a ballpoint pen and a notebook.

But in the last few days I’ve found myself saying similar words to other people in different contexts — most recently while talking to students at a career mixer at my alma mater. (Sorry, kids, but adulting is strange business.)

I’ll add that it has long been my belief that all love songs are ultimately written to god (I say this as an agnostic who likes the concision of the word “god”); that romantic longings are the pathways to our highest selves.

It might be trite or cliche to tell a musician that their songs meant something to you. I probably should feel at least bit silly about how deeply I’ve gone into your songs lately. How I’ve lived in [insert album title]. But the whole point of creative work is to make connections. Songs, poems, stories, books — they’re all missives loosed into the world in hopes of finding kindred spirits.

Here’s what I think: The soul is an astral traveler. And those of us who make art do so by sending some piece of ourselves into the void, into the world between worlds, to carry back the inspiration. The words, the music, the colors, the shapes. To create is to live in that space — the bardo, the threshold. I know you know about the electrical current in the act of making, the bright flow of it. I believe we go there when we do creative work, but we also go there when we’re open to someone else’s work.

It seems right to me to spend as much time in that space as possible, and every path to that place is correct. I’m drawn there by your songs, and that’s a great joy. I’m not deluded that you feel what I feel — and yet I believe, in a way, we’re together in that place. We’re together in that world between worlds, in that synthesizes of creation and being.30e3a60a9e52e047705baaace2545b33

I hope in some way that’s a comfort to you. It is to me — to think I’m not really so alone. Being human is a lonely existence, but the heart of us, the soul or whatever, also lives beyond the physical, in a place of greater connectivity.

Do you not feel greater than the sum of your parts when a symphony performs your songs? When the strings sweep in, when the brass swells? Hell, I feel greater just to go to the symphony. It’s like swimming in the gulf of Mexico, in that sweet eternity of turquoise water and blue sky. There, I am nothing and everything.

Your songs speak to me of connection, of shared language. Not just the lyrics but the precision of the words. The deftness and slightness, the ways in which image is pared to the bone, and yet it shimmers. The way the instrumentation paints the emotional canvas. The way your voice is close and personal.

These are worlds I can go inside and be at ease, be at home. But they also speak to how I feel — I’ve been alone lately. I have this image of being alone on a boat, adrift on a dark sea. Or, I did feel that way. Then I listened to your albums, one after the other, in and out of days, until the beauty was all-pervasive and the hurt diminished like the shore I’d left behind.

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