Writings

Rolling Wheels


Thoughts after Chris Cornell's death
Rolling Wheels
And so, one more great artist left us. Great men and women die everyday but it is somehow those who dedicated their lives to give a voice to our innermost desires and fears that we miss the most. Musicians, actors, comedians, writers, artists are mourned globally and through their work, one could argue, forever. They speak about life, about death, about love and pain, they speak about thruths that we can all relate to despite the fact that we rarely chose to talk about. They touch our hearts and accompany us through life, invisibly and on demand, so when they go, we feel it as if we knew them, as if they were friends.

Chris Cornell was one of them. A gifted musiscian, a tender voice, an honest writer and apparently, never met him person, a lovely human being. But beyond the grace of his art, he symbolized for many of us 80s and 90s kids, the best possible winner. Rock and grunge in the 90s still carried some of the be-yourself-fuck-the-system punk values of previous decades. If you didn't feel that conforming was your thing, if you felt like something was off but it was ok that you didn't know what it was or how to fix it, Kurt and Chris and Eddie and all those guys made you feel that you were not alone.

But Chris was special. He didn't give up to drugs, overcame addiction and crossed the thorny 20s (and 30s) to find love in his 40s. He didn't get bitter and composed increasingly intimate, tender songs, he found love and had a happy marriage with cool kids. He was open minded and worked with many different artists but was not afraid to do solo work. He didn't sell out and kept doing his thing, apparently untouched by the demands of the music establishment. Plus the obvious: rich, famous, recognised, beautiful. Chris Cornell had arrived a winner to the autumn of life. He had it all, or so we thought, and yet... one day he decided that being Chris Cornell was so painful that not being Chris Cornell was a better alternative. And drugs or no drugs, depression or no depression that decision has to be about the hardest that a man can take in his life, if not the most. Imagine the pain, the fear, the guilt, the loneliness, the sense of defeat that one has to overcome to carry out a suicide. And yet, a man that many of us admire, one of the best possible versions of a winner that I could think of, did take that decision. And of course, we go 'What?!'

When we hear that he struggled with depression and drug addiction we feel both sad but also a little relieved because those struggles seem to draw an imaginary line that separates him from us. Some of the reactions to his death, from people who think themselves on the safe side of that line, have been of an accusatory tone, sometimes even angry or rude, pointing out at his 'cowardice' when 'bailing out' on life and his family. But the thing with imaginary lines is that... they don't really exist. And we know it. So the silent dialogue that goes inside, at least of some of us is: 'Fuck... if the luckiest, winnerest, most gifted of us can drown... well, any of us could...can'. And that is sad, very sad. And very scary too, for to a certain degree, many of us struggle to find happiness and meaning in the Autumn of our lives, even though we possess all the ingredients for a 'happy' life. And that is a solitary, unsexy and guilt inducing struggle to carry in silence all by ourselves.

We enjoy love, careers, possesions, success, health, safety, holidays... but nothing can protect us from the higher truth that our middle years bring up to the table: the overwhelming, sad realization that all we 'have' will be eventually lost, and that for the most part, we are too confused and way, way too busy to fully, truly enjoy it while it's here. With the fire of youth gone and the glory dreams of a brighter future substituted by the modesty of maintenance, middle age happiness resides within the skill to assimilate, to digest this sadness so that it doesn't eat up all the space nor forces us to compulsively distract ourselves in order to find solace. But that is hard to do while, led to believe that good fortune has no space for tears, we are simultaneously hiding our sorrow and suffering from it, embarrased by our first world problems, alone in the midst of company.

Last month I turned 40, which means I am officially taking my first steps into the Autumn of my life, so I thought that to pass forward some of the comfort that Mr. Cornell gave me during my Summer, I'd write a few articles in the coming weeks about some of the challenges that we all go through during this stretch of life. Not to give you advice, not to free you from pain, but to let you know you are not alone.

And as for Chris, you were beautiful indeed. I hope that at the end of all the pain, fear, guilt and loneliness, at least for a second you were the highway, even better, the sky, and not just a rolling wheel.

Pearls and swine bereft of me
Long and weary my road has been
I was lost in the cities
Alone in the hills
No sorrow or pity for leaving I feel

I am not your rolling wheels
I am the highway
I am not your carpet ride
I am the sky

Friends and liars don't wait for me
I'll get on all by myself
I put millions of miles
Under my heels
And still too close to you
I feel

I am not your rolling wheels
I am the highway
I am not your carpet ride
I am the sky

I am not your blowing wind
I am the lightning
I am not your autumn moon
I am the night
The night

'I am the highway' - Audioslave

 

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