"I'm learning to survive"
We all grow up, some time. I don't think that ever stops. Well, technically, I don't think anything ever stops
, but you know what I mean. Remember Calvin pondering what it must be like to be an adult? To know everything, finally?
Well, surprise surprise, that never happens. Come on, even as kids we could tell that. The joke was so broad, so obvious. Only now, it's not a joke.
"I'm learning to survive, on earthworms and houseflies"
The Constantines aren't much older than I am. And this is the sound of our generation, the sound of the desperation of growing up. You can hear it in Bry Webb's delivery, in the thump of the bass and drums, in those dead horns, in the keyboard hum, in the squalling of abandoned guitars. Webb fights to be heard above it, shouting nonsense phrases except for the chorus, that chorus.
That chorus is every flop house you've ever lived in/been afraid you might have to live in/drove past in your car. It's every petty betrayal you give and receive. It's selling another piece of yourself to another job you don't want. It's the slow, deadening realisation that in some ways, you don't get to be who you want when you grow up. Genetics and environment and sheer chance press in, suffocating you.
Six bucks in the bank. Nothing in the fridge. No paycheck coming. And you need another textbook, or why are you here at all? Some of us have never had it that bad. Some of us have never had it that good. Hell, I'm writing this on a computer
, with access to the fucking internet
, as a fucking leisure activity
. I've got it pretty sweet.
But, as they've proved time and time again, take away from the human the need to worry about basic necessities and we'll find something else to worry about. What am I going to do with my life? Am I a good person? Am I happy?
That last one is especially insidious. 'Am I happy'. As if there was some objective way to figure it out, as if the was a qualitative way to be happy. Am I doing the right things? Buying the right things? Hanging out with the right people?
They've said it a million times and we'll keep saying it: happiness is not a state. To quote an earlier Constantines song, "suppression is a state". It's a state because you can maintain it. You can't maintain happiness. You shouldn't want to. You do the best you can, and then you look back at it and then
stipulate, "hey, I was happy there. And there. And there, and there and there, and..."
And if you can't see it, look again. Look closer. Being sad, being tortured, being fucking existentially angsty
is not brave, clever, or worthwhile. We all have questions. Not all of them get answered. As with so many things in life, you accept it and you get on with your life, or you collapse into self-righteous bullshit.
Listen closer, if you have the songs. They're dealing with it. This song is a cold sweat, a sleepless night, and a missed deadline, but it is not a defeat.
"I'm learning to survive"
They're not joking. They are
learning to survive. There is desperation in Webb's voice, but it is the stress and strain of a conflict won, of a precarious balance. Not of despair. Don't give up. You learn to survive, and then you learn it again. Nothing ever stops. I'm learning to survive.