💌 Woke up at 5:30 am to soul search through music

Last Updated:
May 7, 2020
First Published:
May 7, 2020
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There's a certain musician I listen to constantly who also happens to share a last name with me.

My own emotional journey seems to parallel his own in ways that strike me as incredibly profound. It's as though he's traveled successfully through the path of self-destruction and anguish I've known all too personally.

So, he gives me hope in my own struggles, doubts, and shame.

His music is pretty good too.

I first saw him perform when I was 16 (though I didn't know anything about him at the time and still didn't care much after his set on the opening stage of a long day at Ozzfest 2006)

I never actually listened to his material until I was 23 or 24 (and then it was only the aggressive and hate-fueled songs).

And then, a shift came about.

There's one album of his in particular that I give a lot of attention these days.

This album is called Ocean Machine.

It was his first solo record (of which there are dozens now).

This album was released in 1997, when this artist was about 25 years old.

It's beautiful, heavy, deep, uncomfortable, catchy, and "too schizophrenic" (as one record label exec remarked while rejecting a record deal with this artist).

I first started actually listening to this album and caring about it when I was about 27 (very much in the midst of my own shitstorming through the woes of my existence: AKA depressed as fuck off an on).

My writing prompt for today is to comment on each of the names of the songs on the album and relate to them in whichever way I can.

Of course, the album Ocean Machine will be playing on full blast while I proceed to write up each section.

SEVENTH WAVE

The seventh wave or "sneaker wave" in this song is an analogy to the emergence or "wave" of adulthood and how it takes away our adolescence and innocence by surprise. We're suddenly plucked from the shore and pulled out to the ocean, where we drift endlessly.

At times I direct my life in what appears to be a manner of control and intention.

But every 7th wave or so catches me off guard and I'll find myself without any solid ground upon which to stand.

LIFE

An upbeat and cheery song that acknowledges the gift of life in a more childlike way.

Even at those times when I didn't care to continue living, I know inherently that my life is this precious responsibility that many, many people who've come before me have made possible for me (my ancestors).

It's a reminder to celebrate what's already here and acknowledge the difficult questions without such seriousness from time to time.

NIGHT

I think this song is about having a destination that's nowhere in sight, it's not guaranteed to exist, and oh by the way you have to venture there without any sort of guide.

This type of internal voyaging, for me, represents the questions I've asked myself when looking for a way out of periods of deep despair and hopelessness.

It seems that I have to go somewhere else, but the direction is unclear and any type of navigational system is unavailable. So, I don't even know where I am to begin with. From there, how could I then possibly traverse a path that doesn't promise the slightest prospect of salvation?

HIDE NOWHERE

There's nowhere I can hide from the inevitable confrontations in my life and relationship which beg and scream for attention.

I've tried hiding in bed for days on end.

I've tried hiding the visible signals of my own torment or disapproval.

Hiding isn't an effective strategy for very long (though we might not want a child to see that their favorite doll was snatched by the neighbor's dog on their 4th birthday, at least not until a more appropriate time).

SISTER

In 2018 I both discovered and met my half-sister for the first time.

Not much in my family has been said since.

Still pretty tender here.

3 AM.

The concept of the "witching hour" comes to mind, when all is asleep and you're not supposed to be out and about.

There is nothing but mischief about at this time.

But choosing to look, to see what's out there, even when it's supernatural and might upset us, that excites the curiosity!

VOICES IN THE FAN

The souls of the dead that depart from us become the low, droning voices in the whirring fan over in the corner of the room.

We'll join them one day and sing in unison.

At times, I've wanted to join them. Let's get this over with. I'm done being on this side of life.

GREETINGS

Coming into contact with the unknown visitor, as another or from within ourself.

Saying to you, "Greetings, earthling. I'm going to be invading your mind right now, taking stock and potentially wreaking havoc for a bit."

At first, we have to respond in turn with a similar, "Greetings."

At a certain point, it makes sense to take up arms and aim to shoo away those visitors who have overextended their welcome.

REGULATOR

I've struggled with the concept of regulation for a lot of my life, and admittedly still do in a handful of ways.

What I consume, which behaviors I engage in, the contents of my questions and messaging (just like this writing).

Regulation is a neutral force: Neither good nor bad, balancing to prevent dehydration on one extreme and drowning on the other.

We can be our own regulators (our parents, caretakers, friends, and significant others play their roles to varying degrees).

FUNERAL

This song is an expression of mourning from the artist of a schoolmate who was murdered.

I don't share this experience so I wanted to include a quote from the artist here:

I'm pretty sure he wrote it when he was still a teenager.

"But the most stirring songs on Ocean Machine are those that confront that cruel plane of existence head-on. Funeral, a hymn-like address punctuated with desperate cries, were written following the death of 16-year-old schoolmate Jesse Cadman. On the evening of October 18, 1992, he was senselessly stabbed."

“He was killed walking home by a group of kids that wanted his hat”

“I hadn’t experienced death in a tangible way prior to that, so when we went to the funeral and I had to speak, I remember I hadn’t anticipated they were gonna bring the body out, and I just panicked,” he says. “I couldn’t cope with it, and I wasn’t alone in that, either. It was a real heavy time for a lot of people, because it was our first experience with that sort of thing, and it was senseless. It affected my teen years profoundly.”

BASTARD

Being properly "dosed", stumbling foolishly, blind pursuit of numbing agents.

I'm really fucking pissed with myself for allowing such damaging, useless patterns of thought and behavior to have run rampant for so long.

I do hate myself for certain things I've done. I hate parts of who I've become and am right now.

I can yell and scream and bitch and moan and fight the fucker in the mirror.

But that's me, and I don't want to hurt me.

I'm upset at me for hurting myself.

I need compassion and healing.

THE DEATH OF MUSIC

The idea of death being a musical experience is explored in this song.

This song will make me cry if I give it the full 12 minutes and 15 seconds it deserves.

What's beautiful will certainly die and we must witness the spectacle.

THINGS BEYOND THINGS

Probably the most important song that I've connected with the least.

I don't even know what it's about.

One problem after another, I suppose?

“It’s all just things.”

colton james townsend smiles for the camera with the seattle port in the background

Colton James Townsend

Storyteller and Teacher at coltonjamestownsend.com, "Fearless Story Productions" and "Wake Up & Do Me"

I live, work, and write in the fine city of Walla Walla, Washington. I help creative people and business owners publish stories and content for the web so they can achieve results online, personally and professionally. You're an expert in your field or a person with a strong story to tell — I help you broadcast your knowledge and experiences effectively. The results? Amplification.

MISSION: "Bringing Your Brilliance to the Whole Wide World"