What is life without stories? Nothing. Random collisions of energy. Stories are what give our lives shape and meaning. We are made of stories. So what happens when we lose our most important stories? The stories we define ourselves by. What happens, for instance, when a young quarterback has worked his entire life for his work...who has essentially defined himself as first and foremost a quarterback...then suddenly breaks his leg and is told he will never play football again? What happens to him when he suddenly finds himself without that story anymore? Or think of a mother who finds her life's meaning in her children and then she loses her children... That's not just a change of circumstances, it's a rupture that happens deep in the foundations of whatever makes us who we are.
The loss of our most important stories is a profoundly visceral and potentially life-devastating experience.
This is what the song "Yesternite" speaks to.
Yesterday the gods were smiling down on me
Yesterday the angels graced the glassy sea
The world was bathed in black and mystery
Yesternite the gods they disappeared from sight
The angles flapped their wings and took their songs to flight
The shadows lift their hands and praise the light
Praise the light
Yesterday your hands were home in mine
Yesterday my heart was yours to find
Yesternite I found some peace of mind
And so the morning finally shed its light
The mourning of the loss
The sacred fight
Sunbeams lift their hands and praise the night
Praise the night
There have been people that have been confused to my repetitive use of the word "gods" on this album. Some have actually wondered if I now adhere to some sort of polytheistic new age worldview or something. If you read this blog, you will probably know that this is certainly not the case. Throughout the album, I use "gods" as an example of the mythological constructs that we use to comfort ourselves and give our lives meaning. Stories that we thought were true, but no longer are. Stories that we lived by, defined ourselves with, but can no longer believe in. Whether it's the gods that are lost in "Yesternite" or the gods that we gather up to defeat our enemies in "God and Country", or the gods in "The Beat of Her Heart" that let Orpheus down.. the "gods" are always found to never really come through for us. The football player loses his identity as a football player. The mother is no longer a mother and something of the self is truly lost.
Yesternite was written as a reflection of a deep experience of loss that I had. The light had been snatched away and the day had become night. But the interesting thing about the experience was that somehow there was a new kind of light and clarity to be found within the night. There was this old poet, St. John of the Cross, who wrote about the "dark night of the soul". What's interesting about it to me is how he talks about this darkness with some level of love. For him, the night was a purifying and clarifying experience.
In Yesternite, there is both a sense of loss of something important but also the realization that the night brings with it the possibility of a new day. Loss and pain can bring something invaluable to the person who experiences it, so that the shadows lift their hands and praise the light. Which is why even the sunbeams can praise the night.