Monday, April 13, 2009

Let Me See You Stripped

Let me see you stripped
Down to the bone
Let me hear you speaking just for me
Let me see you stripped
Down to the bone
Let me hear you crying just for me

~ “Stripped” by Shiny Toy Guns

There’s a sick, aching kind of eroticism in this song that disturbs me. This is a song of two selfish people, each one of them wanting to see the other without any masks or coverings; the girl wants the man to sing and cry just for her. She doesn’t want him to exist outside herself. There’s something disturbing in that. At the same time, he is offering her an exit to an escape land that will only last for a few hours. Hence both of them exhibit their selfish tendencies. Despite this, there is an undercurrent of something more potent than lust in the song, and perhaps it is the very brokenness of the two protagonists that catches me. I listen to the song and find myself fascinated. I listen to it and picture two very broken people reaching out to one another, pretending that such reaching is pure, when it truth it is destructive.

The destructive tendency in a person is always harder to match when it is layered in leather and lace. A destructive tendency which results in a physical disturbance to the world generally leaves proof such as blood and gore spattered throughout a room. The inner destruction, of a person and their beliefs, leaves no such proof. It is therefore much more dangerous. Who knows how many times we selfishly reach for what we cannot have, should not have, what is not good for us? It is the kind of thing from which we do not learn; we cannot learn. It is a sickness that poisons us from the inside out, a dark rose that blossoms in the dead of night.

It reminds me a little of the supposed love story in the book Forever Amber. This book sickened me; it seemed nothing so much as an expose of the deadened, cruel world which was masked by the glittering realm of parties and escapades. It is Amber’s love interest who makes me most angry. Amber professes a love for Bruce which is disturbing due to his treatment of her. I would even venture to say that it is an emotionally abusive relationship. Amber herself is not a good person; she is even an evil person; the fascinating part of the book is the fact that despite her evil, one feels sorry for the fact that she cannot get Bruce to love her or respond to her. The biggest problem is that their love is built on absolutely nothing. Amber saw Bruce one day and presumably fell in love with him; he did not. There is nothing in them to love, no character traits, nothing of them. So I read the book and find it disgusting; it is a long, macabre, twisted recount of the evils to which two individuals will stoop in their mutual desire to allow the glittering coinage of the world slip through their fingers. Bruce is meant to be likeable, and yet, to me, he still appears as a monster, a cruel person. The two of them leave me with no feeling so much as horror.

There is something to that. It takes a skilled author to create a sense of horror in a person, to allow one to feel such utter disgust with the human being, and nevertheless to follow their fate with curiosity. Perhaps it is because, within that mirror, we nevertheless see ourselves, dark as the path is. Perhaps this is our way of self-punishment; we read so as to know what is coming to us, what we deserve. Perhaps we desire to be made aware so that we may stave it off before it actually happens.

What breaks a person? Since it is the brokenness of people that often leads to their not caring anymore, which allows them access to the darker parts of the personality, where we can commit such deeds as cannot be spoken of aloud. People often think that it is ambition that ruins a person, but even when it comes to ambition, every person has their price. And when it comes to righteousness, it is true that if one believes they are right they will not be swayed from their position, which permits evil for the sake of their righteousness. But true depravity occurs, not in the pursuit of pleasure, but in the pursuit of something to dull the pain. The truly depraved do not care; they taste of all the pleasures of the world and discard them. So what is it that breaks a person?

There are different points, I think, where we are tested in that way. A person becoming one who is broken depends upon whatever it was they cared about and lived for. With the loss of whatever it is that one is living for, there is no ability to care any longer; life becomes a long series in a set of dances to ease the pain. I shall try anything, anything to take it away from me. And on the way I shall expose others to the darkness that consumes me because I long for a companion in my misery, someone who will see the attractive properties of the ugliness that exists, who understands the fascination it has for me. And so the broken person walks through the world, inflicting pain and laughing into his palm. Every monstrosity created is more cause for rejoicing, and yet, somewhere within, another shard has crept into one’s heart, piercing it and allowing the blood to bead on the flesh, the palpitations allowing the blood to creep like jewels, forming a necklace that clutches at the muscle, strangling it.

Perhaps the most fascinating creature is the one drowning in darkness who nevertheless refuses to drag the others down. In that case, they are not broken; they believe in something still. It is for this reason that they shall struggle and overcome, that they shall not demand the selfish tears that exist just for them. They shall rid themselves of the black beast that rides them and sacrifice themselves within the black cauldron. And perhaps, in this way, they shall gain the atonement they so savagely seek, and with their death become what they longed to be in life.

But in the meantime they walk in a fog which clutches at their clothing, a howling wind that sings in their ears; their hair waves about them and their eyes, once entirely sharp, look like they have seen a vision which cannot be described. For them, the days are an increasing torment, and the pain is visible, before them in their waking hours, wrapped in their clothing, appearing in their eyes. To look ever upon a visible pain, to have no respite from it, to watch it come closer and be helpless against it; this is the struggle of a saint; this is why people turn mad. It is because of all they see, and cannot help but see.


הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

I want to mention that I'm personally a fan of analyzing the psychological aspects of songs (and books)..this isn't the first time Chana has done it, and I think it's an insightful practice..

In regards to that female chararchter in the book she mentioned who liked the guy even though he lacked any positive attribute, I'm reminded of what my mother answered me when I asked he why she agreed to marry a man who was so ..different than her. she said that when someone's very attractive to you you seem them in a much better light.. ..I'm kind of afraid I might fall for that when I get married!

first timer said...

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Chana said...

First Timer,

Thanks so much! While I don't think I agree entirely with the article, in that I would not claim that the openness to new experiences automatically makes one a searcher (the fact that someone senses nothing intrinsically wrong with drunkenly partying the night away and then laying tefillin, for example), I do like the idea that the questions people ask ought to be respected and appreciated.

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I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Societal concerns aside... I just hope that as technology further develops, the possibility of copying our brains onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could encounter in my lifetime.

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