Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Surrendering in song

I have a character for a story. He needs to give up control, and he mustn't be a wimp . . .

Yesterday, in the car, the MP3 player selected what must be the ultimate giving up and letting go song, one that celebrates surrender with an erotic intensity. No moping from this character – he's ready to embrace the moment and let it take him where it will. The song is Zoo Station; the line that gives me the charge is "I'm ready to let go of the steering wheel. I'm ready. Ready for what's next." The track is loud and driving, and Bono is giving away all autonomy, giving himself entirely over to fate. He sounds exhilarated. He hasn't given up; on the contrary, he's put fate in charge. That's what I wanted, a model for abdication as a positive act rather than an act of cowardice. He does sound ready; he's accepted everything it might bring. Letting go might bring fulfillment, more likely pain and disfigurement; he's ready. No more to say or do, now – he's ready. "It's alright", as he says.

Plus, the track is a real driver, no pun intended – it can take you anywhere, like the Zoo Station train itself. It has an unbelievably powerful drum beat and one of the best drum sounds I can remember hearing (what is that cowbell-sound like someone beating on a a slaughterhouse shackle-chain with a hammer?). It starts with a blazing attack of the most over-amplified guitar ever, rivaling the legendary Brian Gamage and the Spikes' first single. I love it when you can hear the guitarist's finger slip along the strings, and this track makes a banquet of what is usually a secret snack. Bono, without histrionics, sounds ready and I don't mean ready to do the dishes. There's no regret in his voice; his decision to let someone else take control comes over loud and clear.

When I first heard it, I thought about sex. I thought about what it means to give up control of your own body to another. I thought rather more about what it means to be the one who is handed that control, and how you feel at getting such a gift. A couple of examples came up later that didn't have so much of a sense of personal disclosure.

A week or so ago I was coming down with a cold. I said to a coworker, "I think I'm getting your cold. But there's nothing I can do about it."
He flashed a truly evil grin. "You can embrace it!" he said.
"Embrace a cold?"
"Sure. It's inevitable. It's gonna happen. Take it all. It's like when you're at the top of a roller-coaster and you know you're going all the way down. Throw your hands in the air and scream. Embrace it!"

Many years ago, I was talking to a friend who was describing his favorite way of taking speed. He'd put the white powder into a cigarette paper, screw the top to make a little twist out of it, and swallow it.
"But you don't know anything about it," I said. "You can't know what it is, how strong it is, how much it's going to affect you – and now it's too late because you've swallowed it and there's no way to back out!"
"I know," he said. "Isn't it great?"

I am certainly not this character but it's a joy to hear role models for him. Now I need one for another character with a similar flaw, but much darker.

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