One of the primary themes of this blog is that we create the stories we live in, or maybe I should say our stories create us. Shakespeare wrote that “all the world’s a stage,” and in our modern world of virtual reality and cyberspace this seems more true than ever before. I’ve always been a writer and a storyteller, but I’m still astounded by how often my “fiction” becomes “reality.” Sometimes I even meet real people I thought I had invented (writers, you know exactly what I mean). Marketers and advertisers know this, and part of their art is to invoke and then redirect our “story.” Control the story and you control the soul of the consumer.
A Spring Story
One particular spring, I fell in love. I had met him in early January, but he was a friend of two my housemates, so out of awkwardness I avoided going out with him until late March, when I was finally sure he was really into me as much as I was into him. It was early spring. The next two weeks were like a dream. I couldn’t think of anything but him. My entire life had faded into the background and only he mattered.
And then he told me. He told me he’d been seeing this other girl all winter, but he was going to tell her it was over because he really wanted to be with me instead. I felt my blood pressure drop and a voice inside me said, “He’s going to do the same thing to you.”
I remember it was spring. Spring in the Arizona desert is memorable because the dead, dry desert suddenly comes to life. Grass even appears over the ground in some areas. Some of the cactus sprout leaves. Wildflowers appear. The rains come, soaking the dry winter earth and releasing a distinct sweet smell from the creosote. And the doves begin to court and pair up. All spring their distinctive courting call can be heard in the morning and evening, “WooAH, hoo, hoo-hoo.” My guy was from the Northeast originally and thought owls were making this incessant sound everyday. I thought this was funny.
Then a few weeks later he told me he couldn’t see me anymore, that it just wasn’t working. I found out later he had met another girl and started chasing her. I can’t well express the implosion in my soul, but it felt something like someone had plunged a fisherman’s gaff into my chest and yanked my heart out. I was sent (mercifully) out of town for a month to participate in an archaeological survey, and somehow in that time of quietly walking across the desert I recovered my sanity. My crew was staying in a remote motel, surrounded by lonely desert.
The doves by now had built nests, laid eggs, and hatched young. For some reason they decided the concrete walkways of the motel were good nesting spots. I walked outside my room in the crisp air of a predawn morning everyday, amazed to see featherless nestlings sitting in a pile of sticks a few paces from my door. The parent doves were unconcerned. I guess that far away from urban life they didn’t know how to be afraid of people. They still sang, “WooAH, hoo, hoo-hoo,” only now it just made my heart ache with a burning throb of agony.
The Soundtrack of Your Life
I really love old country music and out in the Western states many radio stations play the old songs still, oblivious to the roll of time. The music just fits the landscape, so it never grows obsolete. Around this time I remember I heard “Faded Love” by Bob Wills, quite a bit. Then I bought the song for myself because it started to speak to me, the way art often does. Real art makes you believe it was created just for you, just for your particular story.
As I think of the past and all the pleasures we had
As I watch the mating of the dove
It was in the springtime when you said goodbye
I remember our faded love
I miss you darling more and more every day
As heaven would miss the stars above
With every heartbeat I still think of you
And remember our faded love
–Bob Wills, “Faded Love”
The Lasso On Your Soul
We all know songs like this. Probably several. Not just about love, but all the important emotional events of our lives. One of the main reasons for this is that we are all constantly exposed to “Top 40” radio. Even if you listen to your own music at home, you can’t escape it at work, at the mall, on the bus, or nearly any other public space. It is the background soundtrack of our lives, and when you are young, when you are experiencing a lot of those intense emotions and first experiences, triumphs and failures, you are probably hearing a popular song playing at the same time. Our intense emotions over these life experiences become tied to the songs, forever associated. Only a few mega-corporations own all our media outlets (radio stations, movie theaters, etc.) They control what we are constantly exposed to, and so, ultimately, they control the triggers that stimulate emotional memories.
I tell you it’s bad enough to suffer a broken heart. It’s bad enough that whenever I hear “Faded Love” I still feel a shaft of pain in my heart. But what’s worse is thinking that some ad company may use the songs that trigger my memories to sell me a car.