As children, we are raised thinking we can only feel one thing at a time. If you ask a child "how are you?" they will inevitably give you a one word answer. Good. Bad. Hungry.
If you ask an adult "how are you?" it is most often socially acceptable to only give a one word answer, and the answer most are looking for is "good" or perhaps "fine". Even "okay" will do, but certainly not "bad" or "sad" or heaven forbid "I am experiencing an overwhelming and often conflicting myriad of emotions" or some other honest answer.
But if we are honest...and maybe not with every person who may ask "how are you"...maybe not the cashier at the grocery store, the server at the restaurant...but certainly with those close to us, and hopefully (though perhaps most inconceivably) with ourselves... wouldn't the correct answer, the true answer be that we are in fact experiencing a myriad of emotions? Where did this one-word, singular notion come from?
I suppose it has to start somewhere. How do you teach a toddler about the complexities of human emotion? Especially when they are not developmentally capable of understanding all the many layers of experience and feeling and memory and imagination that we encounter all at once. You don't. You start in the simplest terms. Happy. Sad. Mad. Tired. As the child grows, our list of labels grows to include excited, frustrated and bored and other more complex feelings.
But so often, even into adulthood we find ourselves labeling our own experience in the same simple terms.
As I continue making music that was literally born out of the death of someone for whom I cared very deeply, I find myself considering this overwhelming and often conflicting myriad of emotions.
How is it possible to feel so much joy and excitement in the process of recording when the subject matter is so heart-wrenching and painful?
How is it possible to feel so much gratitude and life-giving connection with people to whom I only became connected through the love and loss of him?
How is it possible to feel the grief and darkness so deep within myself and yet still feel so much hope and light and possibility?
This is the puzzling, agonizing, beautiful human experience. The enigma of all our emotions tangled together.
"Letters to Ben" is my attempt at sorting some of that out.