Fran Lebowitz once said, “chefs and musicians are responsible for the most pleasure in human life.” Pleasures that are not adorned with troubling side effects, nor do they inflict any harm.
Do not be mistaken; we are BIG foodies, but there is something about song that strums an emotive chord within. Musicians are poets who put our feelings into verse when we struggle to find the words ourselves. A carefully curated playlist can store memories better than our own brains. It can take just one pluck of a string, the first key of a piano, or a note on a sax, and we are transported back to a precise place or time. When we put them all together, they write the stories of our lives.
That’s the thing about songs: they become sentimental – even the bad ones – because nothing connects a moment quite like music. It’s a struggle to decipher what exactly it is about music that brings people together. There is an abundance of explanations, but one that stands out in my mind is that music has the ability to bring the past alive. For when we die, we’ll turn into songs, and we’ll hear each other and remember one another.
Death is a touchy subject. Once we’ve experienced it, we’re never quite the same. And yet death is one of life’s only certainties. It feels so wrong and malign, despite the fact we’ve known there is no other outcome since the moment we entered the world. It is written into the contract of existence; the one commonality we share with every other human on Earth regardless of life’s variables.
It can be terrifying to think about the continuation of life without the presence of our loved ones. When they depart for the great beyond, we can be found searching for them in the most unlikely of places, wishing they’ll send us a sign and hoping they’ll steer us in the right direction. But although they have departed from life, that doesn’t mean they stop schooling us in the valuable lessons of life – they teach us that we can still function in the face of tragedy.
That being said, there are no rules or time restraints for grief: the journey is unique for everyone. It creeps up on us and affects us in different ways. It can be consuming and impulsive, and it is impossible to control. No two people have the exact same relationship, so even if we are mourning the same person, the grief we suffer will differ. Whatever we choose to commemorate our person, whether that’s talking to them, writing letters to them, replicating their recipes, adopting their hobbies, visiting their favourite spots, or listening to their favourite albums, we continue their legacy by empowering them to survive within us.
Musicians though are somewhat immortal. Their body of work outlives them, and we hear their voices long after they take their final bow. For many, when we learn of the departure of our icons, it can feel very personal and painful even though we don’t have a single specific thing or memory to hold on to. Mourning a celebrity can leave us feeling confused, self-conscious, and a dash pathetic as when we face the facts, they are if truth be told, perfect strangers.
So why do we feel so attached whilst they’re here and so defeated once they’ve gone? Well, our relationship with our idols is pretty complex. For a great deal of us, our maestros offer a source of consistency and comfortability in an ever-changing world. Often we see our idols grow and change at the same rate that we do. We follow them through eras, and so knowing we will never hear or see anything new from them ever again can be a hard pill to swallow. The attachment we feel is not always about how much we love and respect them – it is that they remind us of ourselves. Their passing symbolises segments of our past whilst propelling us into the future.
Throughout our lives, our icons are part of our happiest and saddest moments. They chaperone our first dates and give credence to our heartbreaks. They escort us down the aisle not only for the first time but also for the last. We stumble upon them in beach bars around the world as well as in our local coffee shops. They have the ability to make us both laugh and cry, or simply offer some sort of escapism during testing times. Sometimes when we’re alone, it can feel like they’re the only ones there, and so we identify with them and maintain a deep connection to them, even if they don’t know we exist. They’ve impacted our lives in such grand ways it is justified that we will grieve them once they’re gone.
The evolution of technology has certified celebrities to be more prevalent in our own lives than ever before. We connect characteristics portrayed in the media with a physical being who represents an ideal for us. In addition, the exposure social media imparts means we have intimate backstage access to our idols that goes way beyond the silver screen, so while we don’t necessarily know them, we know them. They inspire and influence us, and so inevitably we hold such loyalty and adoration for them. Therefore, feeling a sense of loss when they’ve passed is not as crazy as it sounds. After all, they have created the soundtrack to some of the most cherished moments of our lives.
There is something rather poetic about the odyssey of life we go on with our chosen superstars. We become a part of them just as they did us. We hear their music from when we’re kicking in the womb until we’re resting peacefully in our caskets. To me, those songs are very much like people: sometimes we find them, and other times they find us. And while life is not, love is eternal.
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