Sadness

When you’re gone, how can I even try to go on

SOS – ABBA

When I was young, my parents, myself, and my sibling were travelling to a city on the western side of Michigan. I remember driving down I-94, and they had the radio on. A jazz version of a song came on, with an interesting chord progression. I have always, always remembered that chord progression, even though I didn’t know the song.

Cut to years later, when some folks were having a pool party outside of the apartment I was living in in California, and a song came on with that exact chord progression. It was coupled with a song I did know, as my father worked for the company that made the “Super Trouper” spotlights, and when the release of the ABBA album came out, everyone got a copy of the record.

This was pretty much the only exposure to pop music I ever had as a child, and I found that I liked it.

So it turns out the song I’d heard was SOS, by Abba.

Abba was a very interesting band. They did not always write happy music. I guess in the middle of their heyday, they all divorced each other, and their songs from that era are just dripping with pain and loss. There’s “SOS”, a song about someone leaving. There’s “The Winner Takes It All”, which is probably one of the most tearjerking songs I’ve ever heard. It’s as if they take the pain of their divorces and put it right out there for everyone to see.

I don’t want to talk
If it makes you feel bad
And I understand
You’ve come to shake my hand
I don’t want to talk
If it makes you feel sad
Seeing me so tense
No self-confidence

The Winner Takes it All – ABBA

There’s so much sadness in this world. So much separation, so much loss. And it hurts. Because, deep inside, a part of us knows it shouldn’t be this way. The separation, the rift, the brokenness – it’s all broken.

There’s beauty too – of course there is. But the loss comes from the memory of beauty – from the destruction of that which was at one time beautiful. No one is hurt by a divorce from a marriage that meant nothing – the worst hurt comes from the broken promises, the severing of something that should never be severed. No one is hurt be the ending of a friendship that meant nothing in the first place. No one is hurt by something they are not, somehow, emotionally attached to being severed.

Knowing me, knowing you
There is nothing we can do
Knowing me, knowing you
We’ll just have to face it this time we’re through
Breaking up is never easy, I know
But I have to go
Knowing me, knowing you, it’s the best I can do

Knowing me, Knowing you – ABBA

Why is the world like this? Why is sadness so baked into the formula of this world, and even from a young age, we need to learn to deal with it and cope with it? I understand that’s the way it is, but why is this, in any way, acceptable? Why are we not raging? Why are we not angry? Why are we not, with every fiber of our being, fighting against the brokenness, the despair, the anger, the sadness?

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

We could fight. We can fight. We can say that when we make a promise, we keep it. We could say that things like marriage aren’t to be entered into selfishly. We could understand that our actions affect others. We could fight the sadness, we could fight the brokenness, we could fight the hurt, the pain, the sorrow, the tears. We can fight it every day, every minute, every second, in how we live our lives, in how we treat others.

But we can only fight so much, because in the end, no matter how we rage, the light dies.

There is a beauty in sadness, there is a beauty in tears. It’s an odd kind of beauty, as it is a sad beauty, but it is a beauty nonetheless. For the tears of separation always come from the beauty of joining – they are a marker of what once was and is no longer. But what once was has its own beauty. Tears are not a shame, tears are a joy, in a way. They are the release of pain, the shedding of hurt. The only shame is that most of us have to shed them alone.

I listened to an ABBA album once, driving through the southwest American desert to see an ex-girlfriend. I think I loved her in my own way, and our time together was, in its own way, special, if not very long. I can think about the loss and the separation, I can think about the pain of our eventual breaking up. But I can also think about the time we spent together, and… and it was in its own way, beautiful. You can’t have tears without beauty, without love, without something positive that is broken. I’ve moved on. That was years ago. But there are many more tears to be spilled, because there is much more beauty that is gone.

I long for the day that tears disappear. But tears will only disappear when pain disappears, and pain will only disappear when there is no longer separation, brokenness, anger, fear, or hatred. I lose hope that that day is ever coming. For even in the best efforts of those who hate pain and tears as much as I do, they invariably create their own, for such is the way of life.

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