Back in the days when the Cure were still a brilliant band, rather than just another bunch of knackered old has beens dragging themselves ’round the circuit, I used to love listening to Robert Smith go off on one, changing lyrics and going off on a tangent to tell weird little stories. They were brilliant live and every concert was a thing of its own, a living entity with its own character. Like 99.99 percent of pop and rock acts, they should have knocked it on the head when they hit thirty, three years after the club 27 optimum survival age for rock legends. I mean, let’s be honest here, the whole of the music scene is a bad joke now, there is no edge now and your mum and dad are as likely to be at a festival with you, getting stiffed £10 for an aspirin with a dove stamped on the back, as your mates are. Glastonbury is now a twee middle class jolly and it is impossible to keep track of all the rubbish festivals full of aging musos with dodgy knees trying to claw back the money for the messy divorce.
Anyway, rant over, where was I? Oh yes! During one of these Cure in their prime gigs, they performed a version of the dark wonder that is Faith where he went off on one about someone trying to hold themselves in one state of being by never looking in the mirror or any reflective surfaces or interacting with anyone else ever. It was a strange idea which I still remember thirty years later. Over the years since I have read many books and discovered many that Mr Smith has used as inspiration for songs, from the obvious enough in children’s book Charlotte Sometimes, through to the more obscure like Patrick Whites story The Vivisectors and the drowning of kittens that became The Lovecats. I have spotted many but have never found the inspiration for that strange tale about mirrors.
Us humans are such strange creatures, we can change and mutate all the time, every new bit of information we take in alters out perception of the world slightly and in so doing we become a slightly different person all the time. We don’t see it of course, the change is too slow to percieve but one day we look at, hear, are reminded of, something that that we once felt passionate about with cold indifference, wondering what the fuss was about. Of course it’s not the thing, whatever it is, that has changed, it is us.
Whilst going about the house and removing every mirror and scratching up every shiny surface may seem extreme, it is no different from what most of us do, which is live inside self maintained bubbles. We interact with the same group of people, listen to the same information sources and do the same things and in doing so are exposed to nothing that really challenges our way of life. You can see some wonderful examples of this right now in the run up the the general election when the conservatives candidates actually have to interact with real human beings and are startled to discover that the general public don’t like them very much and that starving them to death and throwing them out on the streets makes the bulk of the population more than a tad tetchy. It’s ok though, it’s only once every five years and they can soon go back to treating humanity like vermin from the comfort of their town houses and country mansions. They can do such terrible things because they cannot imagine being that other person, can’t image being poor, can’t imagine being afraid, it’s all incomprehensible.
The real shame comes for us mere mortals when the bubbles we create for ourselves actively hamper our personal growth. If we make a conscious choice to maintain friendships and activities that at best cause us to stagnate as people and at worst are utterly toxic. We cannot be surprised when things start to go wrong or never get any better when we don’t ever take any chances on something harder than just treading water. Human beings aren’t very good at changing though, not consciously anyway, when we try and actively change our lives we hit such inertia that we often slide straight back. Just ask any addict, it’s that routine, ritual and lifestyle that keeps dragging them back to addiction , not the substance.
The really sad thing is when someone actually puts the effort in and gets halfway out of the pit that they have dug themselves into only to slide straight back in. All that effort, all that bravery and then… Nothing. Back to where they started only with a little less fight left. You can’t help people like that though and, more to the point, they don’t want to be helped. The only thing we can really do is to make sure that, when they take their almost inevitable backslide into oblivion, we remember to let go.