I bit my lip a little bit and blinked hard, exhaled and read the final few sentences again, smiling as I hit the bottom of the page. I was finishing my first read-through of Parish, Parish, a 30-some-page lyric essay by Brian Lewis-Jones, a friend and former colleague of mine. The tale of a week in post-Katrina New Orleans explores the intersection of past and future, indecision and decision, loss and gain.
And it makes you want to cry, because it’s beautiful and you’re so unaccustomed to reading beautiful things.
“Irony is based on insecurity; it seems to me that when people are doing something ironically, it’s because they’re challenged by something or they like to hate something that’s popular … People like to not like things because they don’t understand them.” – Justin Vernon, Pitchfork (6/13/11)
Justin Vernon of Bon Iver gets a lot of shit on the Internet. For showing vulnerability, for being earnest, for singing in a falsetto, for projecting an image that doesn’t match our culture’s best attempt at defining masculinity. Bon Iver’s music, from its lo-fi roots as a guy and his guitar to its current status as a guy and his guitar and a nine-piece band of saxes and violins and multiple drum kits, is achingly sincere.
Parish, Parish ends with a special thanks section and a list of the work’s ingredients:
“Contains: 85% fact, 7% inner turmoil, 3% you, 2% meta (1% meta, 1% sub-meta), 2% coffee, 1% unknown space dust.”
It’s not the 97% of what we consume that’s killing us. It’s the 3%. We — Internet We, snarky We, non-plussed We — got scared and replaced our feelings with cynicism and sarcasm. We declared ourselves arbiters of taste and tossed ‘lol’s at the other 97% of life from behind a curtain of anonymity.
Shedding the sarcasm reflex is incredibly difficult when you’ve grown up with VH1’s I Love The 80s and anonymous Internet comments and fast-moving memes. I try every day to be less cynical, be more sincere, and put my 3% into everything I do, but it’s hard.
I want — every day — to be myself enough to never have a guilty pleasure, never be afraid to cry at beautiful words and sounds, always have time to take the long way home, to always try, always love, always smile, and always take the window seat.