Call it what you will. There ain’t but three sides: where you were; where you at; and, if you’re lucky, where you will be. Tomorrow.
The great unknown.
To be truthful about the self is to exam the past, be aware of the present, and to, yes, have dreams, have, uh, expectations. Sometimes great, other times viewed with trepidation: like will this work, can I last, is there really another side of this mountain?
All of us in modern America are junkies for something. Something, we believe we can’t live without. Some of what we need is real: food and water, a bit of shelter, and, somewhere along the line of living, a critical helping of love from another. But sometimes conditions are dire, the availability of succor is scant, and love is so far away; all we can see, all we can feel is pain. The pain of a life turned inside out. A life of, or approaching, emptiness.
When sugar turns to shit can we honestly look at our lives, at who we have become for whatever set of reasons?
Gil Scott-Heron (April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011) did that in one of his most honest moments. A junkie walking through the twilight, on his way home. Knowing full well that home is only a dream. A supposed used-to-be that actually never was.
Gil Scott-Heron wrote this song of raw realization and no more need be said.
Which is not to say, everything is always fucked up. But. The reality is that life can be hard and if we are to be fully human, we will have to face death. Literal and metaphorical. Nobody gets out of here alive. If we are born, we must die.
Great artists know that every day we live ultimately brings us closer to death. That’s the way life is.
This is not just about Gil Scott-Heron. This is about all of us. And about having the fortitude to face the specifics of our personal addictions, whatever those addictions may be. Could be terrible, be tragic, but could also be that whatever good that is happening to us will eventually come to an end. We ourselves will end.
We can never go back home again, be born again. Not in this life. Maybe in another life, a future plane of existence after we leave this one. But we don’t really know.
Good, bad, indifferent, whatever–no one really knows if there is actually an other side.
“The Other Side” was first released on Gil’s album Spirits (1994-TVT). Here are two versions: the first in a studio and the second in live performance less than a year before his transition. Listen. Meditate on this.