Being driven by the blues involves the kind of metaphorical cutting that goes along with losses, loss of momentum, of love, and of life, especially when tempting fantasies of escape arise. When Eddie “Son” House performs “Death Letter Blues,” the words “hurry, hurry; the gal you love is dead”[i] do not evoke the endless churning hurry of progress but of the stomach anticipating the conclusion that is foregone. The stomach knows through experience that a drop is coming and not an escape from consequences.
Human beings in the midst of pain have created strategies for dealing with suffering. Widow’s walks on the rooftops of seaside towns, for instance, may be seen as architectural poems in tribute to the fascinating, compelling, and profoundly other depths and deaths of the vast sea. In the eye of loss, the sea mirrors the extensive sky that thinly veils the endless mystery and deadly vacuum of space in which the Earth is barely a speck. These are azure mysteries that can evoke ecological levels of psychological reality, which lead to wonder and awe but, in this consumptive age, also kill optimism and innocence. At the wake for eco-systemic optimism one may hear the lamentation and earthy pleasures of the blues, and the queen of all these suffering strategies is grief. Grief’s realm is Soul/Psyche, her gravestone-grey standard is bruised with black and blue, and Bluevolution is her song of corpse washing—the sound of the future spiraling down the drain.
In A Blue Fire, Thomas Moore attributes to James Hillman an “embrace of depression and pathology [which] paradoxically leads to a psychology beyond health and normalcy, toward a cultural sensibility where soulfulness and beauty are the standards.”[ii] A black and blue soul doesn’t need convincing that some of the Big Ideas by which contemporary culture lives need to die. Humanity may truly evolve into a more nuanced understanding that can deal with dying and so encourage living; however, the promise of tomorrow must ring hollow all the way from the hospital, through the wake, to the grave in order for Hope to have any credibility.
[i] Son House “Death Letter Blues”, 2007, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdgrQoZHnNY&feature=youtube_gdata_player.
[ii] James Hillman and Thomas Moore, A Blue Fire: Selected Writings (New York: Harper, 1989). Page 11