Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The Best Christmas Song That Has Not Been Made Into A Movie Yet But Which Should (Even Though It Is Sad) and Also Which Is Not... etc.
Can there be happiness in a sad ending?
I mean happiness in a sad ending without the secret hidden happiness where a sad ending seems to be sad but is really happy?
Christmas is a good time to ask that question: can a sad ending be happy while still being sad? because Christmas, after all, begins a story that has a sad ending, followed by a secret happy ending which reveals [RESURRECTION SPOILER ALERT!] that the sad ending of the story that began on Christmas actually has a happy ending... which in turn is followed by a happy ending that is secretly a sad ending that actually is secretly a happy ending.
(For those of you who are now lost, I am talking about Easter, followed by Jesus rising from the dead, followed by Jesus coming back down to Earth in the second coming, followed by Armageddon, followed by everyone spending eternity in paradise: sad-happy-happy-sad-happy.)
I'm not talking about those endings. I'm talking about endings that really are just sad, but somehow still make you happy even though they shouldn't.
I started thinking about this yesterday when I posted, on Thinking The Lions, song 64 in my countdown. Song 64 is "At the Bottom of Everything," by Bright Eyes, and it is a sad song that always makes me feel happy anyway, not just because of the bouncy beat, but because of the message that it conveys as it [SPOILER ALERT THAT YOU WON'T WANT TO READ IF YOU WANT TO LISTEN TO THE SONG AND NOT HAVE IT RUINED, OR IF YOU WANT TO TRAVEL BY PLANE] tells the story of a plane full of people crashing into the ocean and, presumably, dying. The song ends with the line I've found out I am really no one.
That line is a sad sad line, which always raises to my mind echoes of the poem anyone lived in a pretty how town in which anyone and noone fall in love and get married and then [POETIC SPOILER ALERT!], in e e cummings' words:
one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was
all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
. . .
which is a terribly sad ending to a poem that seems to me otherwise to be a poem that celebrates life, but, then, how does life end, anyway? The most celebrated or celebratory or celebration-worthy life always ends the same way, doesn't it? And we would not get to that sad point, the ending, if we did not have all the celebratory moments before it, and all the celebrations.
So is it possible that a sad ending can make us happy even though it is clearly sad? Well, yes. It is obviously possible because the sad endings of At the Bottom of Everything and anyone lived in a pretty how town make me happy. I guess a better question would be should they make me (or anyone) happy?
I think they should.
I think that sad things can make you happy when the reason they are sad is because of the happy things that went before.
That sounds more complicated than it is. I'll try again:
It's okay to be sad when the reason you are sad is because of all the happiness that you have experienced.
It's like laughing at a wake -- telling funny stories about the person you miss terribly. That kind of thing is okay, because not only does it help you cope with the otherwise-inexpressible sadness that you may feel, sadness that is almost immeasurable and needs to be diluted and spread out a little, but also doing so, feeling good about feeling sad helps to remember that even in a sea of troubles, there are bright shiny spots.
This is not "every dark cloud has a silver lining" thinking. I'm not sure I buy into that statement, but that's for another day. This is instead saying that no matter how sad or dark things might seem, if you look, there is something about which you can be happy, and if feeling sad helps us to express the disappointment and despair that awful things sometimes cause, feeling happy about feeling sad helps remind us to look for that tiny nugget of joy hidden amongst all the trouble.
Sad endings can and should make you happy (sometimes) because of that, and also because of this: Feeling sad helps remind us that things could be worse, and keep things in perspective.
Most of us do not have terribly bad lives, or even moderately bad lives, or even lives that would be described as somewhat bad" by 99.9% of the world. We think we do; we sigh with disgust when we are trying to get out of our cars in the morning but are delayed in that because we are having trouble getting our iPod into our jacket pockets, and we do that (I do, today), we sigh with disgust at that moment without stopping to think I have a car, and a jacket, and an iPod, and that makes me amazingly lucky.
Mostly we do not stop to think that; I just did stop to think that, so I'm not as bad as I might think I am.
But I stopped to think that, to reflect on how lucky I was to have an iPod which could be difficult to get into the jacket I own as I got out of the car that I own, because I was listening to music that is sad but makes me happy, music that reminds me that things could always be worse and that things, even when they are at their most terrible, have some glimmer of good. I have been listening to music that reminds me that sometimes an understanding of the world is gleaned from dire circumstances, as when someone realizes their place in creation just before they create a wonderful splash, and music that reminds me that even people who are spending Christmas Eve in the drunk tank can find some solace in remembering the choirs singing and a horse coming in at 18-1 and giving them riches.
I have spent time yesterday and today listening to Fairytale of New York by The Pogues.
That song manages to bring a lump to my throat almost from the start, and it is brilliant the way it combines the beauty and fun and thrill of life with the darker, sadder side. Describing New York City in the winter: They got cars big as bars they got rivers of gold... but the wind goes right through you, it's no place for the old. On Christmas sights and sounds: The boys in the NYPD choir singing, bells ringing out for Christmas Day... Broadway waiting for the Queen of New York City, while the drunks are singing.
As you listen to that song, as you hear the words, imagine the lives of the man and woman singing it, and imagine the movie that this song would make: they come to New York City, eyes wide with the glamor and promise of the Big Apple, surrounded by bells and choirs and hope and promise.
Then: I could have been someone.
Then: The horse comes in at 18-1.
Then: Fighting. Arguing. You scumbag. You maggot. I pray God it's our last Christmas.
Then: The drunk tank, turning to the wall, and dreaming about the woman whose dreams he kept with him -- he built his dreams around her. Now all he has left is her dreams.
And what does he leave us with? As he lays all alone in the drunk tank remembering the time they were rich, the time they had Broadway waiting for them, the time when they were happy before everything went sour?
"The boys in the NYPD choir were singing Galway Bay. And the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day."
When I listen to Fairytale of New York, which is The Best Christmas Song That Has Not Been Made Into A Movie Yet But Which Should (Even Though It Is Sad) and is not an old standard, "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree,", "Jingle Bell Rock," or "Run Run Rudolph." I feel all of those emotions, and wish it could be made into a movie that tells that story exactly, not watering it down, so that others could feel it, too, what I feel when I listen to that song.
As I listen to that song, and the ending, I don't know if the singer is happy or sad, lying there remembering the things he's done. But the song makes me sad for him, sad for her... and happy for me. Happy because I am sad, and I am sad because I am aware of all the happiness that those two have experienced, with my awareness making me sad for them that they are no longer experiencing those great things. And that awareness then makes me happy because my own life has experienced great happiness and not great sorrow, not often.
The song makes me happy about the sad ending, because it is not my ending.
Other Christmas Songs That Are The Best Christmas Song [fill in the blank] and is not an old standard, "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree,", "Jingle Bell Rock," or "Run Run Rudolph.":
The one that is The Product of 10,000 hours of practice.
The one that is from a movie and proves that bad things must happen at Christmas.
The one that is guilt-inducing but still catchy.
The one that has nothing to do with Christmas, but is still a Christmas song.
The one that is an Indie Rocker Christmas song.
Or Click Here for A List of Everything That's Ever Been Named The Best!