When I was twenty

felix's picture

When I was twenty scarcely a fortnight could go by without a song, a movie, or even a well-thought out comment from a friend evoking a strong, honest emotional response.
Now I've travelled forward in time as far again as I had back then, I guess I'm saying I am over forty, just. And it was for the first time in perhaps years that tonight I listened to a song that managed to trigger something in me.
Mountain Goats, Sunset Tree album the first few songs. I've heard them before many times. But I haven't had a shot today and I've had a LOT of shots as of late.
Which came first, the nihilist or the junkie? Did I adopt nihilism to build an edifice to give my heroin addiction some political justification I thought might make it more palatable? Or does nihilism seep in, mixed with each shot's sugar and ajax? Or was the heroin usage a logical outcome of adopting a nihilistic world view?
It's true that one of my earliest memories was the snub nosed revolver execution in Vietnam of the peasant. I knew the story once, I've forgotten the salient details under thousands of like statistics - the 56,000 children who starved to death in Africa today. The billions in arms sales to the countries that don't feed their citizens. The guiltiest of guilty who spend their lives secluded from their victims, dictators who die unpunished by the legal systems that were set up more to divert active leftists than to prosecute the guilty.
That Vietnamese peasant's head snapping back as bullet entered cranium was the flowering of my nihilism I think I can safely say. I truly was not expecting to see that, and had certainly seen nothing like it before. I guess my mum was just as shocked that day she walked in to her houses' bedroom where I was spending two years as part of my suspended sentence....and saw me shooting my own snub nose, into my arm.
We all get shocked most by the things we know exist but have managed to keep submersed. The longer they've stayed under the surface the more power their surfacing has. Only the known can truly surprise us.
And tonight, I was surprised by the ability to have an emotional reaction to a song.


sayarsan's picture

A class of drugs most notable as pain-killers leads constant, heavy users to a state - often terminal - where they cease to feel pain. Especially when leading a life bound to a routine with little change and much less injury. If, in fact, Jonesy has you that well screwed down the things that have become lost such as sentiment, melancholy, compassion, solidarity and love for instance often render us immune to youthful feelings about justice and equality leaving a personal philosophy more centered around instant gratification, ultimately as a reward in itself until it becomes our source of self-esteem as well.

Such things are luxuries to be enjoyed by those with the time and remoteness that go with modern wage slavery so if the conditions are favourable; i.e.. a safe and familiar environment with no chance of unwelcome intrusion and a suitable source of relief at hand when the physical withdrawals become too messy or at least inconvenient it is possible to feel some pleasant effects from having such emotions revealed after an absence of decades in some cases.

I hit on this by accident when a friend who was one of the first I knew to go on Suboxone gave me a couple for interest's sake. Like a glutton I took both sublingually at home, alone and can distinctly recall a very pleasant emotional state which lasted for an hour perhaps more before the physical symptoms took hold and rendered me in desperate need of a strong opiate. 

It was a good reminder of one of the prices I pay for the stability afforded by the methadone program for instance.

sayarsan's picture

the footage of a Viet Cong spy during the fall of Saigon is seared into my memory with a peculiar fascination. His eyes "cloud over in death" as Homer would say, before his head hits the ground to send a stream of blood perhaps 18" into the air. We were on the side of the army officer firing the shot. Perhaps one of the most definitive episodes in my life which has put me on the side of the Other. Not the beginning but, along with the footage of a child running screaming and naked, her back in flames from the napalm which is formulated to stick and burn at high heat, these were the images which defined the power of a tv image. Along the lines of the footage from an attack helicopter in Iraq while the crew enjoy there task of gunning down a group of civilians, including a child. Times have changed and by now the footage didn't come from a major news media organisation but from a low-ranking infantryman who will spend the rest of his life in a hostile prison, guilty of treason, subject to constant efforts to break him physically, pshologically, emotionally, morally and others I wouldn't dream of. Another war hero from an ancient war with no resolution in sight.

I wonder if he can get mail?