I’m not exactly what you call a John Mayer fan, but if someone were to ask me to photograph a concert of his, I’d do so gladly. But the one thing I like about Mayer, apart from his voice, is the fact that his lyrics are relatable in a way that very few people’s lyrics are.
I will talk to you, dear readers, of Gravity.
I’ve been thinking a lot about depression in light of Robin Williams, and some thoughts about my own history with that coat came to mind. Mainly how I used to delve into music headfirst in my teens to escape everything, a habit I maintained into adulthood, just with different music. Of course, back then I was routinely yelled at for “having my headphones on all the time”, but the fact is, what was in my headphones was a huge contributor to me coming out of the coat.
Gravity didn’t come out until I was past my teens, and I didn’t hear it until maybe 2007-2008. The lyrics of that song elicited a response in me that was akin to me hearing Down to the Bone for the first time: I stopped and paid attention.
What made me pay attention is pretty much the John Mayer signature: his lyrics are very earthy. He talks about just how people feel, and he doesn’t dress it up. In the world of manufactured performance masquerading as pop music, John Mayer’s reality is refreshing.
What I didn’t think about before, which I think about right now, is likely that John Mayer spoke of depression in the lyrics for Gravity. Either depression, or the overwhelming need to find oneself in a world that cares little for authenticity.
Oh, I’ll never know what makes this man
With all the love that his heart can stand
Dream of ways to throw it all away…
It’s this bit of lyrics in particular that I thought about today.
How many times does depression make actors of the best people in the quest to hide that something is not right? And how many times people get so fed up with how they feel on a daily basis that there is no limit to what they will do to escape? How many of us have felt that we could just up and pack everything in a case and go out on the road, and let the chips fall where they may, if it means that what’s going on inside our heads will finally shut up?
It’s not that we are not loved…we are. All of us. Whether we realize it or not. But it’s the fact that we, when we are at our worst, cease to see that, that is one of the hallmarks of the coat. As I said before, one of the more insipid features of the coat is that it confines. It confines your physical movements, it confines your thoughts, and it confines your perception. You don’t see things as you used to, and you don’t see things that may be the way to unbutton the coat. Or, worse, you will see them, but have no strength to move to get to them.
There’s a semi-truthful joke that says, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it’s better to cry in a Mercedes than on a bicycle”. Honestly, I see a lot more people crying in their Mercedes, to follow along with the joke.
No, really. Depression among the affluent is a lot more easily noticeable. Whatever my personal feelings on wealth aside, the one most common thing I see if someone makes over a certain amount per year is that their earnings are pretty much in direct correlation with their misery levels.
I see it all the time. I go to work through Penn Station, and every day at 9am, it’s chock-full of people rushing to get to work from their outlying suburban homes. My old job took me through Grand Central, where the populace was largely the same. It’s basically a sea of transient regulars, all rushing from one train to another, from the light rail to the subway, and if you stand still and focus on faces, you are hard-pressed to find many smiles above the smart suits. Most of the times, they wear the same look, the one that says they would rather be anywhere but here, that they would rather do everything and anything to not go to Penn Station every day, to not go to work, to not make their living… $300 suit, impeccable accessories, all the trimmings of wealth, and none of that is enough to keep the coat at bay. The coat doesn’t discriminate.
Twice as much, ain’t twice as good
And can’t sustain, like one-half could…
Well, come to think about that, I can also bring forward the lyrics of Johnny Cash’s, “A Satisfied Mind”. Money is not an answer. Money can buy you the trimmings, but what good are the trimmings, if they have nothing to adorn? What good is gilt cover on the outside when the inside is spent charcoal?
Is it any wonder, then, when someone goes on a bender that is seemingly completely unexplained and unexplainable from the outside?
Truth is, it’s perfectly explainable. And very easy to understand…if you’ve been in that position.
Only those who were on the inside of the coat know that when someone snaps, they have basically Had Enough. That bender, that binge of behavior that sometimes ends in police activity, court appearances, or sometimes worse, usually roots from the simple point of that the person just got plain old sick and tired of feeling the way they feel. It’s the point where no amount of antidepressants, money, self-medicating, what-have-you works anymore.
Though on another thought, it does strike me as a song about unfulfillment. Both ways, the lyrics are relatable and apply both ways, in both situations. But in truth, how many of us go through life without at least one of those moments where you want to just up and get away from it all?
This is why self-care is important, folks. If it’s an annual trip to a tropical island, sitting on a bench in a park and watching the clouds float by, drinking a coffee…whatever your method for getting in touch with your peace, do it.
Just keep me where the light is…