Some things aren’t for everyone, I’ll grant that. Even with all my ravings and musings about music and artistry, I hardly expect anyone to listen to what I do or like what I like. It can be a bit much. I often feel that some of the music I listen to is more of an artistic endurance exercise to see if I can get through a long, largely unpleasant piece of music. Well, I can, but that’s not the point. No, the point is that while I’m generally a happy, warm, and silly person, my music and culture diet is almost entirely dark — often pushing past dark into grim or dismal. It’s dark and sad art that makes me the happiest, makes me feel the most creative, the most alive.
Why? Why knowingly choose to give such darkness prominent and constant placement in an otherwise happy life? Darkness speaks to me, it doesn’t frighten me. I’m not a serial killer, I don’t watch videos of beheadings or anything of the sort, but I do take in a great deal of dark art. It never bothered me, and it’s only gotten darker. Even in these dark times where fascism seems to have become mainstream and the end feels nigh, I continue trudging through darkness for my own enjoyment.
Perhaps it’s a fascination with what I’m not, a fascination with the other side that I cannot see. I’ve never been in a physical fight in my life, something I’m actually proud of. The idea that someone can offend you in such a way that violence is the answer points to both participants being tragically misguided, but I digress. I deal in darkness so I don’t have to live in it. I’m prone to bouts of hysterical laughter, dancing, singing, and all manner of voices and silliness — none of which the mark of someone obsessed with darkness.
I’ve watched so many WWII documentaries about Nazis and Hitler that I’ve lost count. I always was a little embarrassed of that fact because it just seemed odd and off-putting, especially when you see what Netflix recommends I watch. But, when I was listening to the Judd Apatow episode of Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, Conan O’Brien’s podcast, I was relieved to learn that both O’Brien and Apatow take in a great deal of the same dismal WWII content that I do. They discussed their fascination with that darkness, concluding that they’re curious about such evil because they can’t even comprehend it. To hear that two brilliant, funny people consume a great deal of the same darkness was a great relief. I’m the same way. I have a strong constitution for disturbing things and an insatiable morbid curiosity. Evil is confounding to me, and those who do terrible things are a fascinating study of just how mangled and twisted the mind can get.
Many go through life trying to avoid such things — no dark or sad music, TV, movies, or art. That’s fine. As I said at the very beginning of this piece, some things aren’t for everyone. But, it goes beyond curiosity, I truly embrace it. There is something so beautiful, so visceral about dark art, be it audio or visual. It’s difficult to put it into words, but I find comfort in it. Perhaps because artistically and taste-wise it’s a place that many would rather not spend extended time in that I found a home in dark art of all kinds. I find exceptionally optimistic art, music, writing, TV, and movies to be alienating and unrealistic. I don’t need art with dulled edges, I can handle raw stuff.
Beyond my own personal tastes tending towards the macabre, my obsession with darkness has better equipped me to handle it in real life. I’m never fully adrift, lost in the grips of a dark spell. I can always find the beautiful or the absurd in it. To some, a sense of humor this dark is insensitive, but it’s precisely because of how sensitive I am that I find dark things so funny. A brief example:
I was sitting in the living room recently having my breakfast — oatmeal with dried fruit, fresh blueberries, and shredded coconut — when I saw a woman coming up the sidewalk towards my front door. A visitor? For me? Well, it’s been ages. I stepped out on the porch and the woman, wearing a masking because she’s a decent human being, inquired about my next-door neighbors to the right (her left). I said, “They’re actually both recently deceased, the wife first and then the husband not long after.” She continued to ask about the household so I told her that the only thing I knew was that their son had frequently been at their house after their passing to maintain the property and do some fixing up. Despite my having told her of my neighbors’ death, she said, “So, they don’t live here,” to which I replied, “They don’t live at all,” laughing as I once again delivered the grim news, this time with no seriousness whatsoever. She was immediately uncomfortable, thanked me for my help and left visibly displeased. Maybe it was the fact that I laughed when I told her that not only do my neighbors not live next door, they don’t live at all. I thought it was funny, but she was clearly uncomfortable with the way I discussed death so casually. Death is a part of life, subject to humor just like everything else.
My point is this: darkness is nothing to fear, nor is sadness. They’re necessary elements to keep the balance. It’s not healthy to avoid darkness entirely. The “good vibes” movement always made me angry for that reason — if you spend your life purposely avoiding sadness and darkness, you’re ill-prepared when you encounter it. I say embrace it all. Live with darkness so you don’t have to live in darkness.