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“I Heard There Was A Secret Chord…”

You all know the song, right? Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”? And how it starts with there being a secret chord, which David plays, and it pleases the Lord, maybe; but it’s not so much pleasing the other person in the equation (in the song, this is presumably the singer’s ex-lover). But in the original reference the playing *does* please the other person, so much that they actually can’t function without out. Which raises an interesting question.

First, though, the reference itself: I trust you know, it’s based on the Bible (what most Christians call the Bible, anyway) and I really, really hope you know the story of David, Jonathan, and Saul, because it’s beautiful, in a heartbreaking kinda way. I’ll probably cover it at some point–King David was the main reason I wanted to name a boy David, if I ever had one, and although I changed my mind later, the inspiration still stands–King David is my all-time favourite Bible character.

For the purposes of this entry, though, I need to focus more on King Saul, David’s predecessor.

Essentially, Saul was an intentional mistake, put in charge of the nation of Israel to show them up, and reveal how much better God was at ruling them than a human would be. Basically, God lets the Israelites choose a king, and they pick a big dude who’s shit-hot on the battlefield (maybe, like, a little unhinged? a berserker, prone to unquenchable bloodlust?) and he turns out to be a great warrior, but not such a great king. Then middle age comes upon him, he gets depressed (or gets an actual evil spirit tormenting him, if you believe that sort of thing–either way, the end result is a load of misery, I mean, there’s a reason we liken mental illness to “battling our demons”, and it’s not because the situations are dissimilar) and he has to send for someone to come and play music to quiet his inner torment (or to make the demon go away, whichever you prefer).

Enter, Not-Yet-King David. A youngest son and a shepherd by trade, he’s actually a pretty cool kid: morally upright and sensible and reliable, also athletic and already something of a bad-ass (he’s forever killing wild animals with a slingshot, and keeping all his sheep safe, and doing a bunch of properly grown-up shit) but eternally overlooked, because he has like a hundred older brothers (6, I think–I haven’t read the story in years) and so no one gives little David the time of day. Then, he gets singled out (different part of the story) and sent to the palace, and what do you know, on top of being an all-round bad-ass, little David plays a mean lyre, as well.

But *not* a mean one; a lovely, soothing, melodic lyre, played so beautifully and skilfully that it chases all King Saul’s demons away. They get into a groove: Saul has a shrieking panic attack, he sends for David, David pulls out the B.C.E. equivalent of an acoustic guitar, and he singer/songwriters Saul and his evil spirits into blissful relaxation. And just like that, Saul–a man teetering right on the edge of suicidal, homicidal depression–manages to carry on ruling for years to come.

My question is this: what would have happened to Saul, if, when he called for David, David never showed?

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Men

This American Woman

I once dated a guy who made me a mix tape (technically a CD) and one of the songs he put on was, “American Woman” (which is a great song, and he’s English, and I’m American, and we had a very adversarial relationship, so it fit, but… anyways). A great song, but not really what I’d expect to hear, if I were expecting a mix of lovesongs. Which, y’know. Having given him the soppiest CD I’d ever heard, not 2 months earlier (and to this day, I regret wasting all that sugar-sweetness on someone so unmoved by it) I sort of *did* expect something reciprocal.

That was my first mistake, in that relationship. When you’re with someone who always brings a gun to a knife-fight, for whom the Horn of Gondor is never enough, no, they need the One Ring… expecting what is right and deserved and equal is a futile hope. In a relationship like that, the only reciprocation comes when they’ve broken you enough that the meanest hint of human kindness feels like an outpouring of the Balm of Gilead.

Which, you know. Is meant for–let me recall that song I sang in high school–making the wounded whole, and healing the sin-sick soul.

When *you* are the one wounding someone, and making them soul-sick, you don’t get to be the balm that makes it all better, as well. That’s not love–that’s emotional abuse–and although it works in the short term (turning a would-be lover into a tearful, sighing, queasy-stomached dependant, eternally hanging on your next word, a word they’re never quite sure is coming) eventually, the spell wears off and the person who thought they loved you, who *does* love you in some way, realizes that, mostly, they’ve just been played.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Fool me a hundred times, and I’ll burn everything we ever were on a pyre of self-preservation; and I’ll rise, jewel-toned plumage brilliant in the sun, eyes as hot as the flames, a strange, dark-haired Mother of Dragons, from the ashes of you, me, and the fiction in the space between.

And then I will scorch you to the bone and eat you alive, you fucking shitbag.

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