Cloud Cult is a hero of the local Minnesota scene, and they greatly help restore my faith in humanity. To have such a visionary act in my neck of woods, daring to concoct a career with their wits and grit, and continue to exist after all these years (even if they can’t quite sustain themselves from just being Cloud Cult), to mount tours and be supported by rabid followers. All hope is not lost.
I’m a fairly recent fan so as of this writing I haven’t really explored the more vintage end of their catalog, but it seems like as the years go by they become more articulate, more relevant, and more cut-straight-to-your-heart-and-make-you-cry. (yes that’s an adjective) If you’re not familiar with them, this song is a great introduction to the more gentle and tender side — classy, intimate and very profound. They incorporate a lot of classical influence and instruments which acts to somehow “purify” rock n roll and electronic beeps and blips, which tend to sound raspy and raw. The result is a cinematic landscape that is dramatic that still feels very personal and not megalomaniac.
You are the wind, the flood and the flame.
Nothing here can get in your way.
You’ve come too far to care what they say.
Now you’re the only thing in your way.
Lyrically this song is very simple, but because it’s delivered gently it doesn’t feel trite. The serene, flowing strings make me think of babies (as indicated in the lyrics). When we are little we let our emotions out as we feel them, as we don’t yet possess the ability to hold them back. Well, our innate defense mechanism does suck in experiences that are too big to process at one time and let us do so over a longer period, but for the most part they just feel it as they come. There’s no blockage. You laugh when you’re happy, you cry when you’re sad, you unleash your displeasure if something frustrates you.
Along the way we acquire this restraint, a sort of necessary evil that is required to navigate the social scene. We hold back. We stop saying what we mean and we say what we think will be received well. We learn to do so so constantly that it becomes a second nature. And we forget what it’s like to let energy flow through us. Damming it and regulating it becomes the norm.
It’s a bit sad but necessary skill, our ability to control our emotions. But it can get in our way. Feelings are the energy of life and we stop living when all we do is to block and bottle up. We forget what it’s like to feel them so we increasingly turn to media with more extreme stimulations. We need strong inputs to dislodge the callous heart so we are engaged, we can feel something, anything.
Once again it’s a balancing act. We need to gain restraint but not let it become us. Nature, movement and art all flow and help us remember that state where we can feel what’s inside and around us, without having to hammer on an iron door with loud bangs. If you’re feeling stuck and trapped, the solution tends not to be about bringing in bigger guns from outside. It’s better to distance yourself from everything that screams at you so you can realize that you’re the one who needs to do the screaming. And scream if you must, a locked-up current sometimes needs to come out at first in loud bursts and torrents. The point is to dislodge the bottleneck and let it flow. Whether you realize or not, you’re expending a lot of energy holding those restraints in place. It’s good to regularly engage in that state of flow, so holding up isn’t the only thing you do in life.
That all sounds abstract, but what does it mean practically? I’m learning, for example, that in my pursuit of guitar mastery both regimented exercises and fooling around/noodling have their place. The former is all about command, control and discipline. The latter is about exploring, freeing, not worrying about anything, mistakes and all. I used to be too much about the latter, and my progress became unrecognizable because all I did was discover what I wanted to play without gaining the ability to play it. But just doing exercises gets me out of touch with what I wanted to say to begin with.
A good life requires a certain degree of discipline and maintenance. You have to take the garbage out or do the dishes. But that’s not all there is to life, it’s through playing, tinkering and exploring that you discover what it is that you want to experience in life. And life is made up of just that — experiences. Experience, by definition, is about feeling something. Your systems need to be flowing. You experiencing something requires you to be present and engaged and allowing yourself to feel the feeling. If you don’t know what you want to experience, then all the maintenance and discipline and chores you engage in lose their context, the meaning. You spend your life toiling on routines and minutia, forgetting what it’s like to feel something vividly.
Just as you gained the power to put those restraints up and keep them in their place, you also have the power to unlock them and let life energy flow. Regain your connection to the essence of your life, to remember why you’re alive to begin with. To live, to feel, to experience.
You’re the only thing in your way.