It’s real easy to bag on Wayne Coyne and Lord knows he makes it easy sometimes. But dammit if it he doesn’t have one musical achievement he can hang his entire life on: “Do You Realize?”
“Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?” Flaming Lips sang that in 2002. To the best of my knowledge, and I don’t mind being corrected on this, no one in music had ever before or has ever since actually addressed anything like this. Close the book on it, everybody. Wayne Coyne handled it. So many bullshit songs out there. But one day you gotta face it: everyone you know is going to die. Your family, your friends, you. Everyone.
But you’re not worried so much about what happens when you die. What about the people you love? What about when they die? What do you do then? When I was a kid, I knew my grandfather was eventually going to die and yet it terrified me. He was the most important person in my life. He was my world. His eventual death was my biggest fear. What was I going to do? It was inevitable.
My grandfather finally passed away five years ago. By then it stopped being my worst fear if only because of the sheer amount of suffering he had gone through in his final years. But for the longest time, in the back of mind there was that train of thought that said “please don’t go, please don’t go” and I’d fight tears at the very idea of it. “I don’t want him to go. Please. I don’t know if I can take it. Don’t go. No, no, no.”
You’re probably wondering why I would even entertain those thoughts, but no one entertains them. No one enjoys the thoughts that frighten them the most. They just encroach our minds no matter what we do.
What do the Flaming Lips sing about the inevitability of death: “And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know you realize that life goes fast. It’s hard to make the good things last. . .”
But that’s so hard to do because you’re too fixated on “do you realize that everyone you know someday will die“. Everyone will die. And then you’re alone. Then what? It’s too much to bear.
The panic is pure and undiluted and it runs through me and I just want to scream out. There are no easy answers. I have a small family and that family will get smaller one by one until one day there’s only me. And I won’t know what to do when that day comes. And I’m scared about that. When the only people who have loved and protected me my entire life will be gone. One day I will be what is known as an “elder orphan” and I won’t have anyone to rely on in times of need. Because I’m always in need. And who doesn’t need somebody?
Years ago, I wrote a song called “Die Alone”. There’s two recorded versions of it on Bandcamp in addition to this video. I’ve played it for people who told me it made them want to put a gun in their mouth. But it’s not about dying alone. It’s about living alone. When no one is there for you. You haven’t started your own family to replace the one you lost. There’s just you. Or in this case me, trying to put the bravest face on a terrifying situation.
Deep down, I’m just a scared child. I don’t know how I’m going to handle the future. I don’t know how to plan ahead. Even if you wanted to throw out some suggestions to me, it wouldn’t help because I’m too busy screaming from the bottom of my heart.
I know, I know. There’s so many things that I can do to prepare for the future. But I can’t do them, especially right now. All I can do is panic and then try to push it out of my mind. It’s sick. It’s human. “Do you realize that happiness makes you cry?” Indeed. And did you know you’re more likely to cry from sadness and fear? Yes, and that’s why the same people who came up with “Do You Realize?” later went on to title one of their albums “The Terror”. Because the terror is what all of this is about. And the terror engulfs everything and everyone.
You want to think about that on a Monday afternoon?