“Absence is not vacancy. Vacancy has no voice. Vacancy is empty and banal and atheistic. Absence, on the other hand, is a fertile ground where loss and love coalesce around memory to create ghosts that live among us. Absence is alive with energy.”
Red Hand Files #4
“I have always read a lot of poetry. It’s part of my job as a songwriter. I try to read, at the very least, a half-hour of poetry a day, before I begin to do my own writing. It jimmies open the imagination, making the mind more receptive to metaphor and abstraction and serves as a bridge from the reasoned mind to a stranger state of alertness, in case that precious idea decides to drop by.”
Red Hand Files #25
“The transcendent spirit for good can be accessed with profound effect through the imagination – the creative force can act as a counter-agent to evil. We cannot eradicate evil, yet it need not paralyse us – rather we should take what steps we can, however small, toward the betterment of the world, and our place in it. This is the essence of creativity.
Sometimes, the world appears to lean deeper into its evilness and feels reductive and devoid of light … [snip] a small and subversive act of goodwill that can help tilt the world the other way. You are never helpless in the face of evil (unless you sit in perpetual condemnation of the world, as some sadly do). Your simple act of solicitude is the spark of kindness that can illuminate the entire universe. The world already feels brighter.”
Red Hand Files #28
“My father instilled in me the idea of the pre-eminence of creativity – that to create was an act of largesse that had the capacity to redeem the world, and that the pursuit of this path was a serious matter. My father despised cynicism. He felt that whatever a person decided to do in life, they needed to apply themselves fully to the task, and not fuck around. Admittedly, I took a fairly destructive and treacherous route on the way to understanding what he meant. But I know now. He meant that we are at war with the mundane and the uninspired, and that apathy and complacency are moral failings and that it is our urgent duty to be of service to the world. He meant that what we do in life has consequences, and that each of us are effectual and of great value. He believed in the sovereignty of the individual and felt that although we do not always have control over the things that happen to us, it is entirely our choice how we live our life in relation to them.”
Red Hand Files #29
“…beauty knows best – it leads us beyond our narrow notions of what is appropriate into the realms of the enigmatic and discomforting. Here, beauty creates a dissonance in the mind that inflames the imagination. This fire of the mind is the place where the angels and devils play happily together.”
Red Hand Files #31
“…the ‘harsh inner critic’ that you speak of is in no way unique to you. The truth is that virtually anybody who is trying to do anything worthwhile at all, especially creatively, has seated in his or her brain, a horrible homunculus that blows a dreadful little trumpet, and only knows one song – a song that goes, “You are not good enough. Why bother?” This evil little gnome is full of bad jazz, and is, in the words of author Sam Harris, “an asshole.” The enemy of aspiration, this atrocious inner voice demands you turn away from whatever your higher calling may be and become a second-rate, cut-price version of yourself. As your very own personal detractor it is deeply persuasive in its dark business. Many of us listen, many of us accept its message, and many of us throw up our hands and give in. The problem is, of course, that this inner voice, this monstrous homunculus, is you.
The creative act is an act of war – but as much as this inner critic is your adversary, it is also fundamental to the creative process. It is what anyone worth their salt is doing battle with all the time – we are in a perpetual dogfight with the lesser version of ourselves. To lose the battle is to become the embodiment of the homunculus itself. Defeated, we do nothing but sit in perpetual judgment of the world, idly watching, as it goes down in flames. As vicious as this fight with our own selves may be, it is this very conflict that puts the blood in the art, the tears too, and carves the battle scars deep into the work itself.
The world, for all its failings, is an extraordinary experiment in rampant human imagination. At its best, it exists because there were people who had the courage to follow through on an idea – who resisted the inner voice that said, “You are worthless. Why bother?”
I’ve said it before. Beautiful ideas abound. These ideas swim around us, ideas that can be of immense utility to world. Some ideas have our singular names inscribed upon them and it is our responsibility to reach beyond our lesser selves to the brightest version of what we can be and breathe life into these ideas. This act of reaching is almost always accompanied by the wretched homunculus and its dreary anthem of personal incompetence, but it is our sacred duty, to turn around and kick this little fucker in the balls. The fight with the dark force inside us is the forge in which true art is formed.”
Red Hand Files #33
“What is virtually impossible to see within a mirror is that the very essence of our humanness, our vulnerability and fragility, is the most beautiful thing we possess.
Yet, when we are young that vulnerability can appear to us as shame or weakness, as we attempt to brace ourselves against what we may see as a brutal, unforgiving and judgemental world. But those who have no awareness of their own fragility, who present themselves as overconfident, armoured-up and invulnerable, sacrifice the essence of what makes them both human and beautiful.
Vulnerability is the very thing that permits us to connect with each other, to recognise in others the same discomfort they have with themselves and with their place in the world. Vulnerability is the engine of compassion, and can be a superpower, a special vision that allows us to see the quivering, wounded inner world that most of us possess.”
Red Hand Files #65
“I suspect we all have intimations or intuitions, that are holding conversations with the future, but that we tend to disregard, perhaps at our peril. As songwriters we are given scraps of information – images, visions, projections, divination – that become the building blocks for songs; these uncanny hunches are the stuff we work with, the material with which we create, so the songs end up feeling elastic, stretching themselves forward in time and back into the past. They can feel like preternatural witnesses to things yet to come, signallers calling urgently from an emergency – the future – while haunted by what has gone before.”
Red Hand Files #78
“… questions are proof of life. Not only your lives, but of my own. Proof of existence. The questions are the answer, emerging from the impossible dark, at the edge of tears.
“Are you there?” I say.
“Yes, I am.” “Yes, I am.” “Yes, I am” they ask.”
Red Hand Files #71