Beer and Pavement

On Sadness

Posted in Intersections, Manifesto by SM on January 12, 2012

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss

I recently watched the Pitchfork.TV documentary on the making of the Flaming Lips classic LP, The Soft Bulletin. If you haven’t heard the record, you’re missing out. It’s absolutely one of the ten best albums of my life and it may also be one of the saddest. Wayne Coyne has often talked about how sad songs can make us feel better or give us a sense of being part of something larger than ourselves. This is expressed in so many words in the doc and comes through in the Dr. Seuss quote above.

We love sad songs. Our favorite bands record mostly sad songs. There’s a reason bands like The Smiths, Joy Division, Bright Eyes, etc. are so beloved. It’s similar to the fanaticism for Elliott Smith and Nick Drake. These artists know how to speak to our sadness and this comforts us somehow.

Interestingly, we also choose alcohol more than almost any other drug. Alcohol’s a depressant, bringing our sadness to the forefront[1]. Yes, the effects of our drug of choice is mostly intended for us to feel that sadness again.

It should be clarified, however, that just because we choose music and drugs that make us sad that we still appreciate high quality. Sure, there is music and alcohol that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Those are not the people about which I’m talking. No, I prefer to focus on those with discriminating taste. There are no more discriminating enthusiasts alive than those of us who follow indie rock and craft beer. Characteristics such as quality and authenticity are important to us. Yes, these things are somewhat subjective, but one cannot deny the care and skill it takes to create and appreciate such endeavors.

So, why does the indie rocker play that sad record over and over? Why does the beer enthusiast go back to the bar time and time again?

This is what comes up when you search for "sad beer".

I think that we all just want to feel something. As the Dr. Seuss quote suggests, it’s better to have experiences even if it means some sadness is included. To feel something, anything, means that we’re alive. It’s even better when that something is real, something that reminds us we’re not alone.

Celebratory emotions can do that to a point. We can feel joy and camaraderie with our friends and family after a great triumph, but we know whom we can trust when we’re down and out. Our real friends and most trusted family members stick by our sides in the toughest of times. We comfort each other when we reveal a bit of ourselves. Sadness brings us together in a way happiness never can.

And this is why we listen to sad songs and drink beer that fills us up, slows our reflexes, and lets our guards down. This authenticity in feeling sadness helps us to feel alive, almost ironically triumphant. When I listen to The Soft Bulletin, I can relate to the sadness in those songs, but at the same time the dynamics of that music makes me feel said triumphs. If I can survive some of the things I have survived so far, I can do most anything. And that just makes me want to crack open a good beer.

1OK. So, I don’t really think that alcohol’s purpose is to make us sad. However, by slowing things down, we tend to reflect more on our life and inevitably our failures. Or think of those drunken nights when you felt so down due to your state and the embarrassment of having lost control. With alcohol, things slow down and our emotions can often match the rest of our body’s pace. They don’t call them depressants for nothing.

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