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Marc Mason is a freelance writer based in Tempe, AZ.

Friday, August 09, 2013  

I’ve given a lot of serious thought to giving up my satellite dish subscription lately. I find myself watching less and less television, even during the main part of the year, and I have so many things going on at once that I can’t help but wonder if I just wouldn’t be better off without it. But then I remind myself what I really use the dish for, and it remains on my roof.

You see, my Dish gives me access to Sirius/XM satellite radio, and running that magnificent bit of programming through my home Dolby Digital 5.1 soundsystem gives me nearly unlimited joy. It also, at one point in my life, actually kept me going when I was at my lowest. That is the gift of music; it can hoist you upon its broad expanse and carry you through life’s roughest waters.

When you’re a kid, music grants you an almost unlimited license to be emo. (God help us all.) I can remember all too clearly the hours I spent alternating between rage and depression as I sat in the dark listening to Pink Floyd and Nine Inch Nails. Glorious days of misspent youth and all that. But getting older, I think it becomes harder to find music that truly gets under your skin and becomes meaningful. Aging allows us to find that meaning in many other places, and general maturation sees our inner emo turn to dust and float away in the wind. It takes something truly special to burrow into your soul.

That happened to me last in 2006.

Rebecca and I had been split for a bit over a year at that point, and to say that I was not doing well would be underselling it. I was living alone for the first time in my entire life, which was an ongoing struggle, and my efforts at getting back into the dating pool (“Hi. This is my first date this millennium.”) were not exactly brilliant. I found myself frequently overwhelmed by even mundane tasks, and I had serious questions about my ability to cope over the long term.

Then, one night, I was listening to the radio and a song came on that made me sit up and take notice. It was immediately different than anything I had heard in a long, long time, and it was called “The Adventure.” The chorus spoke of a deep and abiding love (“I cannot live, I can’t breathe, unless you do this with me.”) but it also carried a larger message, one that I grasped immediately: tomorrow has the potential to be the best day of your life.

It sounds trite, I suppose, but that was the message I needed to hear at that time.

What made it more unusual, I believe, is that it was played on an alternative rock station. I’m a huge alt-rock fan, but let’s be honest: songs with an uplifting, positive tone aren’t exactly what the genre does best. I fell in love with it immediately, and I wanted to know more about this band. What was their name? Ahh… “Angels & Airwaves.” Cool name.

Now, I had never been a huge fan of Blink-182. I liked some of their stuff well enough, but not enough to be a fanboy. So I was stunned to find out that the guy behind A&A was one of the members of Blink. It seemed incongruous to Blink’s music that this dude produced something so completely opposite of their music, but it was true. There was obviously a hell of a lot more to Tom DeLonge than met the eye.
The next single, “The War,” had some of the most powerful lyrical imagery I’d heard since I was a kid. Ostensibly a cry for the end of the war in Iraq, it also worked as an ode to the hope that pain and strife in one’s life would come to an end: “Why won’t you tell me that it’s almost over? Why must this tear my head inside out?”

It felt like the music was written directly to me. Cheesy, I suppose, but that’s how it felt.

I bought the album, of course, and it was easy to see how it told a story from beginning to end. Each successive album has done the same, and if you play the band’s four albums consecutively, you can see a grander picture unfold before your eyes. It is absolutely amazing.

Seven years later, I still remember how it felt to hear those first couple of singles, then that first album. How it felt like I had found the music that would weave into the tapestry of my universe for the rest of my life. Makes my hair stand on end just thinking about it.

That is the gift of music, you see, just as it is the gift of great literature: it transports you and elevates you, and it leaves part of itself behind in your soul. I am forever grateful for that.

3:37 PM

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