Lyrical Love: Wet Sand

Painting by Gregor Gleiwitz

Drug addiction and mental illness are widely known to be, however debilitating to one’s health and relationships, benefactors for art creation. The song, ‘Wet Sand’ off the 2006 Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album, Stadium Arcadium, and written by John Frusciante and Anthony Kiedis, describes what it’s like living such a self-destructive paradox. I believe the appeal to try mind-bending substances and the twisting of the word ‘crazy’, making it a desirable trait and a near-virtue, are symptoms of a dying spirit desperate to be validated, nurtured, and ultimately, reflected in the wide world, which at the moment, is more muck than mirror.

I read Kiedis’ memoir, Scar Tissue, around the same time this album was released and remember the lead singer’s lifelong pursuit of truth being ensnared by traps and temptations for him to simply indulge his ego. ‘Wet Sand’ is like an inner dialog between one’s spirit and one’s ego, each hoping to justify their actions and dominate their opponent. Let’s just say it’s easy for the latter to win when the whole world is on its side.

Eclipsing the lyrics, Frusciante’s climaxing guitar solo at the end of the song gives us a glimpse of wholly acknowledging the divine, something we may not have been able to do in the midst of our wanderlust, doses, warring selves, and castles in wet sand.

‘Wet Sand’ lyrics:

My shadow’s side, so amplified

Keeps coming back dissatisfied
Elementary, son, but it’s soul

My love affair with everywhere

Was innocent, why do you care?

Someone start the car

Time to go

You’re the best I know

My sunny side has up and died

I’m betting now where we collide

The universe will shift into a low

The travesties that we have seen

Are treating you like Benzedrine
Automatic laughter from a pro

My, what a good day for a walk outside

I’d like to get to know you a little better baby

God knows that I really tried

My what a good day for a take-out bride
I’d like to say we did it for the better, oh

I saw you there so unaware

Those hummingbirds all in your hair
Elementary, son, but it’s soul

The disrepair of Norma Jean

Could not compare to your routine
Ballerama beauty going toe-to-toe

My, what a good day for a, let it slide

I’d like to say we did it for the better, oh

I thought about it and I brought it out

I’m motivated by the lack of doubt

I’m consecrated, but I’m not devout

The mother, the father, the daughter, yeah

Right on the verge, just one more dose
I’m traveling from coast to coast

My theory isn’t perfect, but it’s close

I’m almost there, why should I care?

My heart is hurting when I share

Someone open up, let it show

My what a good day for a walk outside

I’d like to think we did it for the better, oh

I thought about it and I brought it out

I’m motivated by the lack of doubt

I’m consecrated but I’m not devout

The mother, the father, the daughter

Oh, you don’t form in the wet sand

You don’t form at all

Oh, you don’t form in the wet sand

I do
, Yeah

You don’t form in the wet sand

You don’t form at all

Oh, you don’t form in the wet sand

I do

.

2017, Amaya Engleking

*This is the seventh post of the series, Lyrical Love, in which I feature a song on the first Friday of the month. These songs are not exceptional solely in lyricism or in instrumentation, but these two components are perfectly matched to create exquisite compositions. I’d love to hear further suggestions on songs that meet this criteria. Thank you for reading/listening.

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10 comments

  1. Cheryl Ruffing · July 7

    Interesting post, Amaya. I’ve not spent much time listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I try to keep myself open to most music (OK, maybe not when it comes to Broadway show tunes; I generally just can’t even). I liked the song, but that’s not saying much, as music is not my strong suit (not by a long shot). That being said, I wonder about your take on Kate Bush’s music. Have you ever listened? Love it? Hate it? Indifferent?

    The drug addiction take is an interesting one, and I don’t think it’s been adequately addressed, even though it seems to be common knowledge. The more I study, the more convinced I become that societal structures (such as school) play a very large and very negative role in the situation. When creativity is stifled because it does not fit “the norm,” it doesn’t go away; it just finds different, less appropriate outlets (or an individual resorts to dangerous ways of exploring it). Further, we, as a society, tend to think in terms of permanence (which is incredibly silly and paradoxical). What I mean by this is that instead of understanding the nature of exploration, we jump on every word, every deed, and try to make it define a person. If an 8-year-old does well in a school environment, he or she needs to start thinking about college and a career; a child likes to dance, so she needs to enroll in all the classes and ignore everything else; an athlete performs poorly and makes an uncharacteristic remark in a press conference, but that becomes a statement about who he is.

    Then there’s the mental health angle: an area in which nobody seems to take into consideration the role played by diet.

    • Gospel Isosceles · July 8

      Cheryl, please recommend me some specific Kate Bush songs because I’ve been recommended to listen to her a few times now, but when I start (first impressions — like, the first ten seconds of a song are HUGE for me) I’m not impressed.

      What about drug addiction do you think has not been adequately addressed? Do you mean that drugs are what people turn to when their spirits are not being adequately fed by their cultures in which they live? I agree that public education does a poor job in fostering creativity but focuses on promoting stars. (The phenomenon of one talent per student and let your talent define you for the rest of your life.) As a homeschooler, what are ways that you have broken this mode of permanence-thinking, and allowed your children to thrive so they don’t feel a need to try drugs?

      Mental health relating to diet? Hmm, I don’t know much about this but personally feel better in mind and body when I eat little, frequently, whatever I want (no restrictions, but I do not eat meat) and most importantly, give thanks to God.

      • Cheryl Ruffing · July 10

        Well, Amaya, as I mentioned in my last comment, music is not my strong suit. That being said, Kate Bush’s music is meaningful to me because my husband has long been a fan, and Kate’s songs could just about fill the soundtrack to our dating years (with some Cheap Trick and Queen thrown in). As I’ve written in a few posts on The Ruff Draft, I’ve concluded that art is a gift that a creator offers to the world. Anyone who happens upon the gift can accept it or reject it. Accepting it has everything to do with opening oneself to whatever the art is meant to reveal (and that is an individual matter). Further, if it’s art, it will reveal something to the artist. I now reject the notion that art is a way of expressing an idea. That, to me, is a better definition of propaganda or marketing. When I pick up my camera, play around in Photoshop, create a mixed-media canvas, write a poem, or engage in art journaling, I might have a starting point in mind, but I then follow wherever the medium leads. If I discover something in the finished work, I call it art.

        It seems to me that Kate Bush is creating art, and I respect her for that. I have a feeling that she’s never bowed to some record label executive, changing her work to appeal to the masses. I don’t need to analyze her songs or wonder about her intentions. I simply need to accept or reject them. And yes, I almost always discover something in them: meaning for me, lyrics that suddenly make sense or apply to my life in a new way, noticing the bass for the first time.

        Which song should you listen to? Well, “The Dreaming” might be my favorite album. “Houdini” is one of my favorite songs, mostly because of the story it tells and a movie I saw about the magician (starring Paul Michael Glazer) when I was a kid. I also love “Woman’s Work” because of its theme of motherhood and its role in the movie “She’s Having a Baby.” I like “Wuthering Heights” for obvious reasons (I’m a fan of the Brontës). As far as songs that I like in and of themselves: “The Jig of Life,” “Cloudbusting,” “Running Up that Hill,” and “The Sensual World.”

        On to drug addiction: boy, that’s a Pandora’s Box. Let me just say that drug addiction is a symptom of a much, much larger problem at the heart of our society. If we try to boil it down to the very essence, I’d have to say that it comes down to searching for a happiness that only God can provide. Instead of acknowledging that, though, our culture goes out of its way to take God out of the picture. It’s tells us that adults need to find fulfillment in their work or at the very least, get a job that pays for all the extras: the nice house in the neighborhood with the best schools, the dinners out, the movie dates, the two cars, the vacations (so they can spend some time with the kids they seldom see). All of this, of course, necessitates putting children in daycare or finding nannies, but it has been proven over and over that a secure, unwavering connection to one caregiver the first three years of life is the best defense against later problems in life, including jail time, divorce, and drug use. Shouldn’t we really be encouraging stable marriages and sacrifices in the early years of parenting?

        Add to all that forcing kids to begin their careers at age five or earlier, instead having childhoods, and what do you get? Vaccinations, other kids and teachers who negatively affect daily lives, drugs for ADHD, and all the structure that is inimical to a child’s natural inclinations.

        As far as what I do as a homeschooler: very little. Our days are rather “organic” for lack of a better word. The kids have basic assignments to complete. Other than that, they spend their time pursuing what interests them and developing strong, loving relationships with each other. Further, they see their parents reading a lot and pursuing interests like golf and photography. A parent is home with them 99% of the time (if I have to go out and my husband is out of town on business, one of the older kids watches the younger ones or they all come with me). We talk a lot, play games together, get silly, and pepper the day with “I love you.”

        OK, I’ll write a little about diet, trying to ignore the battle scars. My husband, six kids, and I are all gluten-free and have been so for years. (The two youngest have never had gluten.) I discovered I had celiac disease 15 years ago, and my husband was diagnosed three years later. The changes in overall physical and mental health have been enormous (talk about an attitude adjustment in the kids). From what I’ve read (“Dangerous Grains” by Braly and Hoggan is an excellent book), no human can fully digest gluten, and undigested gluten gets into the bloodstream and can affect every system of the body. It has been linked to anxiety and depression. How many people (celebrities especially?) have turned to drugs and alcohol to manage those issues? Further, undigested gluten creates opioids in the body that are as addictive as morphine. There’s a reason gluten-heavy foods like bread, brownies, donuts, and macaroni are called comfort foods. If a person craves the opioids created by the food they eat on a regular basis, perhaps it makes them more susceptible to cravings for other substances. The connection between opioids created by food (specifically gluten and casein) and autism is especially fascinating.

        Yikes! This is long. I hope I’ve answered your questions.

  2. I believe scar tissue the song was about the struggles of David Navarro, a story worth hearing. Brilliant words in all RHCP tunes. Your interpretation of the guitar riffs was brilliant as well… never would have heard that connecton had you not mentioned it. Nice post!!

    • Gospel Isosceles · July 8

      Whoa, Navarro? That’s uncanny then, to use ‘Scar Tissue’ for the title for the Kiedis memoir, but really it is no surprise that many creative musicians, especially with “all eyes on you” situations, struggle so much with temptation and healing. You are a RHCP fan then? I may be in the minority but really only enjoy their later stuff, from Californication, the album, and on. (Although ‘Breaking the Girl’ is a gorgeous song.) I think it’s mostly Frusciante’s guitar, to be honest. What a badass.

      • I am a big RHCP fan, Anthony is one of my favorite lyricists…. love the mix of funk rock and blues, very original sound… TBT, I was a Deadhead back in the day and still love the words and imrov freestyle guitar of Jerry Garcia, but I was never a music elitist, I dig stuff from the dixie cups to the dixie chicks

  3. Mark R. Stone · July 7

    I enjoyed your interpretation and thoughts on this. I personally am torn on the whole topic, substance abuse and all. But, I for one have only ever “played” piano after some special brownies… so I can sympathize, certainly!

    • Gospel Isosceles · July 8

      I know. Substance abuse is a complicated issue and many people very close to me have been caught up in its torrential throes, but it’s hard to ignore the correlation of societal spiritual starvation, and the problem we have with drug addiction. It’s also sad to admit that, initially, drugs ARE an easy way to cast off indoctrinated conventions and open oneself to the great mysteries of life and death and all that is beyond.

      I hope to see more of your writing soon, Mark. Blessings.

    • Gospel Isosceles · July 8

      Oh, and, special brownies. Haha, you were actually able to play, even if it was only “playing” piano. My experience with ganja butter is paralyzing paranoia, nothing “recreational” about it.

      • Mark R. Stone · July 8

        I enjoy your deep, spiritual perspective on things, Amaya, truely powerful. Although I have gone away from the church (mostly), spiritual practice, and God(?)… my past experience with these things certainly informs a part of who I am and what I value, how I treat people, how I love. Unfortunately so many who have stayed in that world miss the forest for the trees. I also agree, the use of drugs can open possibilities and make us playable to new paradigms… that might otherwise take thirty or forty years of living to see.

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