Project Utopia: 1996-2021 – Music Bridges, Grief and an Ocean of Silence

I wrote these thoughts last May, but yesterday was Diego’s birthday, and today it’s mine, so I have been thinking a lot about him, and us. I have slightly modified the original version, and I still feel something is missing, but I am going to publish it anyway…

When Diego and I met, at the end of 1995, I was living in Paris and he was in Milan.

During the first months of 1996, before I moved back to Milan, Diego was regularly sending me music tapes. He called them Utopia Entropy Radio. It was his way to build a bridge across the physical distance, to help us know each other through the sharing of sounds, rhythms and emotions.

Those tapes don’t exist anymore, but I remember they featured, among others, Suns of Arqa, Spiral Tribe, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Holger Czukay, Anne Clark, Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, Neil Young, Aphex Twin, Zion Train, Ozric Tentacles, Kraftwerk, The Residents, CCCP, Nirvana, Sonic Youth… and Franco Battiato.

Listening to his wonderful song La cura (The Care) has become too painful, but there are others that remind me of us. I am sharing three of them.

Sharing music is like sharing space. An open space to be, feel, imagine, create, share, dance, watch a sunset on the beach of Gavdos, and grieve.

A year ago, during an adaptive yoga training with Matthew Sanford, he said something that I keep going back to. I can’t remember the exact words, I wrote them down and can’t find them today, but here’s how they resonate in me: grief is one of the experiences with the greatest potential to transform the human experience.

When I lost Diego, I got lost in pain (it still happens some days) and my perception got altered. The unbearable “never again” is a global experience.

Here’s how I would describe it today. The heart and mind are caught in the grip of an impossible desire to connect and embrace, the back is exposed and vulnerable and its skin is hypersensitive, breath is suspended, even weeping and tears seem to contribute to an upward vibrating tension that says: wherevere you are, take me with you.

It’s been hard to not just let the vortex carry me. I still feel like losing grip and boundaries and sense, some days.

But in time I have realized that there are moments in which the quality of that cascade of feelings changes. When I stop clenching – or, as my therapist recently suggested, when I can be soft with what is – when I am able to not get lost into the labyrinth of guilt and of what could have been but hasn’t, something shifts. It mostly happens when I’m in nature, in the mountains, in the woods, or when I watch the sky, stars and clouds (I haven’t been to the sea lately, I am afraid it would be too much). It also happens with beautiful images, or poetry, and with music.

In his book Waking, Matthew talks about the difference between fighting against and being in the room that has become dark, in that silence. Taking the time to see what happens when we slow down and stop pushing. He is speaking about the rehabilitation system, but I think the metaphor can work here too.

When I am able to open, to be soft especially in my spine, to listen to the silence and stand in the darkness, my heart seems to crack open. It still hurts, but for a moment I get glimpses into infinite space and limitless possibilities. Loss turns into a half-open door, and if I look through it, I breathe, because in the world I see, everything, including Diego, is, everywhere.

The Ocean of Silence – Franco Battiato

[very approximate translation]
An ocean of silence flows, slowly, without a centre or a beginning. What would I have seen of the world without this light that illuminates my dark thoughts? The pain, the stagnation make time seem too long. So much peace does the soul find within. Slowly flows the time ruled by other laws, of another dimension. And I sink into an ocean of silence, always calm. And it almost feels that an obscure remembrance tells me that in long gone times I have lived either above, or in water.
Oceano di silenzio
Gli uccelli
E ti vengo a cercare