“You’re an African doctor harvesting tear ducts
You believe in God, but you get no special dispensation for this belief now
You’re an old man sitting by the fire; you’re the mist rolling off the sea
You’re a distant memory in the mind of the creator, don’t you see.”
(Nick Cave, The Skeleton Key, Jesus Alone, 2016)
The song is accompanied by an almost primeval backing, a bleak landscape. It is part of the album The Skelton Tree, which came out of the backdrop of his son’s death. His son took an LSD tablet and fell off the cliffs in Brighton. Cave, who often uses religious imagery in his song, has that language to express his grief.
So many times we avoid the topic of death, of isolation, despair. Christians, in the main, have reduced Jesus’ pain to constructing a religion that rejoices about death being defeated, with an empty cross, when the experience of so many is the opposite. Death is real, as is the sense of desolation and isolation which many people feel.
Alcohol Concern Wales recently held its annual conference on the link between suicide and alcohol. The reasons people drink alcohol are varied but what we do know is that for people facing their own pain or trauma it is used as an analgesic. During the period of being drunk the pain lessons, but at the same time of course it is a depressant, so ultimately the pain will come back with added purchase. In many ways such use is like getting a Wonga loan to deal with your debt but a week later realising the interest you now have has significantly increased your financial worries.
At the conference it was shown that in the UK the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 20-34 is suicide. In 37% of suicides acute alcohol use is present. On interviewing people who had attempted suicide, they said they had used alcohol to give them the courage to kill themselves. The highest number of suicides is amongst men. The reasons researchers believe this is the case is that men are less likely to seek help and alcohol use amongst men is higher.
The pressure on young people meanwhile, continues to increase with 1 in 5 young women reporting a mental health issue.
The psychological issues people are facing are simply not tackled early enough and much of the problem is in the failure to deal with people’s stress, fears and sense of isolation. An interesting read on the subject can be found on the following web link:
The need to be open about death, mental health, drug or alcohol issues, and bereavement is to be healthier. To be human is often to embrace happy moments but also to accept pain. To share happiness can often infuse others, but sharing pain can often mean the walls of isolation are broken down.
Nick Cave invited the cameras in to film the making of the album. He felt a desire to share his pain and I think by doing so has said to the world it is right to grieve, it is human at times to feel alone, but it is also vital that by sharing our inner fears we create a ladder of hope.
For more information on the album and its reviews click on the links below: