Uh-oh. If I’m not careful, this could become a theme.
I forgot about “Doctor My Eyes” yesterday because it doesn’t fit in with the eyes=love thing I had going. This is a whole different song about a different kind of feeling. Or not feeling, as the case may be.
Jackson Browne has written a lot of songs about existential angst. This particular song is about the eye-opening experience of growing up and realizing the world is a lot more complicated than previously believed. It’s easy to believe this may be somewhat autobiographical; by the time Browne put out his eponymous debut in 1972 (aka Saturate Before Using), he’d already seen a lot of the world. He’d left home as a teenager, played backup for Nico (who recorded one of his songs), and become an integral member of the quasi-incestuous SoCal music scene (and that’s just the Cliff’s Notes version). The through line of the song is wondering whether he has become too cynical, “having done all that I could, to see the evil and the good without hiding,” He finds himself unable to react to what he sees anymore. He’s jaded and afraid that his immunity to “the slow parade of fears” will overwhelm his ability to feel altogether. “Doctor, in my eyes, I cannot see the sky. Is this the price for having learned how not to cry?”
He probably didn’t need to worry. While I understand and identify with the song to some degree, I also know that this is a young person’s dilemma. I felt this way, too. I thought I’d gained enough knowledge about the world and all its absurdities to be able to just turn off my feelings. As you get older, you find reserves of emotion–sympathy, empathy, compassion, love–that you could never imagine feeling when you are young. There is a depth to your emotions, too, that comes with experience. And you find that even though sometimes you think there can’t possibly be any more room in your heart or soul for anything more, there is always room for one more. While very little actually surprises me anymore, I am astounded by my capacity to simply feel. I cry more and laugh harder. I get angry just as often and still deal with it pretty poorly, but at least I know about it (I’m also a proponent of the bumpersticker philosophy “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”). I grieve and celebrate. I smile at things that I never would’ve noticed twenty years ago. I watch sunsets and stop to smell roses.
The world is definitely more complicated and troubling than I thought it was in my 20s. Things are harder than I expected them to be. And there is more beauty and joy than I ever thought I’d find, too. I guess it’s a pretty fair trade.