My Dearest Sofia & Joseph:
This is my life’s story that I’ve been writing and that you’ve been hearing me talk about for a very long time (Joey, since you were 2, and Sofie, since you were 7). It is probably a lot more information about your dad than you ever wanted to know, but I hope that you having this knowledge is helpful in some way. Writing it hasn’t been an easy process. I suppose the first lesson in this musical journey is that things in life are not always easy. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean that you give up pursuing it. If it’s something you believe in, then you keep pursuing it until you find a way past any obstacles that emerge along the way. Nine out of ten times (or more), the way forward will become clear to you. Most of the chapters in this journal evolved in that way. I had no idea which way a chapter was going to go until I just started jotting some ideas on paper. Next thing you know, there were 15 to 20 pages written. There is something magical about how this happens.
Another thing you already know about this book is that it is my life story told through rock-n-roll music. What you may not know is that I wanted to share some words of wisdom about life that I have gleaned from the things that I love. One of those things that I love is rock-n-roll music, particularly the type of rock-n-roll that is often labeled as hard rock, heavy metal and alternative rock. To tell my story, I’ll also draw from my favorite TV shows, movies, literature, poetry and scientific research. If I were to get hit by a bus crossing the street tomorrow, then it is the things that I’ve written about here that I would most want you to know about me. Instead of relying on second-hand accounts to learn about your dad, you can now look to this first-hand account. This is not a glamorous story but an honest portrayal of one man’s life journey. It has been a struggle, but a struggle with a lot more joy than grief. For that, I am grateful! In the end, what I am trying to do here is to help you understand your old man.
Rock-n-roll is a vehicle by which I‘ve come to understand a great deal about myself and life. It led me to write this book when I had simply set out to make a list of my favorite songs and favorite musical artists. Initially, that’s all I was going to share with you two. I was going to create a list of my favorite songs and put it in the fire proof box with the life insurance policies, titles to cars/home, etc. This didn’t turn out to be such a simple process, because I ended up writing a book instead, and my life changed dramatically during and through the process of writing this book.
During the book writing process, I had difficulties managing my emotions. I discovered that due to some adverse childhood experiences, my emotional processing capacity developed in an unusual way. My brain processes emotion in a way that is consistent with someone who suffered trauma in early childhood. When you read this, I ask that you don’t think of a single traumatic event having occurred, but a combination of experiences whose cumulative impact may be more severe than the impact any one of those experience may have on its own. I also ask that you consider the idea that living in poverty can produce situations that can be experienced by children as traumatic events and that multi-generational poverty can compound the impact of these experiences from a genetic (or epigenetic) point of view. To be honest, I may never identify a specific cause for the trauma I experienced because of how early in life the trauma may have occurred and/or the complex array of factors that may have been involved. After you finish reading this musical memoir, you’ll have a clearer picture of what I view as possibly having affected my childhood development. (Read a blog post that I wrote about the impact of "adverse childhood experiences" here: https://canatx.org/book-review-the-deepest-well-by-dr-nadine-burke-harris/)
The short of it is that my brain developed the ability to shut out nearly all emotion. The only emotions I feel are extremes (i.e., extreme happiness, extreme sadness, extreme anger, extreme frustration, etc.). From an emotional standpoint, there is no emotion if an emotional experience is not extreme. Since emotion plays such a huge role in memory, this led to my only remembering the extreme highs and lows of my life and hardly anything in between. Since emotions play such a central role in relationships, then this is an area where I have struggled greatly to the detriment of those closest to me, including my closest family and friends. I most sincerely apologize for any insensitivity on my part and for any lack of meaningful connection.
I mention my limited capacity for processing emotion because it explains to a great degree why rock-n-roll played such a pivotal role in my life. As I began to write about songs, albums, and artists, I began to feel the emotions of my childhood and adolescence. But it was the first time I was feeling these emotions. The music drew out these emotional memories. I don’t recall the specific incidents that produced the emotional response to the songs, but I now have a way of recalling how I was feeling at different points of my life based on the music I was listening to at the time. I was not the happy child and young adult that I remember myself being. Apparently, there was a much more complex set of emotions swirling around in my head. I had to try to make sense of the emotions which surfaced during the writing process. I pretty much have to guess at why I was feeling the way I was feeling, because I don’t really remember having felt these emotions.
What I’ve really been doing all these years is trying to make sense of life. I developed what had heretofore been subconscious theories about the best way to make sense of the world we live in. In a way, this book might accurately be characterized as “Raul’s Guide to the Galaxy.” The theories that I posit in this journal are informed by all of the things for which I have developed a passion, with rock-n-roll being one of the most important influences due to how long it has exerted its influence on me. Interestingly, an influencing factor that may have been part of my life longer than rock-n-roll is sci-fi and supernatural themed TV shows, movies, and books. Themes from those sources also make their way into the story I am telling.
I’ve also included some songs you would recognize as well. Thus, the references will not only be to U2, Rush, Iron Maiden, Metallica and Rage Against the Machine, but also Imagine Dragons, Mumford and Sons, X-Ambassadors, AWOL Nation and The Lumineers. I will note that the songs that are in the sections of the journal that are about my childhood are also the songs of my parents’ life (your Grandma and Grandpa). Because my life and the life of my parents overlap significantly in the early years of my life, then part of my story is part of their story. Likewise, because our lives have a significant overlap, a part of my story is a part of your story. I say this only to note that as much as this book may seem to be about your dad’s far out theories about life and living, there is also an important historical component here that spans three generations. Hopefully, I won’t get disowned as a result of including you all in on this.
The comparison across musical eras was something I hadn’t anticipated, but something that has added to the richness of this memoir. Connecting to what’s happening in the here and now is always of paramount importance. We reflect on the past (and what made us who we are) to inform our present actions with an eye to the future that we as individuals want to create. The young artists today are writing with an insight that rock-n-roll greats achieved only after many of years in the business. Because the artists of today are able to build on the insights of song writers before them, there is a natural evolution (depth) in the themes and styles over time. Whether the composer is an up-and-coming artist or a legend, we benefit from their insight. This is a hopeful sign in what at times appears to be the hopeless cause that is the human race.
My unique way of processing emotions, while challenging, became a great asset in the writing of this book. Unsaddled by the flood of emotions that most people have to contend with on a daily basis, I was able to tell what was truly important for me to learn from a situation and not just focus on how the situation made me feel and whether I wanted more or less of it. This power of discernment that I developed is what actually made this book possible. Of course, these are just my opinions. You may listen to a song I reference or lyrics I quote and come to a completely different conclusion. The point is not who is right. The point is to learn and to apply what you learn in order to improve yourself and the world. It sounds simple, but not that many people actually do it.
I know it sounds like I’ve already used a lot of words and not said a whole heck of a lot, so I’ll provide one example to illustrate what I mean about “gleaning some meaning” from rock-n-roll, a medium that most people maybe don’t take very seriously. Rock-n-roll brought a set of principles into my life. To me, rock-n-roll was a good friend. Like a good friend will be there when you need help or when you need saving, so rock-n-roll will be there, too. The loneliness that we all may feel from time to time is assuaged when we lean on rock-n roll. Since it is people who make and partake of rock-n-roll, we are really just leaning on each other. In all artistic mediums, people bare their souls. They display a sense of vulnerability to which we can all relate as human beings. While I am sure the artists themselves derive some benefit from their artistic expression, we as consumers of the artwork benefit as well. The artwork is a gift from the artist to us. It is my contention that this gift from the artist is not just a gift of knowledge or insight, it is a gift of healing as well. For this reason, I offer my sincere gratitude to all artists for the sacrifice that they make in offering us their precious gifts, particularly the artists whose gifts allowed me to write this book as an offering to my own children and to the Universe.
The claim that “I saved my soul through rock-n-roll” may seem silly or tongue in cheek, but in this book I present evidence suggesting that rock-n-roll has the power to save. If you truly believe that something is possible, then it is possible. But you’ve got to believe. And what I choose to believe is that we live in a world where one can be saved through rock-n-roll. And if a person can be saved, then isn’t it possible that a group of people can be saved through rock-n-roll? And if a group of people can be saved, might not a community, city, state, or country be saved through rock-n-roll? And if a country can be saved, might not the world be saved through rock-n-roll?
My answer is “yes” to all of the above, and it brings me great to joy to think that we might live in a Universe where the answers to all of these question is a great, big
It is astounding to me that what I had set out to do was create a list of songs. Somehow and some way, this book is what resulted. In the pages that follow, you will learn more than you would ever want to know about your dear old dad. I offer this gift to you with great humility and great hope.