Since today is All Saints’ Day and tomorrow, November 2nd is All Souls’ Day, I would like to share a letter written by Australian artist Nick Cave to a fan who sent him a question related to death and communication. Cave, best known for being the front man of the band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, has a page where fans can ask him any questions that are not merely centred on music or any of his artistic endeavours. The topics of the queries sent to him on his page called The Red Hand Files touch on his personal life, politics, history, philosophy, and even hypothetical situations and challenges. Cave’s replies are beautifully and gracefully written.
I am sharing one of Cave’s responses to a fan question, which I came across last year. I thought it might be something fitting to share today especially since November 1 and 2—at least here in the Philippines—are a time to remember the dearly departed.
Issue #6 / october 2018
I have experienced the death of my father, my sister, and my first love in the past few years and feel that i have some communication with them, mostly through dreams. They are helping me. Are you and susie feeling that your son arthur is with you and communicating in some way?
Cynthia, shelburne falls, vt, usa
This is a very beautiful question and I am grateful that you have asked it. It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves. We are tiny, trembling clusters of atoms subsumed within grief’s awesome presence. It occupies the core of our being and extends through our fingers to the limits of the universe. Within that whirling gyre all manner of madnesses exist; ghosts and spirits and dream visitations, and everything else that we, in our anguish, will into existence. These are precious gifts that are as valid and as real as we need them to be. They are the spirit guides that lead us out of the darkness.
I feel the presence of my son, all around, but he may not be there. I hear him talk to me, parent me, guide me, though he may not be there. He visits Susie in her sleep regularly, speaks to her, comforts her, but he may not be there. Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake. These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility. Follow your ideas, because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption. Create your spirits. Call to them. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw us back to the world from which we were jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed.
With love, Nick.The Red Hand Files