Thursday, October 27, 2016

Let it rest and be done

While he was in The Weakerthans, John K. Samson initiated a series of songs, loosely organized around a cat named "Virtute" (that's pronounced "wihr-Too-tay" for you non-Latin-philes.)  Framed around Virtute's relationship with her owner, Virtute became a symbolic foil for adulthood, for struggle and motivation, and ultimately, for depression and alcoholism.

The first song song finds Virtute encouraging her owner to get up and out, to have a party and small talk with neighbors, rather than just sit around, watching TV and drinking like he typically does. She'll "cater with all the birds that I can kill."  The owner will start to believe he's strong ("lick the sorrow from your skin"), in this imaginary party world, if only he can get up and do it.  Virtute is this sad man's champion.  I know you can do it, bud, "I know you're strong."  It's just deep down in there.  C'mon bud, you're great.

In the second song, we get a tone change.  Virtute gets lost, she and her owner are unable to find one another, and she ends up living on the street, left remembering her time with her owner.  Virtute adores her owner, but can only do this from afar now.  John writes his most heartbreaking phrase, where Virtute misses her owner, but "can't remember the sound that you found for me."  She forgot her own name!  This song brings me to tears every time.

Of course, there's more to it than that--Samson doesn't write songs at a surface level only.  Virtute comes to represent the will and the motivation of a person in the midst of struggle - that internal, reassuring voice - but has become so far removed that she can only reflect detached and longingly. The motivation and goodness of life itself has become so far removed from this person that it has become achingly unfamiliar.

This brings us to song number 3, just released last week on Sampson's excellent new "solo" album.
Virtute, now but a loving, supportive memory of this person who has struggled, but ultimately pulled it together.  Ever the friend, ever the champion, Virtute offers one last nod of support.  You did it, friend; now you can relax and enjoy yourself, because we will always support each other, together or not.  We should all be so lucky.

Now that the treatment 
and antidepressants
and seven months sober have built me a bed 
in the back of your brain 
Where the memories flicker 
and i paw at the synapses 
bright bits of string 
You should know i am with you 
Know i forgive you 
Know i am proud of the steps you have made 
Know it will never be 
easy or simple 
Know i will dig in my claws when you stray 
So let us rest here 
like we used to 
in a line of late afternoon sun 
Let it rest 
All you can't change 
Let it rest and be done

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