I want to discuss Sia’s Chandelier. My feelings are mixed and many. Watching the video, I was filled with an unexplained wonder and what I can only describe as slight horror. Young Maddie Zeigler danced quite well, and obviously has great creativity that she put into her performance. But, there was something about it that bothered me. And up until now, I haven’t really talked about it. I couldn’t make sense of her dance in light of the song. Don’t get me wrong, She did well. But, her performance was a child’s understanding of what is a very mature and painful experience put into words. In my head, I kept trying to connect the dance to the song, but they seemed worlds apart. Maddie did her best to reach for something leagues beyond her grasp as a child but failed. As well she should have failed. I would not wish her to reach it. To do so would be to destroy her childishness. Many of our young girls have been driven, unfortunately, to shake off the dust of childhood too early. It is a tragedy. Innocence is worth the keeping, and childishness is the great flower that blooms in the beginning of our lives which we revisit as adults time and again to drink in its bouquet and remember what joy is. The length of children’s bloom is treasured by all including the adult the child eventually grows into. At least, it is treasured by those in their right minds. Children today are leaving childhood too fast and some with contempt, ready to enjoy the fruits of adulthood with all its benefits. I fear that the only fruit being enjoyed is not by the one who has grown but by all those vampires who want to suck the innocence dry from the young blossoms who make the jump to adulthood in their naivety. Childhood should be cherished, not touched. Once touched, it spoils.
Now that the video is out of the way, let’s discuss the song. I connect with this song on a deep level. How many times in my life have I awoke to shame and guilt from the things I did the night before? Too many. It’s a torture self inflicted. No one is to blame but me. Frustration and anger lead the charge in my assignment of guilt, and a vow to “Never do it again” quickly follows. Then a great fear comes upon me that have no choice in the matter. I do what I do. I will always do it, and I will always despise it. I wish for the day I will be free of it. A scream reverberates from the pain deep inside me. I have never heard it, until now. Sia’s scream at the beginning of the chorus is simultaneously beautiful and the most terrible thing that can ever be experienced. It is the scream of all those who bear within them silent secret pain. It is borne by those who have been abused, all who have been damaged, hurt, all those whose most precious things have been taken, thrust into dark pits of evil and spoiled in every way conceivable. I feel it. In a way, I always feel it, as my dark shadow that never leaves me except when it can vanish unseen into the night. Yet, Sia says she wants to fly like a bird through the night and feel her tears as they dry. It’s a way of dealing with the pain, to fly like a dove having no safe place to alight, to cry through the pain just to reach the end where one is finally numb if only for a moment. To hold on for the night, to hold on for dear life. To just get through it, wishing there was no tomorrow that remembers what you did. No tomorrow to house the shame a guilt just waiting for you. Time marches ever closer to tomorrow. Tomorrow begins the anger, the vows, but for now, I am numb, just holding on.
Sia’s scream is the incarnation of all of this, the bringing into space, time, and matter of a cry that is otherwise spiritual. To borrow from Tennyson, “But what am I, an infant crying in the night, an infant crying for the light, and with no language but a cry.” I am repulsed by her cry and drawn to it. It is beautiful and full of anguish. It is the very instance of pain, but formed in such a way so that others may say “Sing it again, it is beautiful.” Kierkegaard described it as poetry. He said, “What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but his lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music. His fate is like that of those unfortunates who were slowly tortured by a gentle fire in Phalaris’s Bull; their cries could not reach the tyrant’s ears to cause him dismay, to him they sounded like sweet music. And people flock around the poet and say: ‘Sing again soon’ – that is, ‘May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful.”
I enjoyed Kierkegaard’s imagery until I saw one of Phalaris’ Bulls accurately portrayed. I was disgusted. It is a fate worse than death. Death would be a welcome visitor to the inhabitants of the bull. But, life and suffering is prolonged for the joy of the beautiful sound it makes. Such is poetry. Such is this song; a crying in the night, a crying for the light. O God, let there be light. Let my cry reach unto something real. I don’t want this pain and this fire that I experience to be for nothing. If I were to cease existing upon death; that is, to sleep the sleep of oblivion, I would not be satisfied. I cry not for oblivion. I cry for light. O God, let there be light.