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Nick Cave Has Some Wise Thoughts on Death and Grief…

In September, Nick Cave launched The Red Hand Files, a website where he solicits questions from fans and responds with a vulnerable and frequently bemused sense of grace. The Bad Seeds frontman has used the dialogues to discuss the beauty of boredom, the monsters under his bed, the return of Grinderman, and that Miley Cyrus line from the band’s Push the Sky Away song “Higgs Boson Blues.” The entire website is worth a read, especially so Cave’s latest dispatch, in which he discusses grief as a cosmic, redemptive necessity.

The question comes from Cynthia in Shelburne Falls, Vermont, who recounts the recent deaths of her father, sister, and first love, explaining that they still communicate with her through dreams. She asks Cave whether his son Arthur, who died tragically in 2015, maintains a similar connection with him and his wife Susie. Considering it has Spin’s staff choked up, we’ve included Cave’s full response below.

Dear Cynthia,

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.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released their live EP Distant Sky in September. This past spring Cave went on a brief speaking tour, also built around the Q&A format. Alas, today’s newly announced Gladiator reboot will not make use of Cave’s epic screenplay.

You can read more of Cave’s letters on The Red Hand Files website.


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