Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Singularity of Heartbreak

A new street number on the same address.

In physics, there's a moment called the "singularity" where matter takes on infinite density and zero volume. For all intents and purposes, time (by any normal means of measuring it) stands still. Similarly, a mechanical similarity occurs when there is literally no way of predicting subsequent behavior.

A split second after the singularity, a course is established, time has (a little bit of) meaning, and you can make predictions. But in that moment of singularity, everything and nothing are simultaneously possible.

I think it's the same thing for broken hearts. Time stops. Everything is jammed together. Nothing can be predicted. And nothing takes up any more space.

A split-second later, emotions rush off in a million different directions, fleeing from the heartbreak as fast as the laws of physics will allow (and then maybe just a little bit faster).

We don't have language to describe this process -- and we barely have terms to describe the healing and recovery from a broken heart. The words all shimmer and fade against the page and the cliches of a thousand past heartbreaks dance before our eyes.

Like dysfunctional families, all heartbreaks are alike. But all are totally different.

And maybe that's the real reason humans invented music millions of years ago. If we're the only animals who get our hearts broken, then it makes sense that we'd be the only ones to need songs to swoop in and fill the empty spaces in our hearts.

The song fuses with the heartbreak, merging in our memories until we can't hear it without being reminded of the love, blown apart in that singularity of heartbreak.

No matter how many years go by, it can be hard to hear some songs without reliving that split second when everything blows apart forever. After a while, it's all but impossible to hear those songs objectively. They're forever linked with that singularity.

And, although it makes us all seem like cranky old people, it's hard to imagine songs from today having that same power of association. Like the man said, they don't write 'em like that anymore.


jb said...

I'd like to say something about this piece, offer some praise for it, but but I can't think of anything that doesn't say far less than I want it to.

Well done, sir. Well done indeed.

Alex said...

Well, damn. Thanks, jb!