Facebook can be a vortex of wasted time, full to the brim of people you have never even met and their stories but sometimes, just sometimes, Facebook spews up something of interest. In my case it was a Larry King interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson, the American astrophysicist and author. The interview was centered on what happens when we die. What Tyson said about this naïve need of wanting to live forever brought to mind Jason Isbell’s newest song ‘If We Were Vampires’ from his upcoming album The Nashville Sound.
Tyson’s argument is that because none of us can live forever, with this ephemeralness brings focus; there’s an urgency of accomplishment, the need to express love. Right now. Not later but in this moment. In this lifetime. If we live forever, why get out of bed? Why do anything because you will always have tomorrow.
‘If We Were Vampires’ touches on the fleetingness of love and of life in a relationship, and the sad but inevitable fact that even if two people do stay together forever that forever is really only until one or the other dies.
“It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever/ Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone/ Maybe we’ll get 40 years together/ But one day I’ll be gone or you’ll be gone.”
It’s not pretty but it’s honest. Beautifully so. The song is gentle, subdued with a cello moving slowly in the background to the sound of Isbell’s finger plucking and soft vocals. Amanda Shires, Isbell’s musical and life partner, adds her distinctive voice to an understated and breakable harmony. Perhaps mirroring the fragility of the life we all inhabit and will all leave behind sooner or later.
“Maybe time running out is a gift/ I’ll work hard ’til the end of my shift/ And give you every second I can find/ And hope it isn’t me who’s left behind.”
There’s an eeriness to the song, an emptiness but also something soothing as well. What Tyson refers to as focus in his interview, an awareness of the hourglass slowly emptying, is something Isbell draws on too.
“If we were vampires and death was a joke/ We’d go out on the sidewalk and smoke/ And laugh at all the lovers and their plans/ I wouldn’t feel the need to hold your hand.”
If we lived forever and time was just numbers on a clock, a mere afterthought, would the simple yet tender gesture of holding your lovers hand be as important to you as it is knowing that this could all end tomorrow?