US and THEM Index

Letters To Pink Floyd

To Pink Floyd,

It's not easy to define what it is about a particular piece of art or set of works that so stirs the heart. I suppose it's a combination of things: the mastery of the artist over his craft, the passion he puts into it, and the images and emotions he stirs in the mind of his listener. All of these play into it, creating something that is almost beyond words. If words fail me, please understand that it's not easy to put the deep seated responses of the heart into terms that convey the power of the experience to someone else. I am too young to have seen you live, yet your work still reached me with every bit as much power as it seems to have always had.

To two of you, please forgive the fact that the largest part of this letter is addressed to a third. It doesn't mean you've been ignored or discounted because this above all is what I think: the greatest power in Pink Floyd is the collaboration of all talents. I always loved Meddle for this all talents are clearly audible and in wonderful balance, playing with each other and off of each other to produce something beautiful. I am not a musician, but I have had since earliest childhood a deep passion for music. My first memory, in fact, begins with a dream and that dream was driven by music. I can't even remember a childhood without toy instruments to play.

My first love was classical music. Though I liked the radio well enough, the special thing about classical music was the sheer expansiveness of it, the complexity and magnitude of the sound, and the length of the compositions, which truly allowed the composer to develop his themes and tell a real sonic "story". Names like Tchaikovsky and Copland were significant to me the way New Kids on the Block were to some of my contemporaries! Until I heard your music, no modern artist had ever been able to hold my attention in such a way. It was all there-the conceptual unity of lyrics...and the music that pulled it all together and sent it to the next level. Furthermore, I found I could truly identify with what I was hearing. One of you three in particular tells stories through his art that turned out to be very important to me not long after I first stumbled upon Pink Floyd, and which continue to serve as a great inspiration.

To Mr. Mason. Not being a drummer, I really have no idea about what it takes to master the instrument...only that it's far beyond me to have that sort of stamina and coordination! I only know when I like what I hear, and that I certainly do. Your live work in particular is quite impressive; I knew that immediately from my first album, PULSE. Especially with the acoustics of the venue in which you were playing, there was this sense of majesty to the beginning of "Time"...imagine overlooking the Grand Canyon with the sun on its way towards the horizon, this grand scene with the earth in blazing hues of red and orange and the sky in a fantastic display of brilliant pinks, purples, and oranges. Here the spirit unites with the rhythms of Nature, so beautifully displayed. That's the power you created. There are similar moments throughout the Floyd catalogue, but by far that is the most powerful. Thank you, Mr. Mason.

Mr. Gilmour, if not for your inspiration, I would have stuck exclusively to keyboard instruments (which I was practically raised on). I am by no means a good guitarist, and most likely never will be I play for the enjoyment it gives me, and that is enough. To be perfectly honest, I paid little attention to the guitar as an instrument before listening to Pink Floyd, much less thought I would play it. It was the emotion you conjured up in your playing that drew my attention from "Marooned", which sounds like the tears from deep within the soul to the sweeping "Comfortably Numb" (especially the extraordinary PULSE version) to the fierce acoustic playing in "Dogs". I also enjoy your contributions as a singer and lyricist. Songs like "Murder" and "Sorrow" certainly pack a lyrical punch. Both, in light of the events of 2001, redoubled in significance to me...having now experienced such things, I can say with more assurance than ever that these are indeed lyrically powerful songs. On some, your singing is truly amazing: "So Far Away" (I will never understand how you made your voice do what it does on the chorus. It's beautiful and nearly impossible for me to match!) and "Coming Back to Life" are shining examples of this, among others. Thank you, Mr. Gilmour, for your contributions, and for the inspiration to take up the guitar.

Mr. Wright...I've kept your section until last because it is the longest. You are the one responsible for the most deeply inspiring art I have ever heard in my life. If it survived its trip through the international mail, you may have already seen some evidence of this inspiration in the form of a "book" of poems, essays, and drawings I sent you in December of 2001. What your work, both solo and with Pink Floyd, gave me was a sense of hope through the darkest time in my life, and now, in better days, an inspiration for healing and (hopefully) to make a difference for others. I can hardly explain how much that means, but I will give it my best try.

What I speak of in this letter is one of the darkest times in my life. Even in writing it's difficult to conquer my fear. But I wish to stop running from my past. Thank you for your work, which makes me feel less alone and inspires me with the bravery to break my silence. I have suffered since the summer of 1995 with a compulsive disorder where I pulled my hair out. It is the silence, in every aspect of this ordeal, that caused me to have such a hellish ride, both my silence and that of the people around me. I asked in the "Black Cloud" essay I sent you how one can possibly deal with something if we fear to name it. I've heard such lessons time and time again, but it's you who really drove the point home. The fact that I've now spoken openly shows the power of what you have done. Now that I have the worst part in my admission out of the way, I will continue.

By the time I started school, I had got to the point where the damage was clearly visible. Though I remember with gratitude one teacher (Ms. Toleno. I give her name because she was kind) who told me her cousin had a similar problem who truly treated me like a human being for the most part people were cruel...so her early message of hope didn't truly register. I don't mean to sound whiny, but I was already considered "easy meat" by most of the other kids, because I was so sensitive, too shy to verbally defend myself (even now I am not very skilled at this), and I made high grades. But now I was truly having a problem. I honestly don't understand why it was that way. Why people are cruel to the ones who most need their help. I needed more people like that angel Ms. Toleno. But that's not what happened.

I even had one teacher who tried to undermine my confidence in my ability to write, and did succeed in pretty much causing me to end all attempts to write songs. Nothing I did was good enough for her even when it was at the top of the class, which was horrid because I knew I was working my heart out, especially on that song...and I don't mean to offend, but it was very much like some things that happened to you, though I had no idea of it at the time. I cannot even begin to explain the flashback I had when I read an interview you gave about the making of The Wall. I congratulate you for coming back with your strongest works yet. That shows real strength.

Because of the fact that I was doing so much damage, I was becoming increasingly isolated at home and at school. I have to face it...I did not look normal. Blame went all around. I blamed myself, which only made my pain worse. I didn't know any better. I did not realise that I have a treatable condition, not some kind of sin or depravity. Not knowing what it was made it an absolute hell...a hell of silence and shame. I despaired terribly. Though I had not understood it well at first, "Wearing the Inside Out" truly seemed like a portrait of myself. The isolation was there both imposed by others and self-imposed. Even for a more retiring personality like myself-this was sheer hell. "Overrun"...oh, how I see myself. I hid myself from sight. I would hurt and bury all the pain, which only seemed to come out in episodes of explosive anger. I wanted so badly to make it stop, but I could not speak to ask for help, because all I saw was someone "crazy" who was beyond all help. I honestly believe I came close to the breaking point. But what I always treasured about "Wearing the Inside Out" was the second half. You gave me hope. For in the song, you do not leave me alone in despair. You show that wounded as I was, shrouded in silence...there was hope. Even if all is not resolved by the end of the song there was a light in the future. From whatever pained you...you gave me hope. Thank you, Mr. Wright. I cannot even begin to put into words what the gift of hope was for me. I could hardly even turn to my family then though they were always there through the worst, and I owe them much. I hope this does not bother you; I'm just trying to find the words to tell you "thank you".

I made it out of that darkest time by clinging to hope, gaining a measure of control over the compulsion, enough to save myself the worst isolation and embarrassment. But the pain never ended. For one thing, I never resolved the problem. I wished to speak of it as little as possible, and better yet, to never even think about it. I practically blocked out my whole seventh grade year (not to say I became an amnesiac or anything like that). Perhaps the past could just...go away. Moving certainly made me think it could be that way. Though my control was good enough to hide any outward signs at my new school, it was really just an extension of the silence. I still hid my pain. I would still become angry and hateful towards my parents. It was lessened, perhaps, but it was still there under the surface. Years passed like this. Sometimes I would even seem to be on the edge of a complete recovery, but just wind up relapsing. The cycle of hidden pain came again and again. I was also hiding something else and this, as an internal thing, I hid most skillfully: the panic attacks I would suffer whenever my inner turmoil reached a certain point...this is what I wrote about in the "Black Cloud" essay.

Something happened in my eleventh grade year (2000) that changed things for the better, laying the foundation for the scrapbook and what you are now reading. My parents saw a show on Dateline about others who suffered from compulsive hair pulling. I was not alone. And there was the possibility of getting help. It still took me months, because of my fear and shame, to actually ask for help. I remember very clearly as I inwardly prepared for the decision to get help...I would sometimes listen to "Wearing the Inside Out" and cry for the years of pain and silence, for all I'd lost, for what I'd become (and still was somewhat). But there was hope! I cried because at last I could see the day when the clouds over me might blow away. The hope was now so much more real. It had kept me going for so long...and here, at last, was the chance I'd held out so long for. Whatever moment of change you experienced, you shared it so well. Thank you.

Finally...in 12th grade (later in 2000 through 2001), I went into therapy. It was not easy to tell so much to a third party. But now, with the silence broken, I could learn coping techniques that would help me minimize the anxiety attacks and to help break the compulsion. This also got me to put an end to the unfair self-blame that had caused so much pain and silence. But even then it was not over. I failed to open up completely. Since I could not expose all of my pain, because of my shame, I was not able to get a complete cure from this. The sessions ended with another lessening in the severity of the compulsion, and useful skills that serve me even in unrelated things. But sometimes I still surrendered to the compulsion. I wanted to move forward, but I still felt trapped.

Over the summer of 2001, before I started college, two things happened: your solo albums. I bought them in order; Wet Dream became one of my most powerful tools for meditation (an important thing to me) as well as inspiration to draw, write poems, and more. I also appreciated what you said in your lyrics...I knew those feelings. Please take that to heart. I truly found value in the thoughts you expressed, and identified with it.

And then...there was Broken China, which arrived in the mail mere days before I left for my first semester of college. "To all those brave enough to face their past." That has become a sort of credo to live by. I've spent too long running. As this album sunk in more and more, I began to realize (though acceptance was not easy) that the reason I still continued to have problems was that even after therapy I was still hiding in fear and shame. I was still afraid of how society can be cruel to those who have mental issues. You showed me something different. Your wife's strength proved to me I can find a way to cope. Your strength showed me that...maybe, just maybe, I didn't have to be afraid to speak, because there were people who might actually listen and accept with an open heart. I think it's becoming more and more prevalent now, as society begins to compassionately face these issues. Thank you for showing that, in your work.

I came to a conclusion. It started as I wrote you the essay about the anxiety attacks. That was a major turning point, an act of trust. Since then I have been able to speak more openly about the anxiety attacks, and to my delight I have discovered a surprising number of supportive, accepting people. I have even had the opportunity to offer a little help to someone, showing them that they didn't have to be ashamed or afraid. Maybe...it even made a difference. Do you know how wonderful this is? It is a dream come true. My conclusion why I've chosen to do this is that someday in order to really bring things to closure, I believe I must follow your example and tell my story. It will be hard, both for reasons of my nature and the pain I've been holding in for so long. But I can't bear the thought of others alone in pain and silence. I want to help, and in that way I think I will be able to further heal myself.

It is not over; I have learned it will never be over. I cannot exorcise the past; what I have to do is to be strong and confident. The strength comes alone from within, but there are those who can inspire and point the way. You did this, through your bravery to share your family's story. I have learned from you, been inspired to hope and to courage. I want so much to be strong. To see your success in telling your story has given me a gift beyond all compare. I hope you truly see the beauty in what you did. The mark of the true artist is in the power to touch the heart. Though you had no way of knowing when you created your art, it was a true gift to me. Thank you, Mr. Wright, for sharing your experience in such a beautiful way.

To all of Pink Floyd. Every one of you plays an important part in the most wonderful musical experience I've ever had.
Again, I thank you all.

Respectfully yours,

Letters to Pink Floyd Ring

Take It Back
Letters Index
Forward He Cried

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