“The heart is like a house with many rooms,” my father used to tell me all growing up. “In anyone else’s home, you wouldn’t go in any room you weren’t first invited into, but would wait patiently for them to be ready to open each door, room by room.”
Throughout my life, this lesson has been more relationally, spiritually, and emotionally relevant than most any other.
For this reason I remember every detail of the moment I first heard Audioslave’s Like A Stone on a Youtube channel. While there are naturally multiple interpretations as to the intended subject of this song, it struck me on a deeply unmet level in more than just a couple ways. While I can’t say that I have been a fan for many years- I immediately found an inexplicable kind of somber connection with all of Cornell’s music and a unique respect for him as a songwriter. Albeit extremely cliche sounding- his suicide has affected me in a way I never thought I could be, much less by someone I don’t even personally know; The definitive reason why evades me, as most reasons do these days. That’s partly why it’s taken me this long to write any word about his death in the midst of my own black days. Yet even still no justice may ever be done with any words to convey the sorrowful feeling of the type of painful tragedy and the resulting realizations of the collective weight of all these dark matters about us.
Not to imply that every suicide isn’t tragic; but perhaps it was the timing, circumstance, and method of his death have caused it to have such a profound impact on me; as I myself often live in a place of considering taking my own life in such fashion. Regardless of the use (or misuse) of Benzodiazapene drugs, I am personally reluctant to believe that in itself would independently bring one to take their own life who were not already a tormented individual beneath it all; and I know that the kind of emptiness, agony, and perpetual fear long preceding such an act is something that cannot be described, and I can only brokenly project what his share of it was.
Beside the innate sadness of this loss; beside the speculation as to what drives one to suicide, and beside the deeply sobering reality of our own swift mortality- is a defeat in the ears of those still walking in similar vice or battle, and a deepened grief for the momentary surrender of all that music exists to fight for- life- despite the countless reasons we each may have to give up. Whether it’s a battle with drug use, depression, anxiety, addiction and self- destruction , or any battle with yourself; music is often one of the only ways many continue to walk through it each day, and Chris Cornell’s influence on the lyrical power of Audioslave, Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, and his own songs have surely given many others who too may feel irreparably lost or alone a place to simply be together in dark places, without offering any vain or potentially undermining positivity.
Music is at least half of my life, and the other half I can’t very well find the words to explain; but songs like Shadow On the Sun, Seasons, Fell on Black Days, Show Me How to Live, Be Yourself, and many others have said some of what I’ve long struggled to- with a tangible, timeless kind of grace.
Just in the solidarity alone of knowing firsthand how much more pain goes into every song than the hearer will be able to perceive- somehow causes the world to feel even more empty with his passing. Music and how we touch others in this life are the only things that may ever even approach permanence in this world, and Cornell will forever have his place in both, as a liberating- and now haunting- legacy.
May the “doors locked from within” finally be opened, and may Chris Cornell rest in an eternal peace.