Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire

I have a shout-out to Joni Mitchell's Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire, from her 1972 For the Roses in JULIA AND BUDDY:


BUDDY

A pre-emptive strike against a broken heart? Nobody can live that way. You might as well be dead.

JULIA

The thought has occurred to me:
“Do you want to contact somebody first? Leave someone a letter? You’re gonna come now or you’re gonna come later.”

BUDDY

I guess Schopenhauer had a line for everything.

JULIA

That’s Joni Mitchell.

The song is usually described as "about a heroin addict" which is true - and certainly the title is a reference to shooting heroine - but what struck me most when I first heard the song, I guess I was about fourteen, was the reference to suicide. It struck me at the time, and still does, as an impressively succinct and poetical way to refer to suicide - and you wouldn't be sure what she's talking about except that she mentions the suicide note - "leave someone a letter" - followed by the indisputable reality of suicide vs. death: you're gonna come now or you're gonna come later. Not killing yourself is only staving off the inevitable.

I have Buddy mistake the lyric for something from Schopenhauer (they had been arguing about Schopenhauer) which is perfectly understandable because Schopenhauer pointed out the same thing, on many occasions, and with unusual clarity for a philosopher - but never as poetically as Mitchell does.

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