This song is true.
The first two verses are about people I knew who recently took their own lives. The third verse is what I hope will become more and more true.
Eckhart Tolle’s remarkable book, “The Power of Now,” recommends becoming an observer of our thoughts. Feeling something difficult? Take a step back and look at what you are feeling. Name it. Watch your mind process it. Allow it to happen and it will fade and dissolve away, leaving in its wake only Now.
For those of us who are not suffering from chronic chemical imbalances that’s great advice. Even for those who are, maybe that approach can make some things more bearable. I am so far beyond grateful that I cannot find the words for it, that I do not suffer from that kind of depression or anxiety. I have known too many beautiful souls that suffered endlessly with it, and yes, it is very much of the character of a Hell Hound. When you are so deep into the pain that the contemplation of ending is your only comfort, becoming an observer of your thoughts is probably a too-small band-aid at best.
In the Mabinogion, the old Welsh story cycle peripheral to the Arthurian Mysteries, the King of Anwyn, the Underworld, has some black hunting hounds that are so fierce, terrifying and horrible to even contemplate that many good knights out questing took their own lives rather than face those dogs when they wandered unwittingly into the King of Anwyn’s hunting grounds. I have to wonder if this was a way of allowing real life knights to be given Christian burials if they happened to succumb to deep and excruciating depression or anxiety. Let’s face it, knights were warriors, and PTSD is a frequent consequence of war.
So this is an old, old mystery, much older than Robert Johnson. The Hell Hounds on his trail had been on the job since at least the 6th century CE.
I’m not going to offer any solutions, because I don’t have any. I’m barely going to speculate on why some people happen to have a switch turned on by their DNA that causes them to suffer, sometimes terminally. My speculation is that humans have become so very good at being horrible to each other that there are as many causes as there are people suffering with it.
We have got to start taking better care of each other. Love has to win.
At the end of this song, the final potential suicide uses the “scratching of that damned dog” as a cue to take a beat and listen; to observe his thoughts and realize he doesn’t have to succumb to the pain this time. He puts down the gun, and picks up the phone. I hope whoever he called picked up, too.
The Black Dog took a third victim from within my circle of friends and family recently. Enough, you are stuffed, go on home and don’t come back. If this song can help one person fight on another day, then I will consider it a blessing.