Singing in the Dark


For Borg Like Me, I wrote a series of ten one-page pieces that were designed to follow after the essay “Mindfucking Since 1976,” a piece I originally wrote for Boing Boing about “guerrilla ontologist” Robert Anton Wilson. In that piece, I introduced Wilson’s Operation Mindfuck (aka OM), an ongoing campaign to creatively mess with people’s minds; to “hack” consensus reality, an idea that Wilson and Robert Shay first introduced in their Illuminatus! trilogy. The OMs in my book were designed to fill blank pages at the ends of chapters, and were little personal reality hacks and acts of “poetic terrorism” designed to make your brain and the world around you a little more interesting.

When the book finally came together, and these ten pieces were put in place, I thought they distracted from the narrative flow and added another dimension that I thought weakened the rest of the book. So, at the last minute, I pulled them. Next year, I may do another Borg Like Me chapbook that includes the original “Mindfucking” essay and the ten OMs. Here’s an example of one of them.

OM #5: Singing in the Dark

Do yourself a favor. Sing in the dark.

Here’s how: Wait until no one is around. It’s the fear of others hearing that makes so many of us “shower singers” afraid to open up our mouths and really go for it. So, the next time you’re alone and all is still and quiet: Sing. REALLY sing!

I like to lie on my back in bed, in the dark, late at night, and while all the world around me is asleep, I belt one out. I know that no one can possibly hear, except me. It feels amazing.

It’s been so ingrained in us that you shouldn’t sing if you “can’t” sing, which translates to if you don’t have a performance-worthy voice. It’s time to sing out a big “fuck you!” to that notion. You’re not singing for them, you’re singing for you. You’re singing for the sheer expressive joy of singing.

Here’s the perceptual shift you need to make: DON’T focus on how it sounds, focus on how it FEELS. Sing for the process, not the product. Think about the lyrics you’re singing, what they mean, the feelings they express, and really try and inhabit those emotions. Try and make your “performance” as deeply resonant as possible. Make each word carry its full power and meaning.

Here’s why: Do it because it feels good. Singing from your heart is FOR your heart. I really do believe it’s good for your mental health, for your ability to express yourself, your ability to more deeply feel your emotions. And it might even improve your ability to sing in the light of day (if you care to do that). But don’t bother about that now. Do it because it’s sound poetry for your soul.

I frequently wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to get back to sleep. I lie there in the pitch black, in the enveloping silence, and I sing something soulful and soothing to myself. Or something fun and frivolous. Or rousing. I try and sing the living shit out of whatever it is, feel it deep in the root of my being. Frequently, the experience is surprisingly moving, even profound. It’s a heartfelt performance that only I will ever hear. Suitably relaxed and becalmed, my faith in the expressive powers of the human instrument restored, I dog-paddle my dreamy desires back to Slumberland.

Do yourself a favor, be bold. Be brave enough to open yourself up. To sing in the dark.

[Inset of “Tears in the Rain” original artwork for Borg Like Me by John Bergin]

If you want to see what I did include in Borg Like Me, you can learn more about the book and order it here.

Published by Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and "lazy person's memoir," called Borg Like Me.

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