So, once upon a time, I posted an unboxing video for this awesome album, during which I was pretty squirrelly, somewhat cagey, and generally awkward about my personal discovery and connection with said album. Everyone was like, “Anie, what is your deal? You’re being cryptic and awkward!”
Well, my dear readers, I am finally at liberty to talk more openly about my experience and journey of discovery through this beautiful piece of art. I have been sitting on a random secret for a few months. Since the beginning of October I have been *big reveal* serving on jury duty!
Wait! Don’t go away! I promise this won’t be boring. There’s murder and intrigue. Stay with me for a minute.
So, I was under oath at the time of filming that last video, but now that it’s all over, let me set up a little bit of context for my situation and frame of mind when I first heard this album.
Things you need to know:
- I am freakishly squeamish. I basically have the media viewing habits of a toddler, because I don’t like violence and gore that is prevalent in most movies and tv shows. I don’t do well with the sight of blood. I am an actual child.
- I was serving on a murder trial
- In criminal cases, jury members may not discuss ANYTHING related to the case in ANY manner until deliberation (even in the Jury Room to other jurors)
So, for a few months I got up every day at 6am, put on my dork tag and went down to the courthouse. I pretty much lived in the Jury Room (we had a kitchen, a closet and everything) with eleven strangers chosen for the select purpose of having zero commonalities in historical background, demographics, interests, etc.
Our job was to sit and listen to grand tales of conspiracy, murder, and violence. There were graphic testimonies, emotional pleas, shouting, crying, sketches of human dissection, and way too many photographs for my liking. (There was also a disproportionate amount of vomiting on my part during recesses. Good thing the Jury Room also had two bathrooms!) At the end of the day, I was allowed to drive home (usually after dark), took a shower, and got ready to do it all again the next day.
I understood what I was getting into from Day 1, but I was wholly unprepared for how deeply it affected me.
When the court breaks for recess, the jury gets escorted into the Jury Room to wait. It might be five minutes. It might be two hours. You have no idea. I was naively unexpectant of the mental whiplash from going back and forth between detailed descriptions of violence and death, to small talk with strangers, all with about two seconds allotted for mental adjustment. It took a few days for me to learn how to compartmentalize on that level.
I was in pretty extreme mental distress, trying to figure out how to navigate the situation on Day 2 of the trial when I decided to distract myself during recesses with some music (having previously and unsuccessfully tried reading poetry and philosophy books).
There were a few albums that I had been anxious to get some time to sink into, but to my great surprise, I found that I could not bring myself to focus long enough to enjoy, or really even hear the music. I attempted a few different artists, to no avail — until I pulled up Den of Lions. Listening to it had been on my musical to-do list for quite some time, but I had not made time for it thus far.
When “Blissful Ignorance” came on over my headphones, I felt immediately grounded. For a murder charge (as opposed to a manslaughter or negligent homicide charge), the burden of proof is extremely high on the state with regard to knowledge and intent. Because of this, pleading ignorance is oftentimes the best defense. I heard this song, and I felt connected.
At a time in my life, when my world and day-to-day activities were strangers to everyone that I knew and loved, I felt understood. I was able to commune with the intense sentiments occupying my mind.
During the brief times I was at home or with friends for the duration of the trial, I hid my anxieties and had to act as if I was dealing with nothing more than a dispute over a parking ticket. I could not express any of my thoughts or feelings to any person about this huge event that was occupying my life. I am a pretty independent person by nature, and don’t tend to rely on others much for validation or acceptance, but this was a level of mental and emotional solitude heretofore unknown to me.
This album became my grounding tool, and was very important to me. Whenever I felt lonely, or distressed, or anxious, I had a place to turn my mind and not be entirely alone. When I began to be overwhelmed at the responsibility being placed on my shoulders, at the prospect of convicting a man of murder, I turned to this album — my musical friend and only true confidant during that time.
Maybe that sounds pathetic, but I will always be extremely connected to this album and so very thankful to Ourlives for giving me an outlet that allowed me to emerge from jury duty with my sanity mostly intact.
(To be clear: I do not think that my experience was the intended frame of reference for these songs, but good art forms itself to your heart and mind, and it was immensely impactful to me in this context.)
Here are some of my favorite lyrics from each track, and some of the lines that spoke most powerfully to me.
“You can’t hide blissful ignorance.” — Blissful Ignorance
“The feeling I get from your eyes, is that something’s out of place.” — Out of Place
“It’s time to face my fate. Blue heaven is on its way.” — Blurry Eyes
“I’m alone but still you’re there next to me.” — Nuna
“Soon they’ll find us out. Anything can happen now.” — Anything Can Happen Now
“But who’s to say what is weird and what’s okay? Is it me, or is it you?” — A Sight to See
“Delusion fills my head with lies. My delusion is the lifeline I’ve been holding on.” — Seven Ways
“Isolated from everything. I’m fighting demons off my back. I better swallow my pride and think, ’cause loose lips could well sink ships.” — Loose Lips
“Our modern way has ruined my day. I guess it’s me that has to pay.” — We Lost the Race
“Too much is never enough for me.” — Too Much
“There are days when nothing feels right. But one look, one lie, can make the world feel alright.” — Heart
“Where is the way we need to go? Where is the way we need to know?” — Where Is the Way?
If you love these songs as much as I did, please consider supporting Ourlives by visiting their website and purchasing this album from your favorite digital music store (iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play, Amazon, etc.) It’s also available on vinyl.
Holler at me in the comments! I’d love to talk to you all about this album.
P.S. For those of you who were still wondering, there were multiple deaths involved in the case (three), and the defendant was convicted. It was a great experience, and I was super inspired being able to watch the judicial branch of government in action. My state has some pretty progressive laws, and everyone was wonderful. The other jurors became like a little family to me over time (though we were never able to talk about the case until the very end), and we all got along amazingly well. That being said: I’m also super glad that it’s over now, and I never want to have to go through that again.