The Soloist

Attachment disorders are an underexplored aspect of managing schizophrenia in the community – most people just aren’t willing to let a schizophrenic develop an attachment to them in the first place. But when they do, the intensity of the emotions involved can be scary.

The friendship story at the heart of The Soloist, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, really digs into this theme to explore what can go wrong when people reach out to the most vulnerable among us, and how social isolation itself can exacerbate psychotic symptoms in people with a serious mental illness, making living independently especially problematic for them.

The Soloist is the story of Nathaniel Ayers, a talented cellist who left Julliard because of his psychotic symptoms and eventually ended up homeless in Los Angeles, serenading passers-by on a beaten-up violin. A lifelong Beethoven fan, he frequents a park statue of the composer, and there encounters a friend who will change his life.

This poem, based on the lovely 42nd Psalm, is about fangirling over Beethoven, and being torn between the immediacy and terror of isolation in a new living situation, and an abiding sense of gratitude that one has a friend of sorts, even if that friend isn’t often reachable, reliable, or willing to negotiate on emotional ties.

Because his real friend is harder to trust than music itself, Nathaniel practices a kind of transference onto Beethoven, shifting his emotional baggage from a real, unreliable friend to a more perfect, imaginary one, through the channel of his art.

As a deer bends her neck toward streams of water,
so I yearn for Beethoven to visit here.
My whole being vibrates with the thirst for grace,
for the spectral lives of soundscapes in L.A.
When shall I come and listen to the echoes
and the sympathetic chords that answer here?
My tears became my bread inside these four walls.
All day long I heard voices: “where is your God?”
These thoughts race through my head – I pour out my heart
when I would give up all to join the strings
in the orchestra pit for a symphony
to lift the hearts of the music-lovers’ throng.
How bent, my body – my soul moans for release!
I still court Beethoven; I will acclaim him
for his transformative presence in my life.
Forgive me – my feelings were bent for my plight.
Remember instead all you’ve done for me, please,
remember how far we’ve come together, friend.
The depths of your heart answered the depths of mine
and the sound of music carves these channels deep.
Passionate breakers and waves overwhelmed me.
By day this city smiles on me while I play
and by night I cling to the echoes, afraid –
music is my prayer to the God of my life.
I should have said to you, as a friend can say,
“Why have you forgotten and rejected me?
Why do I rack my soul alone in this gloom?”
The threat of murder animates my bones, hate
fills my ears all day long, saying “where is your God?”
How bent, my soul, and how low my body moans!
Hope remains, and Beethoven is never far,
I turn to him for rescue and redemption.

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Filed under Acting, Music, Poetry, Puppy love

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