Devastationalism was born one night in the back of a rental car speeding out of Washington, DC, in the summer of (I think) 1998. I was driving. Marianne was riding shotgun. My friend Lori, bass player, seal lover and all around genius, was passed out in the back seat, having just knocked back 4 or 5 martinis at a swanky, senatorial steak house. We were headed to North Carolina to visit a colony of Chimpanzees. Marianne and I were talking about our friend Danny, with whom we had all just had dinner. He had seemed blue and cranky at the restaurant over recent romantic travails, though he expressed it by being hysterically funny.
Suddenly, Lori perked up, just for a second. “Danny Wonderful [not his real last name, but that is how Lori actually referred to him] is a Devastionalist,” she slurred from the back seat. A moment of divine inspiration. She didn’t speak again for over 300 miles.
So, for the rest of the trip, everything was “Devastionalist this” or “Devastationalism that.” We worked out all the details as we drove around eating barbecue and communing with the chimps. When we got home, it spread like wildfire. Well, semi-feral fire, at least in our little circles. Not just friends, but people at work, in bars, at shows were all using the term “Devastationalism” and talking about it, asking about it. I wrote it all down. And it made sense, but I realized it still wasn’t quite defined. It was the kind of thing where, you knew it when you saw it. But a lot of reading and writing later, I thought I had perhaps distilled it down to a few sentences. Maybe I was just tired of trying to answer what exactly Devatationalism was beyond the romanticization of tragedy and ruin.
“What a Devastationalist believes is best described by a pair of progressively linked statements of inevitability: If you put your faith in something, you will be disappointed. If you give your heart to something, you will be devastated.”
Me, I have been both an alcoholic and a devout practitioner of Devastationalism without ever even knowing it, way before Lori gave it a name, for most of my life. And with self-conscious gusto at least since the mid-90s. Alcohol, praise the lord, I was finally able to expunge from my life with a lot of help, almost 3 years ago. (Though not, of course, all the unhealthy, addictive, alcoholic behaviors and reflexes that require constant care and vigilance to clear from one’s repertoire.) But I have only very recently managed to unfetter myself from Devastationalism, which I unwittingly used as a substitute for alcohol as I baby-stepped through the past 3 years of recovery.
See, both alcoholism and Devastationalism use circular logic to legitimize the romanticization of failure. And the danger lies in that as a philosophy, Devastationalism is at least arguably as true as the laws of thermodynamics. (All matter in the universe does inevitably run down to total chaos, to dust.) And Devastationalism also gave me an indispensable aesthetic framework in which to write and make songs.
But what Devastationalism doesn’t take into account are the miraculous anti-entropic forces that allow little outposts of life, humanity and love to propagate against all odds. Which makes it literally insane to use Devastationalism as an actual blueprint by which to live one’s life! It is the exact opposite of integrity. Of course, it took someone else’s breathtakingly clear and lively eyes to even allow me see that I was actually living my life that way. So I think it’s about time I started trying to realize (not romanticize) salvation and happy endings.
Maybe a better (or at least more lurid) title for this cautionary blog would be “Confessions of an Ex-Devastationalist!” But the truth is, actually, maybe, Devastationalism is a little besides the point here. Really, the innocent little idea behind this blog is simply to put all my songs and writing in one place, and eventually, new stuff as well. Along with the inevitable random thoughts, rantings, ravings, book reviews, songs, friends, photos, links or whatever. This does not constitute any kind of claim for greatness (or lack thereof), god knows. But maybe it will be a good way of keeping Devastationalism at bay. Idle hands are the devil’s crow-bar, as we all know.
And although I find it hard to believe that anyone other than a few friends might care, I will go ahead and say this: anyone can download whatever they want to from here and circulate it however they want. (Of course, nothing would please me more.) However, all this stuff is copyrighted, so please just don’t actually sell any of it without giving me a bazillion dollars or something first.
A Note About E-Mail & Comments: We love getting e-mail (and comments) here at Devastationalist HQ. If you feel like writing, we suggest you use the name “zuleika,” then an “at” symbol, and then this domain. Of course, you’ll want to remove the quotes and commas and stuff. That’d be like: zuleika at philipshelley dot com, remembering to replace the (at) with an @ and the (dot) with a .