Today’s post deals with topics relating to mental health.
In yesterday’s post, I told you about taking our grandson to The Leaf, a new conservatory Sweety and I have been going to a lot, sometimes just the two of us, and other times with either of our two local grandsons.
On Thursdays, we usually borrow the car seat from our daughter-in-law’s car, but yesterday, as our son was at home about to leave to pick up a friend, we swapped rides since we were leaving at about the same time. As I sat in his car, getting familiarized, music started playing, and I realized it was coming from his phone as he was trying to connect to the system in my car parked just in front of us, but his cellphone insisted on connecting with his vehicle. Kinda funny. He soon sorted it out, but in the meantime, I had a sampling of his music, which I always appreciate as, while we like many of the same things, he introduces me to stuff I’d never hear otherwise. The song playing was “Kind and Generous” (fantastic song, by the way) by American alternative rock singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant (b. 1963) from her second solo album, Ophelia (1998). I recognized the song and the voice as that of the former member of the band 10,000 Maniacs and later thought, wow, cool! We like some more of the same music!
I love Merchant’s distinctive voice and how she infuses such a gentle spirit, persistent purpose, and dogged determination in her songs. I searched for the song today but mistakenly searched by the album title rather than the song title, as these are displayed differently in our two vehicles’ media players. So, I rather serendipitously came across the music video for “Ophelia” from the album of the same name. Okay, I thought, that’s how I was confused…
“Ophelia” is a powerful and brooding piece about a character depicted in the video in various manifestations across different time periods and circumstances.
“Ophelia was a bride of god
A novice Carmelite
In sister cells the cloister bells
Tolled on her wedding night
Ophelia was a rebel girl
A blue stocking suffragette
Who remedied society
Between her cigarettes
Ophelia was a sweetheart
To the nation over night
Love was at first sight…
Ophelia was a demigoddess
In pre-war Babylon
So statuesque a silhouette
In black satin evening gowns
Ophelia was the mistress to a
Vegas gambling man
Signora Ophelia Maraschina
Ophelia was a circus queen
The female cannonball
Projected through five flaming hoops
To wild and shocked applause…
Ophelia was a cyclone, tempest
A god damned hurricane
Your common sense
Your best defense
Lay wasted and in vain
Ophelia’d know your every woe
And pain you’d ever had
And dry your eyes
And help you to forget…
Ophelia’s mind went wandering
You’d wonder where she’d gone
Through secret doors
She’d wander them alone
“Ophelia,” by Natalie Merchant.
Lyrics retrieved from AZLyrics.com.
The character Ophelia is best known through English playwright William Shakespeare’s (1564-1616) tragedy Hamlet. In the drama, Ophelia’s father forbids her to see Hamlet. Ever obedient, she follows his dictate, tragically leading to her madness and death. The commonality with Merchant’s song is that the character there, too, is imprisoned in severe mental illness. It’s jarringly real in that many endure similar ailments in life. This reality has worsened terribly in recent years with the effects of Covid-19 isolation compounded by the brutally heartless bean-counting-and-cutting priorities of conservative governments in my province and many places in Canada and worldwide. And, even less severe forms of emotional illness can feel like internment to the sufferer as, in the good times, one always wonders when the heavy burden will return and how to cope when it does.
I also think the song sends subtle messages about society’s subjugation of women in several ways: through lesser roles in religious orders, in equal rights, in objectification and sexual exploitation, and in the longstanding lack of attention to health issues that only affect females. It’s a pretty dark piece, though Merchant’s craft makes it compelling.
All in all, I feel like Merchant, a very talented and humane soul, is saying to the world as a whole, something like, “People, it’s tough out there. Let’s love and take care of each other.”
Now you know a little about why this is my Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here.
Here’s the music video for “Ophelia” from the Natalie Merchant YouTube channel:
A note to readers: Repeating a message from an earlier post, we all know the Covid-19 pandemic severely affected people’s health and worsened a lot of challenges people already had. Depression and other mental health issues can feel overwhelming. There are resources. Please reach out if you need help.
Anywhere in Canada:
For mental health/crisis support:
Call: 1-833-456-4566 (24/7)
Adults can text: 741741
Youth can text: 686868
Text Talk Suicide Canada: 45645 (4 PM – 12 AM EST)
Quebec residents can also:
Call: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)
In the United States:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, call or text: 988
For elsewhere in the world, please refer to online resources in your region if you need someone to contact. ❤️
4 thoughts on “Ophelia”
This song made me kind of emotional (that’s when you know the singer did a good job) and I think like you mentioned the mental health crisis has gotten worse due to the pandemic/Covid. It’s sad when governments don’t prioritise mental health when it’s literally one of the biggest issues in the world right now. And having mental health problems can truly feel like a prison sometimes.
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Totally agree re: a good singer bringing on emotions. I find that all the time.
Fortunately, mental health is more in the open than it was years ago… hopefully that increased awareness will lead to better outcomes for people. Take care, Pooja.
Thank you. Beauty and power.
Only place I disagree with your words (although I may be wrong) is that the message is in any way subtle.
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Thanks for your observations and comments, Bill. I agree with you on the word “subtle.” Not sure why I used that…