The Problem with Deconstruction

Selfie – by Dan Steven Erickson

I was a kid in a cult. I spent 50 years of my life believing in things I’ve come to question and even doubt. I’ve written so many traditional songs that I’ve found myself stripping music down to drones and ambient noises. I’ve practiced a lot of deconstruction the past 5-7 years. But there’s a problem with deconstruction.

What do you do when you’ve torn something completely down? Where do you go after you’ve found your way back to the roots, to the beginning?

Deconstruction is a healthy process.

I’m convinced that critically evaluating something and peeling back all of the layers of formulas and bullshit and agendas is a healthy process. If someone sells you a used car, do you just buy it sight unseen? No, you inspect it. You look at all the nooks and crannies to make sure everything is in fair order.

Why do so many of us humans spend a great majority of our lives not questioning values and ideals that we’re told are “correct?” From the very start, concepts such as religion, God, morality, and justice, are drilled into us. We are told what to believe. If we question, we are often chastised or shunned.

Why did it take me 40 years of writing songs and composing music to strip it back to a single note, to find the essence of all music in a simple tone?

I think it’s because we are socially and culturally trained to not rock the boat. We are told to follow the leader, stay the course, live within the norms. But at some point as we get older, many of us start to ask questions. That’s healthy.

I have a late friend who went from being a Christian to being an atheist. Then he tried to write a book arguing against God and became a Christian again. I’m not sure my own path will take me in the same direction, but he asked questions and sought answers and came to his own peace.

So you’ve stripped things back, now what?

Here’s where the trouble starts for me. What’s next?

In my own journey of studying music, creativity, and spiritual matters, I’ve come to some conclusions. The big one is simple: I can no longer believe in the God that the current evangelical Christian church predominantly teaches me to believe in. I can however, believe in something greater than I, a universal creator, perhaps.

But all those old thoughts and habits are now lingering in my mind. Concepts like being born into sin, the devil, salvation, they kind of haunt me. My mom drilled them into me. Society backed her up. And those ideas are stronger than ever today.

In music, I’ve learned how to create sounds without melody and harmony, and frankly, there’s a purity about drone-based music that I think I prefer over more traditional Western song. But I’ve been writing songs for decades. What do I do with that? Just throw it away?

How do you rebuild once you’ve deconstructed something? This website is an attempt at rebuilding. I started this site as an intentional and active process after killing off four old websites. Now, almost three years have passed and I’m still not certain of what I’m doing here. It keeps changing. I feel like I’m trying to rebuild but I’m working with a moving target.

Put your trust in yourself.

I know the basic answer. It’s simply to trust in yourself, in your own power. You have to be willing to take full responsibility for your own life and decisions. You have to actively put yourself first. It’s not an easy thing to do, and there is little room for laziness or complacency. And by putting yourself first, you might find the love and strength to lend to others.

But that is another topic, and one that I’m still wrestling with how to approach as I get closer to retiring from who I’ve been for the past 40 years.

To be continued. – dse

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Author: Dan Steven Erickson

Dan Steven Erickson is a great undiscovered American songwriter.