Phoebe Bridgers: her music as meditation

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Ray Buckner on how Grammy-nominated Phoebe Bridgers’ music is a spiritual friend, a path into the unknown.

Phoebe Bridgers. Photo © Daniel DeSlover / ZUMA Wire / Alamy Stock Photo

“Chinese Satellite,” from Phoebe Bridgers’ triumphant second album, Punisher, is about loss, longing and longing to feel connection in a landscape of emptiness.

“I went around in circles / pretended to be myself,” Bridgers sings. “How could someone do this on purpose / when they could do something else.”

In my reading, Bridgers’ words relate to choosing a difficult path which seems to have little benefit, but which is undoubtedly part of his calling. His words honor my heart as I have also spent my life struggling to find a home. I go back to those early years, when I was seven or eight, and relive the ridicule and judgment for being transgender. But even though being transgender isn’t easy, I know it’s fair. I know it’s me. Testosterone, antidepressants, and surgeries are all part of this difficult, but meaningful journey.

“Chinese Satellite” is a ballad of impermanence, of facing the reality of our lives. It’s about not being saved by someone else, even as we wish we could be, and finding a way to save ourselves. It is about longing for hope and also about lacking belief and feeling absolutely lonely. It’s about wanting love, home and belonging. It’s about not wanting what we love to go away, forever.

“I want to believe,” sings Bridgers, “that if I go out I’ll see a tractor beam / Come to take me where I’m from / I want to go home.”

We all want something that can help us feel secure and belong. We all want something that will help us not to suffer, something that will not leave us. If the Buddhist path is our way home, so is Bridgers’ music. If we take the Buddhist path to find a way out of suffering or within it, then we come to Phoebe Bridgers for the same. Bridgers’ music is a meditation – breath-by-breath, word-by-word reflection – on what we wear. His words exist as an invitation to live, feel and discern our hearts and minds.

“Chinese satellite” is a wish and an answer. It is a wish for the house and a call to create it. Bridgers is part of my household: she helps me hold this tender heart with honesty, security and grace. Her music is a spiritual friend and a path to the unknown.


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