When I Look At The Stars

We look a little drunk, don’t we? We’re not. We’re on ecstacy.

Nils G. Holm’s “Ecstasy Research In The 20th Century” describes the experience thusly:

Ecstasy is derived from a Greek word, with the original meaning of removing oneself from a given place. By an extended sense of the word, this implies that the ego is no longer in the physical frame. In Latin it can be translated by “alienatio”. In research it has come to signify different states of consciousness that are characterized by unusual achievements, peculiar experiences and odd behavior.

Mystical experiences are perhaps best described as occurrences through which an individual, in an intensive and unusual way, is afforded new knowledge of the innermost essence of the universe. Not infrequently the experience implies some sort of absorption into the great universal whole.

I’ve heard Bono refer to “Where The Streets Have No Name” as the moment in U2’s set “when God enters the room.” I don’t think he’s being arrogant, or egotistical. I’ve seen the band perform twice. I’ve felt God in the room. I’ve felt the goosebumps. I’ve felt my spirit lift from the floor. It’s ecstasy.

I’ve felt ecstacy on stage once or twice. I felt it last night.

I told Chris and Tony before the show, “I’m not sure where ‘California Stars’ is going to go. Just follow me.”

The set neared its end. There had been great moments: the chorus of “Angels In The Atmosphere,” the solo of “Carmelita.” The room was warm, airless. Beads of sweat were rolling down my cheeks like tears. And we began.

No song, perhaps, better summarizes my experience creating “The Desert Star” than Billy Bragg and Wilco’s version of Woodie Guthrie’s “California Stars.”

I’d like to dream my troubles all away
On a bed of California stars
Jump up from my starbed and make another day
Underneath my California stars

It’s always been about the heavens for me: the sun, moon and stars. They were all my company and guide that weekend in Palm Springs. They were all my inspiration. And with them came the dreams, and the songs, flowing from my like the desert springs themselves. I wrote seven songs in all, each revolving around the sun, moon, and stars; each chronicling some element of my thirty-four year journey to that place; each asking questions left hanging above me. Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing with myself? Where am I going? Simple questions with big answers, or none at all.

And so, as we exited the bridge, I reached out for the words that seem to me to be my answer.

You say you want
Diamonds on a ring of gold
You say you want
Your story to remain untold
But all the promises we make
From the cradle to the grave
When all I want is you

You. The woman that I love. The family that I need. The friends that I adore.


I sang from deep within, eyes closed, muscles strained.

“You! All I want is you! All I need is you! All I want is you! All I need is you!”

Each “you” was longer and more heartfelt than the previous. I saw only light. I felt only music. I thought nothing at all. I rose from the stage, levitated for a moment above myself, looked down, then slipped back into my skin.

It was ecstacy.

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