Through all the world there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me leave to do my utmost.
-Isak Dineson, ‘Babette’s Feast’
Everything is not enough.
-Townes Van Zandt, ‘To Live’s to Fly’
I was saddened today to hear the news about Bottom of the Hudson, who blew out a tire on I-40 and rolled their van. According to the Fayetteville Observer, the band’s bass player (Trevor Butler) was killed and their drummer (Greg Lytle) severely injured in the accident.
First of all, endless compassion and empathy for the band’s families and friends and colleagues. This is a sad day for me, and for most people in bands. Those of you who are reading this, please give a moment’s thought to the band and their people.
I struggled with whether I should post about this, but the more I thought about it, the more relevant it began to seem. The best artistic work derives its urgency and life from an awareness, however subtle, of brutal truths. Fate’s horrifying lack of mercy; human fear, risk, and vulnerability; and the fact of loss itself, dark and troubling as they are, drive us to create, and elevate our communication with each other, giving it significance.
I have to confess that a part of me harbors a hollow, angry suspicion that Trevor Butler was not given leave to do his utmost. It seems cruel of fate to repay his creative urge with this, when he may have wanted to do so much more.
And even though I agree with Townes Van Zandt when he sings “everything is not enough,” this seems excessive to me. I usually take Townes’s meaning to be that human nature cannot get enough of what it loves, no matter how much it gets. Our desires will always outgrow our circumstances. Still, that’s small comfort here.
I’m left with the most threadbare insight to offer. I can bear some kind of witness to the limits, and to the partiality of the answers; and hope that it will suffice as the raw material for the empathy due to those who are suffering a much more primal loss.
In the meantime, and more importantly, here are links to the band’s websites, their label, and their Pandora station. There is also a PayPal link, to help the families of Trevor and Greg deal with the respective consequences of this. The best tribute we can give is to listen to their work, to send them support, and maybe to donate.
If anyone wants to donate to help the families of Trevor Butler and Greg Lytle, you can send donations via the absolutely kosher website, or directly at PayPal using the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
update – here’s a direct link to donate via PayPal, if you are so inclined: