Do not be alarmed as I am everything that has been, everything that is, and everything that will ever be. You saw me in the sparkling gossamer that draped the wild quinine growing behind your nana’s shed. You heard me in the salty, spilling waves that kissed the coral sand on your wading legs on that childhood trip to St. Pete Beach. I knew you before you were ever born, and I will know you when you cease to exist. So, yes, of course I know what Brian Wilson would be without you, and to be frank, he’d be totally fine.
Now, I don’t normally respond to matters like these, but I happened to hear his catchy tune while I was in corporeal form as a postal worker. I do this for no other reason than to stretch my legs and get a bit of fresh air. While making my deliveries one day, I happened upon a shoddy midwestern dormitory wherein I was to deliver a couple of care packages and credit card bills to unassuming 18-year-olds. As I stepped into the residence hall, I heard the classic song echo down the hall. Curious, I approached the source of music only to find a young man who had fallen asleep with a joint in his mouth listening to the record on a turntable. I carefully removed the spliff (it was not his time yet) and absorbed the recording in its totality. While I was drawn to the impressive vocal techniques and instrumentation, I took issue with some of Brian’s statements in the song. Specifically when he stated that if you left him, “What good would living do me?” That’s gaslighting 101, which is incredibly uncool. Quite toxic, in fact. You don’t have to be the divine creator to see that.
Also, the line, "The world could show nothing to me”? Really, Brian? Don’t you think that’s a bit dramatic? I mean, let’s unpack this a little bit more. I want to start by saying that living does lots of good, arguably the most good. What Brian said offended me on a personal level because it completely devalues all of the work that I’ve done. After returning the young man’s spliff to his mouth, I wandered to his turntable, where I flipped through the promotional images that came with his band’s Pet Sounds record, and sure enough, among all of my most wonderful creatures, Brain just stares blankly ahead, unappreciative of that most beauty before him. Seriously, google “Brian Wilson + Goat,” and you’ll see the man crouched like a baseball umpire, looking completely unimpressed at a goat — an animal that I think I did a pretty good job with! Show a goat to a child and see the wonder and amusement in his eyes, even most adults will at least grin when they see one pass by. But not Brian; he hates my goat and seems equally unimpressed with the gumball machine repurposed for feed pellets. While I did not create the gumball machine or the goat pellets per se, I sort of created the creators of those things and at least deserve a modicum of credit.
But the bigger reason I want to call out this song as problematic is that it uses classic manipulator tactics. When you heard it, you were probably thinking, Wow, Brian loves me so much that he can’t imagine life without me. But over time, you probably also got the more powerful message that you were entirely responsible for Brian’s happiness, and below the surface here, the more insidious message that if you chose to leave him, you would be responsible for him possibly doing something irrational. What a terrible feeling! As God, I’ve gotta tell you: I created free will for a reason, and you’ve got to use it and get yourself out of that relationship. True, I invented free will so that I could test all humans to see if they really loved me, and I admit that that in itself was really manipulative, but I’ve spent the last hundred or so years really listening, and I’m pledging to do better.
The last thing you want to do is let this type of controlling language push you around because I know for a fact that Brian would actually be completely okay without you. Sure, he’s in for some suffering, but this is with or without you. Brian will have his struggles, as is the artist’s way, but in the end, he’ll be alright. You see, in my more vengeful years, before I took on a more progressive ideology, I created depression and a slew of other mental illnesses. For some reason, I also created drugs and alcohol, which I honestly did not think you guys would like that much. I shouldn’t have done that, but now it’s too late. The old adage “he giveth and he taketh away” really isn’t based on any fact. Once I do something, it’s done. This isn’t Gmail letting you rescind an email you’ve sent if you click the button quick enough. Like Sinatra, another excellent creation of mine, I’ve got a few regrets and am happy to admit that, despite what is preached from pulpits across the world, I am not a wholly perfect being. But please take stock in what I say and believe me when I tell you that you are not responsible for Brian’s happiness. Only he is.
On the whole, old Brian is going to be totally fine. Without you, at the end of the millennium, he puts out this great song that seems like maybe it’s for kids called “Too Much Sugar,” about the American obesity epidemic where he sings, “Take that greasy steak and fries / Slap that fat right on your thighs.” It’s a lot of fun! Brian will persevere and become a mythic figure, eventually obtaining two of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a living man: Paul Dano will play him in a film, and the Barenaked Ladies will record a song about him. Take it from me, I’ve seen all of the possible multiverses, so I know that Brian Wilson will be totally fine without you.