I didn’t really know Chris Cornell but I had seen him in Post Alley a couple of times and once at the restaurant where I worked. And of course I had seen him perform with Soundgarden. Arriving in Seattle in late 1989 I was a little late to the Grunge scene, or maybe just in time for the peak that was 1990. In any case at that time Seattle was a magical musical place filled with intellectually rebellious young people. None of us had much money. We used to joke that we were continually passing the same dollar bills around to each other as tips in various venues. There was a lot of love and couch surfing. Have you ever heard that song by Jimi Hendrix called “Little Wing”? For me that summed up the Seattle scene in 1990, Metal Horse year.
“Well, she’s walking through the clouds
With a circus mind that’s running round
Butterflies and Zebras
That’s all she ever thinks about
Riding with the wind”
“When I’m sad, she comes to me
With a thousand smiles she gives to me free
It’s alright, she said, it’s alright
Take anything you want from me
Fly on, little wing”
It’s not really a surprise that Chris Cornell has that exact pillar, Metal Horse, in his chart, as well as the pillar that matches the year 1991 (Metal Sheep).
July 20, 1964 Snake Hour (est.)
Chris Cornell is a Yang Metal day stem person with strong Fire. His chart consists mostly of Metal and Fire, and the Fire in the chart stresses the Metal. Metal also represents the head, thus his struggles with mental health. Wood is “empty” in this Ba Zi which tells me Chris was probably unable to fully experience or believe his success.
I chose Snake as his hour because of the way Chris associates snakes with deception in his lyrics. The song “Black Hole Sun” comes to mind. The Snake wreaks havoc in the chart because depending on timing, it births either supportive Metal or destructive Fire. The Snake created a theme of cyclic alliance and betrayal in Chris Cornell’s life where he felt constantly pushed/pulled in two different directions. You might even call the Snake a trigger.
Chris’ chart could use some Water both as an outlet for the Metal and a balance to the Fire. The Fire Rooster year of 2017 magnified the Metal and Fire conflict. At that point, in his current fate of Fire Rat, even though there was some help from Water, Fire became overwhelming. Chris Cornell died in the Snake month.
On first impression, Chris Cornell was a dark and beautiful poet and musician with curly black hair, classical features, and piercing eyes. But then there were his lyrics, and maybe that’s why I first came to associate him with Orpheus beyond his looks. Orpheus was said to have such charm with his voice that he could even make the Gods weep and that was Chris, too. In looking at the course of his life you could say that he visited the underworld (depression/addiction) and returned, just like Orpheus. There was something doomed about him but that was no different than the rest of us Gen Xers. He just made it seem elegant through his words and his quietly mysterious off-stage presence.
The rest of us angst ridden former latch key kids looked at him (and Kurt Cobain) as the ultimate example of turning pain into art; rising above the past by expressing the sadness and anger in beautiful ways; overcoming the cliche of the broken childhood. Our motto: See us? Hear us? We’re messed up and angry but still here kicking ass. We don’t want you to notice we are secretly idealistic and peace loving because it hurts. If you listen to our music the soft underbelly will tell you exactly how to undo us but you won’t hear it through the screaming.
If it’s the case that we choose our parents and our life path before we are born then Gen X kids knew before we were born that our parents were probably not going to be around much. It wasn’t that they didn’t love us or care, but our parents were going to be busy doing the best they could to deal with their relationship/marriage/divorce, job, commune, religion, band, cult, addiction, you name it. The route for some of us was taking care of our own parents and siblings. For others it was all we could do to keep track of ourselves.
Even in elementary school many of us already had house keys and knew that if we lost them, we would not be able to get inside any time soon without breaking something. Many of us had braces but no one was taking us for haircuts. If we lost our lunch money we were not going to have lunch. Grunge came from the latch key kids who were used to doing it themselves if they wanted it done. We gathered up the leftovers: people, clothing, records, books, anything that was discarded. We even recycled music by sampling. This was our way of “owning” the past albeit in a somewhat mordant way. We learned to rely on ourselves and we were okay with that. Right. We were the most inept tightrope walkers ever, working without a net. Having no context for the experience of falling, we were convinced that we could bring ourselves up. We tried to take care of each other but we knew some of us weren’t going to make it. RIP my friend Ingrid Liiv.
We didn’t understand that many of the lessons we learned at that time might not be helpful. Everyday problems for latchkey kids were loneliness, boredom, fear, anger, premature sexual experience, depression, addictions, and anxiety laden burdens of sibling responsibility. We also learned about independence, problem solving, first aid, domestic skills, making money, saving money, and planning. We learned that if we just put in enough effort we could make something happen, no matter how graceless we were.
We knew there would be pain so as we got older we tried control it by being the ones hurting ourselves; making it into art, making it beautiful, reinventing ourselves. We were ready to show you our scars; that we were freaks. We learned to blur the lines between attraction and repugnance with our punk rock aesthetic. We embraced androgyny. If cleanliness was next to godliness we stayed pagan by not using deodorant and avoided bathing regularly. We excelled at making beautiful ugly and ugly beautiful; sporting electrical tape, safety pins, Doc Martens, duct tape, torn tights, black leather jackets, spikes, thermal underwear, and shaved heads. The Modern Primitive movement with its piercings and tattoos was a way for us to literally take control of our own pain by volunteering for it.
Maybe we knew that once we were born it might feel like a trap, but still thought we could make a success of it. If you believe that we choose our parents and life experience before we are born, then of course it could happen that some of us take on more than we ultimately feel we can handle.
I think if we could ask Chris Cornell what happened that’s what he might say. His words in his final phone call with his wife are quite revealing: I am just tired. Maybe he just needed a break and a hug. Maybe if he could have just waited another hour or another night he could have stayed here with us a little longer. In reading his chart I can see how the moments around midnight on May 17, 2017 would have been precarious. Three of the pillars in play in his chart are duplicated at that time. Almost all of the elements of the moment are against him. In effect, he probably felt like all of his problems had doubled somehow. That moment would have passed.
To continue with my original idea of Chris Cornell as Orpheus…did you know there was an ancient Orphic religion? I think its philosophy is reflected in Chris’ songs about the allure of death as an escape from the pain of this physical existence. You see, the central principle of Orphism is that the immortal soul is torturously imprisoned by the physical body and wants to escape. A short time after death, however, the soul is sent to a new body and the cycle starts over. That is not an ending. I don’t think Chris Cornell got that death was not the end. Our actions, our parents actions, and the actions of all of our ancestors resonate in each of us every day regardless of the concept of time. Do I think Chris Cornell meant to commit suicide? No. I think he was having a really bad moment, but then I like to think that at the last moment every suicide would like to take it back.