Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Eric David Bovell, May 10, 1982 - September 21, 2009

On May 10, 1982, Eric was born out on Long Island. When Eric came into the world, his two older brothers already had two of the small bedrooms in a three bedroom ranch. So it was not long after Eric was born that we all had found our new home in Toms River. Growing up I remember the good-natured and mild-mannered kid that Eric was and that he always aspired to be. Being the youngest, Eric was always anxious to sort out where he fit in the pecking order. Six and eight years younger than his older brothers, at times he would remark to me, at least in his own way, that it was almost like being an only child. I recall while very young he was always content to be included in activities with his brothers and he also liked to play with the dog, Misty, and eat Ellios pizza. And as time went on, he formed new friendships at school. We’d all try to reconnect now and again by playing video games on Nintendo and we’d try to figure out which games were definitively ‘blawe.’

It did not take long for Eric to develop his love for music. When we used to talk about music many years ago, his tastes were generally rhythmic and consonant. It seemed like he was taking a liking to the more melodic tunes so long as they hadn’t become too popular, for there was nothing that Eric despised more than commercialized musicology. He changed his opinion frequently on songs when he felt they were played too widely. Eric was an underground kid at heart and the underground is no longer underground when the majority can enjoy it. So there had to be something to set the music apart. Eric was always looking for musical innovation, looking for musical cultures that either had not yet been recognized or perhaps had already received exposure but had been subsequently shunned. The underground is where Eric would go for relaxation, for his meditations and his contemplations. He loved engaging musical works from whatever genre he found and then would try his best to claim them spiritually as his own. Eric made sure that what music he had was really his own and not everyone else’s because that is how he began to define himself, over against the mainstream, over against everyone else. For if and when the music he liked got discovered by the mainstream, he would abandon it at once and search for something else, some other up-and-coming or maybe something older that had long since been forgotten.

With time, Eric became an exceptional drummer. I remember how he co-opted my first drum set that we had gone all the way to Sam Ash to buy. It was not being used anymore, sitting there collecting dust, but Eric touched them with his magical sticks and morphed them into a percussive orchestra. There were only five pieces in that old Pearl set but he made it sound like there might have been a hundred. Although he always kept his ear for rhythm, over time he became less interested in the melodic and began experimenting with drum loops, dissonance and drone. He took more of an “electric” turn, looking for newer, faster, and fresher sounds that he could try out. Eric gradually grew to become a coffee-loving, soy-eating musician who was always looking for something new, looking to try out new things and explore new looks and new sounds, even willing to go underground to find these things if he had to since the underground is typically where the action is when it comes to the things that he sought out.

Regarding redemption, I knew Eric to be authentically Christian, having genuinely talked and prayed with him many times about Christ and about religion. For a season, we explored some of the Christian music scene together, this was something like twelve years ago. Once we tried to get a mosh pit going at a church concert that we had driven two hours to get to. The ushers came over and told us to stop and decided that we needed to be watched the rest of the time from either side of the pew where we had been dancing. The name of the band that played was Clash of Symbols, an a propos description of Eric’s emotional struggle. Eric was an intense kid, intense in his search for meaning, intense in his search for understanding, intense in his search for peace. I think it bears repeating at the memorial of his death what Eric spent his life trying his best to learn in the midst of all his intensity:

“Wherever we may be in our search for healthy relationships, we have to begin where we are today. It may be painful to think how much better our relationships could have—or should have—been. There’s no point in criticizing ourselves when we did the best we could with what we had. We can gain peace of mind by putting aside what we could or should have done and by accepting who and where we are right now.”

“God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

Shalom, Eric, shalom.

(Citations: AL-ANON, Discovering Choices; Serenity Prayer.)