Song of the Day: “I Wish I Knew” performed by John Coltrane

There are sad songs. There are beautiful songs. Then there are songs whose beauty and sadness are intertwined and inseparable, like this one.

There's a quickly paced piano intro, played in a minor key, before the main body of the song starts with Coltrane's plaintive alto sax.

I hear those lines and they describe to me all of the loss in the world – not an individual loss, but a collective one. It's a sadness large enough to absorb any I might be feeling in the moment without a flinch. The notes are weary and wise, and that is the source of their beauty.

The song is heart-breaking, but in the sense of breaking a heart open to experience a deeper compassion. This isn't a break-up song. This is a song that realizes that all love stories, even the best of them, come to their ends. Our individual doom is terrifying and ugly, but knowing we're all doomed is oddly comforting and, somehow, beautiful.

It's art like this – when the laughing has stopped and the distraction has been stripped away – that shows us an elemental truth of our existence. We need not be afraid of sadness because we are not alone. We are all sad at times and we do our best to carry on with dignity and clarity. Disappointment, regret, and grief pool in us. It is how we live. It is how we survive.

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