The music of Jack Johnson creates a form of "locus amoenus" for me. Perhaps that's why I feel a pang of sadness while listening to it. In its simplicity lies simple questions we refuse to ask ourselves. I've read how Hemingway's asyndeton forces readers to sweat, how Picasso's use of color shapes disfigurement into emotion, how tart syrupy red raspberry sauce counteracts the intense bitterness of decadent chocolate cake to make a paroxysm of exultant sweetness that of a thousand teaspoons of sugar in each bite. But with Jack Johnson, the only thing I can say about it is that it creates an atmosphere of dreaming.
Banana Pancakes and Better Together is what everyone knows. It's all commercialized pop-songish music that people know how to hum along with. And that, for once in my life, is fine. While I think it can be unhealthy to block out unfavorable emotions in favor of happiness or numbness or anger, using music to facilitating calmness is one of the most helpful and fulfilling actions we can do to ease the mind. Similarly, utilizing music in order to feel emotions or thoughts we've been repressing can be intensely liberating.
My favorite album must be Sleep through the Static, though many of my favorites are from On and On and In Between Dreams. Every album has a different feel to it. I find it interesting how we designate the word "feel" with "touch," and "feeling" to "emotion". Anyways, after long debate on what my favorite album is—my mind oscillating like a pendulum between all three—I discovered that I felt most at home with myself listening to Sleep through the Static. Even the title is biting, alluding to how we often "sleep through the static" of war, how we choose to be ignorant of the horrifying truths of it all so we can go to bed at night.
I listened to him to get through some of the tough times. Instead of blasting loud music or clinging to a friend group, I hid away and listened to Jack Johnson. He wasn't a friend that told me that everything was going to be alright, he was the friend that listened to me when I wouldn't talk to anyone. Instead of cathartic overtones in string music, his Hawaiian sound was like the rocking of a boat over the waves; lulling me to sleep. Even still, I can't listen to Jack Johnson seriously with friends: it's too much like a personal conversation I don't want to let anyone into. For most people, Jack Johnson is the person you listen to in order to chill out. For me, he was the person who I listened to in order to cope through the shrieking and wailing.
The term "locus amoenus" translates literally to "pleasant place," and while some may intend it to mean a sort of "happy place," I see it used in Latin literature to describe beautiful imagery such as the immaculate scene of a shimmering glowing silver pond in the story of Narcissus. Locus Amoenus also goes to describe the state of a human emotion: deeply entranced with love, a deep state of fear (which would be locus horridus), or in the case of Orpheus, the trance of music to alleviate the pain of losing the love of his life. When I say Jack Johnson creates a form of "locus amoenus" for me, I mean that it allows me to reach a state where I'm able to calm down and think. This is what so many artists do for people, but in my particular case, it was Jack Johnson.