Issue #37 / April 2019

It’s Wednesday, 21.49 and it starts to rain. I light a cigarette and smoke on my balcony and listen to a vinyl. I contemplate the rain and realize that despite all the shit and cruelty in this fucked up world of ours, some moments are so precious that there must be a God or something greater than me, you, everyone. How do you feel about God? Really.


Do you smoke?


Dear Dee and Susan,

A couple of Bad Seeds tours ago, when I was trying to stop smoking, I limited myself to one cigarette a day. After the show, as soon as I came off stage, Jacek, my assistant, would escort me to a solitary chair in the back alley of the venue, where I would sit and roll a cigarette. With immense anticipation, I would light that little white stick of joy and inhale. There, in the Zen-like supremacy of the moment, on the road and adrift in this world, the nicotine would enter my bloodstream and with a blissful rush of pure meaning God would declare Himself to me – just as He did to you, Dee, on your balcony, at 21.49, on that rainy evening in Rosario, Argentina. That five minute interlude, puffing on a cigarette, in the deranged chaos of our lives – you on your balcony and me in some alley in some foreign city – was, to paraphrase Leonard Cohen, the crack where the light came in.

So, how do I really feel about God? Well, the more absent He feels, and the more indifferent the cosmos appears to be, the more fervent and necessary my search for meaning becomes. For me though, the actual existence of God is beside the point – the argument between belief and disbelief does nothing to assuage the sadness and emptiness I sometimes feel in the face of existence. Prayer and meditation, however, do help me hugely, even if I am praying to a phantom or a memory or an invention. These acts of devotion, and investment in the unknowable, define my life. Whether God is my witness or whether He is not is not of my concern and has no real impact on the spiritual nature of my life. For me, the search itself is where the action is.

As the Bad Seeds tour progressed I predictably began to seek my communion with God before the show as well, then in the middle of the day, until eventually I was jamming a cigarette in my mouth the moment I woke up, till the moment I went to sleep and I was back to a pack and a half a day – equally predictably God vanished and all I was left with was the age-old, fiendish cigarette habit, as I coughed and wheezed my way across Europe. After the tour I simply gave up and haven’t had a cigarette since.

Now, I sometimes think I have discovered God in other situations. Sometimes I feel a certain divine presence and sometimes I don’t – but I still long for meaning and I still search. A fool’s mission maybe, but wherever this journey may lead, please Dee, next time you sit on the balcony with the rain coming down, put on a Bad Seeds record – something loud or something soft, it doesn’t matter – and light up a fag for me. I am with you in spirit.

With love, Nick


Ask a Question