Wither


I’ve been struggling with coming up with anything to write here recently or even just being inspired to write SOMETHING, for that matter. Thinking about that, the following song came to mind, my favorite song by one of my favorite bands, Dream Theater.

Other than the obvious topic about trying to put down thoughts to paper, I find some significant truths in the lyrics that the writer may not have intended. For instance, part of the lyrics say “So I wither and render myself helpless. I give in and everything is clear”. As a believer in Christ, that’s a great way t o state a truth fundamental that I need to follow more closely in my own life, which is that I never really find what I’m looking for in Jesus until I “Wither” to myself and allow His spirit to make everything clear to me. That isn’t a withering that makes me someone who I’m not but, conversely, who God had created me to be in the first place, the real me.

Do yourself a favor and check out this great song…

Let it out, let it out
Fill the empty space
So insecure
Find the words
And let it out

Staring down, staring down
Nothing comes to mind
Find the place
Turn the water into wine

But I feel I’m getting nowhere
And I’ll never see the end

So I wither
And render myself helpless
I give in
And everything is clear
I break down
And let the story guide me

Turn it on, turn it on
Let the feelings flow
Close your eyes
And see the ones you used to know

Open up, open up
Don’t struggle to relate
Lure it out
Help the memory escape

Still this barrenness consumes me
And I feel like giving up

So I wither
And render myself helpless
I give in
And everything is clear
I break down
And let the story guide me
I wither
And give myself away

Like reflections on the page
The world’s what you create

I drown in hesitation
My words come crashing down
And all my best creations
Burn into the ground
The thought of starting over
Leaves me paralyzed

Tear it out again
Another one that got away

I wither
And render myself helpless
I give in
And everything is clear

I wither
And render myself helpless
I give in
And everything is clear
I break down
And let the story guide me
I wither
And give myself away

Like reflections on the page
The world’s what you create

Michael Jackson 1958-2009


In the 7th or 8th grade, I remember having a classmate who was a huge Michael Jackson fan. I was at the time as well but it was also beginning to be fashionable to make fun of the guy. It was the mid 80s and Jackson’s “Thriller” album was still near the height of its popularity despite the fact that it was released in 1982. But by this time, lots of rumors of strange goings on had come out about the gloved one and jokes abounded. I took part in them even though I was fascinated with his music and image. Anyway, this classmate was always defending Jackson and I remember him several times telling me that “He could kick YOUR ass!” He was probably right. I was a pushover at the time. Regardless, those kinds of memories are some of the first things I think about when I hear Jackson’s name.

“Thriller” was one of the first albums I owned after the cassette tape first became so popular and I wore the thing out. Like most of the other albums I owned, the printing on the case got worn off, the sound quality became really poor and it would hardly play at all. I could listen to that thing from beginning to end and remember liking almost every song on it. I think I ended up buying another copy of it, which didn’t happen with any of the rest of my collection at the time. I haven’t heard that album in probably more than 20 years now but I still remember how I felt while I listened to it back then.

“Thriller” was followed up by “Bad”, which was another huge hit for Jackson. Compared to “Thriller”, though, it was a bit of a letdown for me but I was still a big fan and made sure to catch all the new videos, watch the charts, interviews, etc. I even got a huge kick out of Weird Al Yankovic’s take on Jackson’s video for “Bad”, called “Fat”. That was good stuff. For some reason, Weird Al always seemed to associate food when he spoofed a Jackson tune.

Then, of course, things really got strange in the early to mid 90s. Rumors about Jackson’s personal life were widespread by then and he had even been sued for allegedly molesting a young boy. He settled out of court but his career was never really the same. Yes, he could still count on his new albums going platinum but it just wasn’t the same anymore. His appearance radically changed, to the point that, in the 2000s, he began to look more like an alien lifeform than a person.

It’s all really rather tragic, in my opinion. Despite the rather serious and possibly true allegations about his involvement with children, he always seemed to be a rather tortured soul. The guy probably never had a fighting chance at anything resembling a normal life and it’s been fairly well documented that his childhood, what little there was of it, was not a happy one.

Then came yesterday’s news of his passing. Now that I think of it, it’s really not that huge of a shock, though I was a bit surprised when I heard the news last night. I wonder if the guy ever really trusted anyone, had a real friend, or was able to experience true love? It reminds me a lot of the death of Freddie Mercury, lead singer for the band Queen, who died of AIDS. Freddie said before his passing that he often felt that he never had a real friend. What a sad existence.

When someone passes away that I know had a hard life or lived some kind of bizarre existence, I often think of the song “Mother Love” by Queen, which I’ve blogged about before. I’ve been blessed by experiencing the ultimate real love in Jesus Christ, real love in my relationship with my wife, and real love with my daughter. It saddens me when others go through life without experiencing that.

In the Presence of Jesus


I’m sad to report that former NBA star, jazz musician, and fellow believer Wayman Tisdale has passed away today after a two year battle with cancer.

I posted an entry on his life and battle with cancer back in December.  That article can be viewed here.  You can also read a story about him and his passing on ESPN.com.

RIP Wayman Tisdale.

p1_tisdlae

Rush’s “2112” Album and the Satan Conspiracy


Rush "2112" front cover

Back in the 80s when I was only just barely in my teens, I attended a retreat that was about how rock music was all Satanic.  It was one of those deals where they would show all the supposed Satanic album covers, play backwards Satanic messages and tell you how evil all the bands were.  To tell the truth, some criticisms were legitimate.  For instance, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin is truly at least fascinated with if not an outright practitioner of the occult (just do a Google search on Page and his fascination with occultist Aleister Crowley).  However, I ended up discovering on my own that many criticisms were not well-founded.  One of them was the criticism against one of my now favorite bands, Rush.

This criticism was due mostly to the album cover for their 1976 album “2112” (see picture above), which features a pentacle as part of the cover art.  The pentacle is basically the same thing as a pentagram, just turned differently so that the one point is pointing upward instead of down, like the pentagram does.  As the story goes, this supposedly makes the members of this band Satanists because they have an obviously occult symbol featured prominently on one of their most famous albums.  The problem with this theory is that those who make this accusation have done little or no research or just basically parroted the accusation from other sources. To understand why the pentacle is featured on the album cover, you have to understand the story behind the title track of this album.

Written by drummer Neal Peart and based upon some of the writings of author Ayn Rand, “2112” is a story set in the distant future in a far away solar system called the Solar Federation.  On one of the planets, the main character discovers a strange stringed instrument, a guitar.  At first he’s not sure what it is because things of this sort have been banned by the priests, those who are in control of his world.  The song progresses as he learns how to tune and then to play this instrument and, in his excitement, he goes before the priests to show them what he has found and what beautiful music he can make with it.  In their anger, the priests destroy the instrument and the man goes off, dejected at what he has just experienced.  As the song and story ends, the Solar Federation is engulfed in a revolution and the powers that be are overthrown.

Another part of the story describes the “red star”, which is the symbol of the Solar Federation.  The Solar Federation is, according to the story, the bad guys in this story of good versus evil.  Therefore, the “red star” or pentacle, is clearly viewed as a symbol of evil, not something that Peart is saying should be worshiped or held up as a symbol of good.

Rush "2112" back cover

Further defining the status of the pentacle, the back album cover for “2112” again displays the pentacle.  However, this time the image of a naked man is silhouetted in front of it with his arms extended towards it, his palms facing outward as if he is pushing against the pentacle.  I’ve come to understand through my research (I can’t remember where I read it) that this symbolizes the natural man and his struggle against evil.  The large image of the computer chip at the bottom is represented because some of the lyrics for “2112”, from the section titled “The Temples of Syrinx”, say “We are the priests of the temples of Syrinx…Our great computers fill the hallowed halls.”

As you can see, the image of the pentacle is not at all representative of the religious beliefs of the members of Rush.  Actually, Neil Peart, in a letter to a newspaper here in the U.S., refuting claims of Satanism made against the band, stated that he does not even believe in a literal Satan and, I believe, I’ve read elsewhere that he is agnostic, which doesn’t surprise me based upon the other lyrics he’s written over the years.  You can read the entirety of this letter here.

Neil Peart

As I said earlier, there is indeed some warranted criticism of some artists as far as it concerns their occult beliefs, though they are certainly free to believe and promote any religious view that they wish.  However, I think it also becomes my fellow Christians to have well thought out viewpoints and make informed statements considering such things. To do otherwise invites only scorn, ridicule, and reproach upon the name of Jesus Christ.

Mission


Feeling in an inspired mood today, here are the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, “Mission” by Canadian rock band Rush.  The song is about having a vision, along with the drive and ambition to accomplish it.

“Mission” ~ Rush

Hold Your Fire (1987)

Hold your fire
Keep it burning bright
Hold the flame ’til the dream ignites
A spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

I hear their passionate music
Read the words that touch my heart
I gaze at their feverish pictures
The secrets that set them apart
When I feel the powerful visions
Their fire has made alive
I wish I had that instinct
I wish I had that drive

Spirits fly on dangerous missions
Imaginations on fire
Focused high on soaring ambitions
Consumed in a single desire
In the grip of a nameless possession
A slave to the drive of obsession
A spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission

I watch their images flicker
Bringing light to a lifeless screen
I walk through their beautiful buildings
And I wish I had their dreams
But dreams don’t need to have motion
To keep their spark alive
Obsession has to have action
Pride turns on the drive

It’s cold comfort
To the ones without it
To know how they struggled
How they suffered about it
If their lives were exotic and strange
They would likely have gladly exchanged them
For something a little more plain
Maybe something a little more sane

We each pay a fabulous price
For our visions of paradise
But a spirit with a vision is a dream
With a mission.

The Rock and Roll Comeback


AC/DC ~ Black Ice (2008)

AC/DC ~ Black Ice (2008)

For someone who’s grown up loving music from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, the 90s were a huge letdown. Nirvana basically changed the popular music scene overnight. Short but shaggy hair, goatees, poor guitar playing, and monotone lead singers were suddenly all the rage. Guitar solos bit the dust and mainstream instrumental virtuosity in general bit the dust. It goes without saying that I was not and still am not a big fan of the alternative/grunge era.

Enter the late 90s to early 2000s…Classic rock and hair bands started touring again, raking in big money even though the mainstream music scene barely took notice. Regardless, acts like Journey (my personal favorite), Boston, Poison, etc., made pretty good money on the road.

Then in 2007 things started changing just a bit…The new album “Snakes & Arrows” by Rush, another one of my favorite bands, peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200 chart. Then, in November, The Eagles’ first studio album in nearly thirty years debuted at #1 on the charts. This year, Journey’s newest studio release, “Revelation”, debuted in the top five, was certified Gold and is likely to be certified Platinum before long.

Biggest of all, though, is the newest and probably final studio album from AC/DC, “Black Ice”. It has just debuted in the #1 slot and is estimated to have sold over 700,000 copies in its first week. Now I’m no AC/DC fanatic, but I have to admit to being a little happy that a classic, straight-ahead hard rock act is tearing up the charts. Good for them!