Posts Tagged existentialism
“King Christ,this world is all aleak;
and lifepreservers there are none:” -ee cummings
There is no Overman…only an Outerman.
We are The Outerman. They are The Innerman. Made from the same material. Subject to the same illusion. The two share nothing in common beyond circumstance.
The Outerman does not stand above the world of The Innerman, rather we are mired in it. We watch its absurdities not from a distance, but from a terrible proximity.
We bare the scars of The Innerman’s creations. We live in the demented cesspool of their need for acceptance. Adoration that will never come from the other Innermen. They are blind. Each alone in the company of Others. Each pantomiming human form. Each actors on a stage that stretches from dawn till death.
Both The Innerman and The Outerman are prisoners of the same sickening carnival, the only difference between the two is The Outerman recognizes it to be what it is. No superstition can save him. No machine can revive him. He walks to his fate with the dignity and honor of a man who will not accept the debasement of delusion.
The Outerman looks in the mirror and sees a product of alienation. An alien in a world of aliens. A jigsaw piece that does not fit. Awake among dreamers. There is no Hollywood ending for him or anyone else. There is only decay.
The Innerman looks in the mirror and hopes somehow to mold his face to the reflect the blank stare of the other Innermen. He can never get it right no matter how hard he tries. Never fast enough, never strong enough, never smart enough. Everyday he hopes he’ll see a different image in front of him. If he could just find the formula. The Man With The Answer. But there is no Man and there is No Answer.
The Innerman’s world is one of violence. Violence not in the sense of harm towards others (although some choose that path), but a violent ignorance that turns a blind eye to the suffering in their midst. The Cause portion of the equation forgotten. The Effect always a mystery.
“Why do they hate us?” they wonder aloud, never seeing the answer apparent to anyone not forever trapped in fantasy. Violence is the righteousness of the provincial and the tyranny of the obvious. The world of the Innerman is a dream inside of a dream inside of a dream, with a waking nightmare always somewhere in the corner of his eye.
The Innerman is doomed. Even God won’t save him. Why would He bother? He is too busy poisoning children with cancer, creating horrors like ebola and teaching his followers to hate that which makes them human.
He is the God of letting good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. He is not The God of Love, He is The God of Pestilence. The best thing God could be is a fantasy. For if he is not, He is a sadist.
Both The Outerman and The Innerman are bound together. They walk to the same gallows, suffocated by the same rope. The Outerman calls it a hanging. The Innerman calls it salvation.
After years of interminable suffering, the human race will finally be put out of its misery tonight at 8 o’clock Eastern Standard Time (5 PM on the West Coast). There will be no giant mushroom clouds, no asteroids unstoppable hurdling towards earth, no lights, no sounds, no music, just the immediate and unexplained termination of all sentient human life on our planet.
“I, for one, am thrilled to see the human race ending in such a bloodless and efficient fashion,” said Charles Guiteau, a car insurance salesman from Provo, Utah. “To be honest, the next week was going to be hell. Now, I’m free to spend the day catching up on the episodes of Game of Thrones that I missed.”
“It was going to happen at some point,” exclaimed Mark Chapman, a traveling pudding salesman from Denver, “why not just get it over with?”
“I mean, honestly, I’m tired of worrying about all the different ways the human race could end. This way, we are free of the fear of terrorism, of global warming, of viruses, of nuclear bombs, of bacteria from spoiled meat, of the federal debt, of running out of oil and of endless war. We were all going to die at some point anyway, might as well do it quickly.”
“If you think about it, it’s probably for the best,” announced Leon Czolgosz, a professional juggler from Memphis. “We’ve been around for thousands of years and what have we really done with our time? Create more humans. Create machines that make humans live longer. Create devices to make our time on earth more bearable. Create stories about afterlives and vengeful, jealous gods. Create reasons to love each other. Create reasons to hate each other. Create reasons and methods to kill each other. To what end? It’s all wasted motion.”
Some people, however, are not taking the news as well. “As a Nationals fan, I’m disappointed to think that I’ll never get to see Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg develop into the superstar caliber players I know they can be,” said longtime Washington resident Gavrilo Princip. “I really thought the World Series was ours this year.”
Meanwhile, some Americans are upset about the timing and details of this extinction level event. “America is the greatest country on earth. The idea that we are going to die at the exact same time and in the exact same way as all other countries boggles the mind. We give millions of dollars in foreign aid to countries like Somalia. We should at least be granted a few extra hours. Fair is fair,” said John Booth, Mississippi treasurer for the Tea Party Patriots for Freedom and The Avoidance of Responsibility for Others.
In Washington, the news has brought a halt to the constant bickering between Congress and President Obama. In the spirit of bipartisanship, both sides have promised to pass legislation to end the impasse over the federal budget within the next few weeks.
Regardless of how people feel, the end is coming. It will be quick and painless. You won’t even know what hit you. There will be a flash and it will be done. There is nothing you can do about it.
(Inspired by the Ray Bradbury story Last Night of The World)
(Washington)-In stunning pessimism, America forward never back truth without honesty is the medium of true messiness. Socialist polarized mobs running outward not outwitting death. Free to choose everything except what matters, no matter what the rules are. Debt beyond parents life as rebellious war against nothingness consuming reduced to pattern. Things explained are things forgotten against the backdrop of inhaled ignorance. “Wandering, wondering as their lives slowly slip through their greedy little fingers,” accordion to White House Repeater of Cliches Jay Carney.
They are as much a part of this disaster as we are. Stand up for the privilage of not sitting down. Anxiety as a rational response to unconscionable conditions. As it repeats over and over and we confuse action for motion and motion for freedom. And freedom for immortality. And immortality for meaning. And meaning for action. In a recent Gallup poll nearly two-thirds of buffalos have no wings and nearly one hundred percent of Americans are doomed to the terms of mortality. No matter what they’d like you to believe. Accordion to So and So Jones, person on the street and representative of the Zeitgeist, “I don’t even know what’s real anymore as I look into a world where I am bombarded with the constant flow of answers to questions that I wouldn’t have even bothered to ask. Drowning in a river of useless actions. Amused to death by the 24 hour 7 day a week carnival of unmeaning. Sweat my only solace.”
Now, here’s the paragraph about possible solutions and potential mystery. So and So who wants you to like him or her and maybe even vote that way proposes solutions that either serve the purpose of taking our eyes off the existential ball or promising something they hope we forget about in twenty minutes (which we probably will because crisis is a great substitution for crisis). So and So complains about something hoping to give us hope, or comfort, or something new to hate, or something to talk about with the other doomed fools that we are chained to, or something to buy, or something to bury. We all rally around because a recent Gallup Poll has stated, in no uncertain terms, that 51 percent of us share the same delusion.
You should write a letter to your Congressman. Because they will listen. Because they care. Because you have a solution no one else has thought of. Because democracy guarantees us the right to go on and on about absolutely nothing and replace one empty vessel with another every four years. Write that letter. Seriously. Do it. That will make everything all better. That’ll solve the issue of the sheer absurdity of the world. That’ll take the sting out of that nagging death problem that everyone seems to be conveniently not mentioning. That’ll make lions into lambs and lambs into citizens. And citizens into vampires. The world is probably in the shape that it’s in because you haven’t written that letter yet. When you do, all of your troubles will go away. You’ll see. Write the letter. Save us all.
In conclusion, eventually everything you do, every action you take will be forgotten. Everyone around you will be gone. Take comfort in the fact that you are nothing, or at least, that’s how you’ll be remembered. Besides, in a recent Fox News poll a full 105 percent of people surveyed think it’s someone else’s fault. “The solution is complete ignorance,” accordion to President Barack Obama, “that or an endless cycle of misery and fear, depression and alienation. Or government spending. Or complaining about government spending. Or endless blame. Or endless blamelessness. It’s up to you. After all, isn’t this what democracy is all about?”
“A Grandma is at the shore in Florida with her little Grandson. The grandson is playing on the beach when a big wave comes and washes the kid out to sea. The lifeguards swim out, bring him back to the shore, the paramedics work on him for a long time, pumping the water out, reviving him. They turn to the Grandma and say, “We saved your grandson!” The Grandma says, “He had a hat!””
Bobby Gold was born to die a thousand slow deaths. His is the pain of a man without a country. Homicide is his confession. The confession of the man that can never be whole. He is the first through the door, the last to leave the gym. His mistakes must be rationalized or his coat of armor will become tin foil. He has an answer to every question even before you ask it, because he cannot afford to show an ounce of skin. He must convince them of his worth. He must be more than human or else they will see him. Then, they will know.
Bobby Gold, set to wander the desert into eternity. He must be exceptional or he is lost. He is the map of human misery. Bobby the Nomad. Every time he finds a river he drinks a mouthful of sand. He knows that you see him and he thinks you won’t let him forget it.
His is the story of the self-made man. What becomes of the self-made man when he stops creating? What if he gets tired? What if hasn’t the strength to work at the rate to which he has become accustomed? No one will catch him if his arms and legs cramp up. He knows this as surely as he knows how much time it will take him to get there 15 minutes early.
He looks around at people and instead sees the ocean. The ocean is still and never needs anything more than what is given. The ocean is a mystery to him. Who built it? How does it hide its shame? In his hands are a set of tools from which he must construct himself. From nothing. From the ground up. He must explain himself over and over. He recoils, overwhelmed by the fear that they’ll recognize the sadness in him. He explains and explains and explains never making the point that is so obvious to anyone who takes a moment to look. And he hopes his explanations will blind them to the truth. And he hopes they’ll see him and forgive his existence.
He looks enviously at those who have never had to work a day in their life to exist. Some people just wake up and “are”. He must invent. He must create. All of his actions reek of existential survival. Bobby is a reminder of how fast a man must run to not fall down. The faster he runs, the closer the oblivion he gets. It is gaining on him, always.
Bobby Gold, never to know the stillness and quiet of a dreamless sleep. Haunted by his visions of wholeness. Mocked by his own creations and talents. Bobby hears with a third ear. He is haunted by the stumbling footsteps of those who do not belong. The flesh on his neck stands at attention when he is near them. He doesn’t need files and he doesn’t need a map. He knows the look. He is blessed with the curse of understanding. As like is drawn to like, as “a dog goes back to its own vomit”, as pain seeks out pain. He is them and they are he. Outcasts. Alone in a crowded universe.
Bobby Gold, born to see what people pray to have the strength to ignore. Bobby the Outcast. Bobby the Obscure. Bobby the Stranger Among Strangers. Bobby the Donkey. Capable of so much, but unable to hide the absurdity of his being. Imploring the world to see him for what he does and not what he is. Doomed by the pain of the man who can never be more than he can build.
I bow down your precious icon, deity of self-suppression
This effigy of flesh, corporeal christi, nailed
In submission to this false idol, seeking deliverance
From this spiritual hierarchy, downward spiraling, a corrupt throne
Of repression and guilt
Our will be done
Thy kingdom burn
On my knees, before this tormented flesh, in irreverence
In communion with this parasitic host of virtuous divinity
This imperious creed bears testament to the failures of our morality
Righteous durance is our cross we bear in stations
In stations of the lost
Our will be done
Thy kingdom burn – thy kingdom burn
Our will be done
From your knees arise
By your own hand, your god you scribe
The earth shall inherit the meek
Your god is dead
Bound down, in God we’re trussed, foul stature
Icons embodied in flesh, we nail
In servitude to deities fashioned in our self image
Shadows of eternal strife cast by those who serve
Serve a crown of pawns
If up until this point you weren’t sure how the band Carcass feels about religion, Embodiment states it completely and in no uncertain terms. The song is an outright renunciation of organized religion, Christianity in particular. The lyrics bubble with hatred and scorn for the self-annihilating principles that they believe mark the Christian outlook. I don’t share the disdain that the band feels for Christianity, but the force of the language used in their argument is highly compelling.
The song’s central argument is that Christianity is an advanced form of slavery. They make the case by dismissing the existence of any fathomable God and assuming that the goals of religion are to allow those who are in power to continue an unfettered hegemony over the practice of free will. Where some people see peace and comfort, Carcass perceives control and subjugation. Certainly, some of their argument is legitimate. There are plenty of historical examples of the misuse of religion to advance the selfish ends of a tyrannical elite. However, the song fails to address much of the comfort and solace that it has brought people for over 2000 years. Further, it would be facile minded to simply assume that the self-abnegation at the core of Christian thought is completely a bad thing. The giving up of one’s desires to benefit the community is on many occasions, inside or outside of a religious context, beneficial towards the human race as a whole.
In spite of the problems the argument presents, the language with which the case is made is striking. The core belief in the song is contained in the beautifully efficient and devastating pun “In God we’re trussed”. By taking an expression found on American money and perverting its message, Carcass is able to make several critical points. First, the use of a religious phrase in an economic context effectively links the agenda of today’s Christianity with the pursuit of financial gain. Then, they take the phrase and change trust (an act of faith) into trussed (to be tightly bound or in this case completely controlled). Essentially, they argue here that while you may choose to subvert your needs for the Church it will not extend you the same courtesy and, worse, it will take your belief and use it to hoodwink you into giving up your possessions and your liberty. In their eyes, it is the greatest hustle in human history.
What is truly lost for believers is contained in the heart-wrenching expression “the earth shall inherit the meek.” The original phrase “the meek shall inherit the earth” is an appeal to the Job-like masses that give so tirelessly but ask for little in return. They suffer in silence, but at the end of the day, they will be rewarded…or so the story goes. The good and humble people will come to control the earth and the wicked will be cast from it. The subversion of this expression contains allows for a very troubling message to be presented. If you suffer in silence and do the right thing your reward will be the grave. Death awaits us all and those who are pious and righteous are rewarded with the same eternal darkness that await those who pillage the world blind. There are no rewards in this life or any other for those who follow the words contained in the Bible. The meek will be buried right alongside those who engage in a Dionysian life of personal excess and unabated greed. The ground cannot tell the two apart.
If this argument is legitimate, it presents us with chilling questions about how we should live our lives that goes beyond religion. If there are truly no consequences for our actions, why not do whatever we want? Those with the most material, at the end of the day, are those who have benefitted most from a purely material world. If all that is promised to us for a good life is an eventual death, what is the motivation in living a justly?
I believe that the truth or untruth of God’s existence need not bear on whether someone acts morally. If every word of the Bible is true and God’s existence is exactly as portrayed in Christianity, we should act with as much kindness, patience and love to those around us as we are capable. If every word of the Bible is false and Christianity is an unholy scam perpetrated by on the masses by ruthless power mongers, we should act with as much kindness, patience and love to those around us as we are capable. The reward of living a just life is simply getting to live a just life. That’s all. The earth may inherit the meek, but at least the meek can lessen the suffering of those around them. Nothing else is promised and nothing else is certain. TS Eliot eloquently summarizes this principle in his poem “Choruses From The Rock”…..
All men are ready to invest their money
But most expect dividends
I say to you: Make perfect your will.
I say: take no thought of the harvest,
But only of proper sowing
It is our station to care for one another to the best of our abilities regardless what the truth of the universe is. To love without condition is the greatest gift we could bestow on our world no matter what the terms of our existence are. Any philosophy that brings us closer to that ability, be it religious or atheistic, is worthy of our respect and consideration.
The second song on the record “Carnal Forge” is one of the more lyrically challenging songs I’ve encountered. When I first got a copy of the record, I sat there with a dictionary for an hour trying to figure out what on earth Carcass was talking about. Jeff Walker is known for having a remarkable vocabulary and this song proves it. Unless you scored in the top one percentile on your college boards, you are going to need help with a few of the words he uses. As a service to our readership with IQs below 160, I took the lyrics and clarified them a bit.
(A massacre that takes many different forms)
(A vulgar, disgusting display of death)
Sublime enmangling steelbath
(A glorious, destructive bath)
Of escheated atrocities
(Of things lost to the State through terrible acts)
Enigmatic longanimity of ruminent mass graves
(Quiet graves that show a mysterious ability to suffer without sound)
Meritorious victory, into body-bags now scraped…
(A great win worthy of recognition that is shown by a high body count)
(The authority and power of piles of dead bodies)
The dead regorged
(The dead shot out of their graves)
Osculatory majestic wrath
(A union of beautiful anger)
This carnal forge
(Human forms beaten and molded like a blacksmith working with metal)
Desensitized – to perspicuous horror
(No longer able to feel the awfulness of horror)
Dehumanized – fresh cannon fodder…
(Humans reduced to objects and killed on the battlefield)
(Something awful being praised for its greatness)
(An obvious massacre)
Dehumanized – cannon fodder
(Murder in a way that is clean and neat)
(Murder made holy)
Desensitized – to genocide
(No longer capable of feeling what is wrong with mass murder)
(Piles of dead bodies ruling over the land)
(Death shot upwards)
(Being drenched with blood)
(Bloodshed and death turned into something else)
In the cold, callous dignity of the mass grave…
(Respectful mass graves without feeling)
(Violence taking different forms and leading to a massacre)
Cruel, mendacious creed
(Evil, lying system of belief)
Sublime, murderous bloodbath
Of fiscal atrocities
(A massacre having to do with money)
Inexorable mettle in redolent consommé
(Unstoppable courage blended into a pleasant smelling soup)
An opprobious crucible of molten human waste…
(A disgraceful furnace of melting bodies)
(Bodies piled up to the sky)
(Endlessly shot upwards)
The smelting butchery
(A process of separating metals, a process of slaughtering animals)
Of the carnal forge
Desensitized – to pragmatic murder
(No longer feeling the horror of murder which is committed for practical purposes)
Dehumanized – into cannon fodder…
(Turned into non-human form and destroyed without feeling)
“Carnal Forge” is a searing study of the horrific nature of war. The whole “war is bad” theme has been done to death in heavy metal, but through the use of clever language and Joycean puns, Carcass is able to breathe life into a hackneyed lyrical concept. The major motif in the song is the monstrous merger between mechanized and human form. The effect is that the listener has a difficult time distinguishing between the two. This melding of forms stresses the concept of dehumanization in an even more immediate way. When Walker sings of “inexorable mettle in redolent consommé” he is giving the image of a soup made from mettle (courage) but also a soup made from metal (the human form turned into scrap). “Fiscal atrocities” means the destruction of capital, but also is meant to imply physical atrocity (the destruction of the human form). In these puns, we see a world where the lines blur between the animate and inanimate. When this line is obliterated, so are we. Our willingness to see humans as objects makes it possible for us to murder those who share our likeness. It is in the Carnal Forge of war that our human characteristics are lost.
The ultimate irony of this destruction through desensitization is that it is so engrained in some circles that it is not greeted with horror. Instead, it is celebrated. Soldiers who return are feted with parades; those who do not are given dignified, stately memorials. The dead do not care about these things. They do not care about the flags that cover their caskets, they are not interested in the soldiers firing skyward in their honor, and they do not gaze proudly at their names etched into stone walls. They cease to feel anything in the name of country or God or safety or resources or land or whatever-reason-was-given-to-them as they take their final journey into endless night.
There is no honor in death. The dead only know coldness and silence. Yet through a stroke of pure madness, many believe that the great wrongs that have been committed can be righted through ceremony. The louder we shout our love for the soldiers, the easier it is to forget the great waste of life that has been sacrificed in our names. Even the veneration of the dead is an act of objectification that makes future suffering more possible and even more likely.
Remembrance of their anguish does not wipe the slate clean. It is not for them; it is for us. A genuine act of contrition would be to create a world where massacres are entirely unacceptable, no matter who commits them. We do not live in that world. Instead, we live in a world where idle actions and traditions absolve us of our responsibility to stop the madness of war.
(Special thanks to Metal Matt Longo for his brilliant edit of this. Thanks to his fine work this article is being simulcast by the good folks over at MindOverMetal.org. Stop on by. Tell’em Keith sent ya!)
Vladimir: So….you take a watch and you put it in a bag….
Estragon: What type of bag?
Vladimir: It doesn’t matter.
Estragon: Well, what type of watch is it?
Vladimir: Again…not important. You put the watch in a bag. Now, you take a hammer and you smash it.
Vladimir: Just see if you can follow me here. You smash the watch into a hundred pieces….
Estragon: Is it a digital watch or a nice one?
Vladimir: It doesn’t matter….You take the watch and you smash it into….
Estragon: Well, why are you smashing the watch?
Vladimir: Okay, that’s really not important! The important thing is…
Estragon: What kind of lunatic would break a perfectly good watch?
Vladimir: It’s a metaphor. Nobody is really breaking a watch with a hammer. The idea is to prove a point.
Estragon: But how can you prove a point using an example that is completely unrealistic.
Vladimir: I don’t know. It’s not important! Just listen.
Estragon: Well, if it is a digital watch with one of those plastic bands it’s not going to break with a hammer
Vladimir: Fine. It’s a Rolex. A really nice gold Rolex.
Estragon: A Rolex is really expensive. Why would you want to break an expensive watch? And I don’t know if a hammer will break a Rolex into a hundred pieces.
Vladimir: Fine. It is an inexpensive magical watch that magically will break into a hundred pieces. Can I get back to my point?
Vladimir: Okay, so you break the watch. You shake it up in the bag?
Vladimir: Does it re-form into the same watch?
Estragon: Well, of course not!
Estragon: See what? I’m not sure I follow.
Vladimir: Evolution is impossible.
Vladimir: Something has to be there to assemble the watch if it’s going to come back together, right?
Estragon: I guess.
Vladimir: And the watch has been reassembled into a perfect whole, right?
Estragon: That is what you said.
Vladimir: Well, then there has to be a watchmaker who has a plan, right?
Estragon: Uhmmm. Okay. So, who is the watchmaker?
Vladimir: God is the watchmaker! Otherwise the watch would still be in pieces.
Estragon: Wait…so God reassembled the watch?
Vladimir: What do you mean why? He’s God. He doesn’t need a good reason.
Estragon: So, God just goes around putting broken watches together? We’re not sure why. That’s just what he does.
Vladimir: Exactly. He loves us. Maybe he wants us to have a nice watch. Maybe he wants us to be happy. That’s for Him to know.
Estragon: If he wanted us to be happy, why didn’t he just stop us from breaking the watch in the first place?
Vladimir: Free will!
Estragon: So, wait, he loves us so much he is willing to fix the watch, but he won’t stop us from breaking it?
Estragon: That’s not a very efficient system.
Vladimir: Well, He doesn’t have to be efficient. He’s God. He doesn’t have to explain anything.
Estragon: Well, if he’s going to go around smashing watches, I think he owes somebody an explanation. That’s pretty rude. If he smashed my watch I’d be really angry!
Vladimir: Okay…forget the watch. We’ll use another example. Pick something.
Estragon: A piece of ham
Vladimir: So, you put a piece of ham in a bag…
Estragon: Ham….in a bag?
Vladimir: Yes! And you smash it into a million pieces.
Vladimir: It still tastes like ham and smells like ham and looks like ham. RIGHT?!?!?
Estragon: Yes…I think.
Vladimir: So there has to be some kind of ham designer, right?
Estragon: Yes…well….maybe…I guess….
Vladimir: Evolution couldn’t have designed ham.
Estragon: Wait…why not?
Vladimir: Because it is perfect.
Estragon: What is perfect?
Vladimir: Ham! Ham is perfect!
Estragon: Compared to what?
Vladimir: To a universe without ham.
Estragon: How can you tell?
Vladimir: God wouldn’t have created it if it weren’t perfect. Ham is in our universe. Therefore, ham is perfect.
Estragon: Okay, now I’m really confused. If God is perfect and created a world that is the most perfect possible world for us, why does he create people who smash ham and watches in bags?
Vladimir: To test us.
Vladimir: To see how much we love him.
Estragon: Oh…so we show him we love him by not smashing things in bags?
Estragon: I see. So that’s the point of the whole thing!
Vladimir: YES! That’s the point. We have the choice whether to smash ham or watches or even possums in bags. If we choose not to, we do it because we love God. And if we do that we will be rewarded.
Estragon: With a nice watch?
Vladimir: Maybe with a watch. Maybe with eternal happiness. We’re not exactly sure. We just know that the reward is going to be REALLY good.
Estragon: And if we smash things in bags?
Vladimir: Then bad things happen to us. REALLY bad things. Things like sickness or eternal suffering or boils on our face.
Estragon: Boils on our face?!?!?!
Vladimir: It won’t be a problem for you if you just do what you are supposed to.
Estragon: So these are the rules?
Estragon: And if I follow them, I’ll be…………happy???
Vladimir: Unless God has another plan for you. But eventually you’ll be happy. At some point.
Estragon: Will I get a watch?
Vladimir: If that is what you desire and that is God’s plan and you follow the rules then, yes, you will get a watch.
(At this exact moment, a giant meteor hits the earth obliterating smashing it into a million pieces. The entire human race, including Estragon and Vladimir, are destroyed in a firey, horrible instant without warning)
The Year is 2223. Reverend Scott E. Pippen the 29th stands in front of his congregation of 24,000 with his arms raised high in the air. He is a tall man, about 6 feet 8. He is wearing a gown with the number 23 embroidered on the front in gold. He is up on a stage with a golden basketball hoop mounted behind him. A hush falls over the capacity crowd.
“Today, I’d like to talk to you about greatness. Many religions have valued different things over the years. Some of the religions praised self-restraint, while others loved commitment and dedication. These qualities can be very good things, but their followers seemed to miss the bigger point. Trying really hard is not enough. In order to truly be worthy of God’s love you must win!”
“AMEN!!!!” screams a parishioner.
“The people of olden times used to worship martyrs! Do you believe it? They would cast their lot with people who tried really hard….but lost! Those martyrs were great men, but they couldn’t figure out how to triumph over evil. Sure, they would say that some of their martyrs rose from the dead, but many people had trouble believing that part. There wasn’t enough proof. Maybe they were successful, but they weren’t able to pull it off on the big stage! I mean, most messiahs wouldn’t make it in the NBA as a 12th man for the New Jersey Nets. For years, we could only choose between this losing messiah, that losing messiah or sometimes a messiah that hadn’t even shown up yet! Can you believe it people?”
“NO!!!!!” shouted the crowd wildly.
“Thankfully, on February 17th, 1963, that holiest of days, Michael Jordan was born in a barn in Brooklyn, New York. As a child, Jordan was a good player, but certainly not the messiah we know him as today. Everyone by now has heard the story of how he was cut from his High School basketball team. This was the first in a series of setbacks for His Airness, but each time he was given an obstacle, he learned how to climb over it and most importantly HOW…..TO…….WIN!!!!!!”
The crowd bursts into thunderous applause.
“When Georgetown tried to slow him down in the 1982 NCAA Final…HE WON! When the Pistons and Celtics stopped him early in his career he came back and….HE WON!!!! When the Knicks attacked and beat him game after game he rose up and….HE WON!!!!!! When Jordan retired for the third time, after his sixth NBA title everyone thought that was finished. Then, as a 60 year old man, Jordan returned to the NBA and led the Chicago Bulls to four more titles. Age tried to beat him down but…..HE WON!!!!!”
“JUST DO IT!!!!” screams the crowd.
“Those old-fashioned religions used to talk about an afterlife. They were preaching the gospel of weakness. Today, we know that the dead are just quitters! When Jordan turned 100 he proclaimed that he would never die. He went up to his basketball court built on the side of the greatest mountaintop and that is where he is still today. No one has talked to him in years, but he has promised that one day he will not only return to us, but return to the NBA. One day, when you go to your weekend sports temple to show your commitment to God and your home team he will emerge from the tunnel and HE…..WILL……PLAY………….AGAIN!!!!!!!!”
“YES!!!!!” “JUST DO IT!!!!!!” “AMEN!!!!!!”
“Those old fashioned religions told you that God loved everyone. Jordan taught us that they were wrong! The truth is that GOD LOVES A WINNER! You prove your devotion to him not by being beaten down by the opponent but though VICTORY! God has no time for losers. He will not give you a trophy just for competing. He has no time for lesser men. He is not going to hold your hand and tell you it is okay to fail. God values results! The simple truth is that God Hates Losers!!!!”
“PREACH IT!!!!” JUST DO IT!!!!”
“Jordan came to save us all from the pain and humiliation of losing. Whenever there is someone buying a pair of His Sneakers….HE’LL BE THERE! Whenever there is a team the overcomes the evil of losing….HE’LL BE THERE! And when we buy His shoes and praise His name and WHEN WE WIN……….HE’LL………BE……….THERE…..……TOOOOOO!”
The crowd erupts into a screaming, howling frenzy.
“And now I present to you the top ranked choir in the entire world….The beautiful and talented Jordan-Airs!!!!!!”
The choir begins to sing and basketball players in different throwback Jordan uniforms dunk golden basketballs into the hoop above the stage…
“To The Temple of Jordan Our Savior Went One Day,
And We Read That Phil The Baptist Met Him There,
And When Jordan Scored 60 in the Finals Versus Philly
The Mighty Power of God Filled The Air.
I’m On My Way
To The Temple of Jordan
Were Going To Win
At The Temple of Jordan
And Victory Will Cleanse My Soul”
Heartwork, the 1993 release by Carcass, is easily one of the most compelling metal albums ever recorded. First and foremost, it is an explosion of monstorous guitar riffs, frenetic drumming and raging energy. The music is captivating and overwhelming. Heartwork is a remarkably powerful lyrical album that deals intelligently with issues like globalization, dehumanization and existential dread. The music has been widely praised by many music journalists. The lyrics, however, have been given scant attention. Jeff Walker, the band’s singer, bass player and chief lyricist, envisions a world that is entirely devoid of human feeling or empathy. Walker’s adept use of language, particularly double entendre, lays bare the man’s inhumanity in all of its baseness. His world is an empty one, filled only with sorrow, guilt and deep-seated hatred.
The album behaves like a book, each song a chapter examining a set of widely held beliefs and contrasting them with his vision of a world gone completely insane. Over the next few months, I will attempt to analyze the themes and ideas song by song in an attempt to convey the inventiveness of Walker’s lyrics as well as the perspicacity of his message.
Welcome, to a world of hate
A life of buried dreams
Smothered, by the soils of fate
Welcome, to a world of pain
Bitterness your only wealth
The sand of time kicked in your face
Rubbed in your face
When aspirations are squashed
When life’s chances are lost
When all hope is gone
When expectations are quashed
When self-esteem is lost
When ambition is mourned
…All you need is hate
In futility, for self-preservation
We all need someone
Someone to hate
Buried Dreams is a nightmare vision of a world completely unconnected to its humanity. It serves as an overview of the themes that are addressed in each song and is a great starting point because it contains the most unambiguous lines on the record. In Walker’s “world of hate”, humans begin their journey in life filled with hope only to see that hope slowly eroded by the fixed nature of reality. This reality is the death and pain experienced by all humanoid beings. It is immovable, unchangeable and constant. Humans search blindly in the dark for some reason, some deeper meaning that will connect the dots and make the pain they experience intelligible. We fill ourselves with illusions in order to soften the blow of this horrible truth. As the truth becomes more real, we grasp harder at the illusion but ones commitment to an illusion will never make that deception a reality. We slowly come to terms with the understanding that there is no connection, there is no one tending the fire and the center simply does not hold. Once this veneer of meaning has been stripped away there is nothing left to hold onto but pure visceral hatred.
By experiencing hatred for something, we are given the ability to overcome our basic alienation from ourselves all the while connecting to the other beings around us. Love would be another way to connect, but the drawback of love is that it is fleeting. Its initial joy is snuffed out by the understanding that our basic existential problem, death, will cause love to one day give way to sorrow and despair. If you connect with hatred you never have to feel loss because the eventual vanquishing of your foe will be greeted with a feeling of joy and accomplishment. No one mourns the death of their enemy.
On the surface, the lyrics could be read as a simplistic explanation of the rise of fascism in Europe in the 30s and 40s. A society like Germany, which was drowning in debt and filled with impoverished humans recovering from the insanity of years of mindless trench warfare, was ready for the message of hate that Hitler brought. I believe the song is meant to have much more of a timeless message with broader overtones about the human condition. The line that universalizes this song is “in futility, for self-preservation, we all need someone…someone to hate.” This is a Hobbesian view of a world of beings so frightened of death that they are willing to do anything to avoid it, even if they know that their actions are eventually pointless. We are willing to create a Leviathan that may kill us for our disobedience in order to be safe. The wall each of us run into is death and we are willing to embrace any idea that allows us to fully avoid thinking about our eventual consequence. We are willing to embrace ideas that are self-destructive in order to escape the fear of death. If this isn’t true, then how do you explain war? This horrible irony of our basic condition is that we long to avoid death, but we do so in a way that often hastens its coming.
And so our dreams are buried as we are carried kicking and screaming to our own certain demise. We mask our fears with delusions of enemies all around us. We think that we can stop the inevitable if we bomb that thing or execute this thing but with our last dying breath we are reminded of the futility of all of it. Even hate cannot save us. The final, horrible irony of our Buried Dreams is that we will eventually be buried next to them.
(I am pretty darned excited to announce that this series will also be running at MindOverMetal.org, one of my favorite metal sites. Special thanks to my homeboy Metal Matt Longo who not only agreed to run the thing, but even gave me a fantastic title for the series and some killer editing ideas. Anyway those dudes speak truth and wisdom over there, check’em out)