Song Reflections: System of a Down “Deer Dance”

This is a sobering song.  I listen and be humbled, and in that humbling feeling I find a sense of relief. Being proud and arrogant takes a lot of energy to keep up the pretense.  There is a relief in admitting that we fall short.  We make mistakes, we fail, we disgrace ourselves.

Here is a very angry and political song, but at the core of it, it makes us face our weakness, our tendency to try and get away with taking advantage of other people.  When you know they can’t fight back, you know you won’t get caught.

I’m a Japanese living in US, two countries that have history of invading other countries, appropriating what they have and shoving its own culture down other communities’ throat.  But on a more micro-scale, I’m a father.  And as much as I love my children, I often feel the temptation to get away with things I wouldn’t dare pull off in front of other adults.  If I was a true man of integrity, I’d uphold the principles and values I intend to impart on my children — but when it’s inconvenient or when I am feeling frustrated then I may give in and pull something on my own kids.  Something I wouldn’t do if I really thought I could get caught.

Which relates to the idea of bullying.  Bullying may be an evil act but that doesn’t necessarily make bullies evil people.  They are carrying their angst and frustrations and are without resources to fight off the temptations of the situations where they won’t get caught or hurt. You could even argue that an entire country or government may be the same — certain groups of people within may be in a situation where they can’t and won’t fight off the temptation.   It does not excuse or justify their actions, but it helps us realize something important.

Some acts have more dire consequences than others, but even if our transgressions are of forgivable sort — we need to own up to the fact that we fall prey to these temptations.  We need to become aware, repent, ask for forgiveness, and seek to improve.  I believe that these growth won’t occur while we’re spending our energy keeping up the pretense of being high and lofty.

So I listen to songs like Deer Dance, and wonder if or when I have “pushed the weak around” myself.  And be humbled.

Song Reflections: Jerry Cantrell “Psychotic Break”

This is a heavy song, in just about all aspects.  It’s not a song I can listen to casually, because it’s so intense.  But sometimes we do feel that intense, the weight of our situation, our interpretation, our gifts.

I feel the fear take on
Reside in darkness, thrive where most won’t go
Adrift, I curse my gift
And hope you never know

Taking it gracefully is my modus operandi in stressful situations.  Stay calm, don’t act from emotions.  But that means sucking in the strong emotions that exist, not letting them show.  So I really relate to this song, when I feel like I’m given something, and I’m trying to hold it in, hide it from the view, because I don’t want you to know what I have.  It’s a secret I really don’t want anybody to know.  That’s how I maintain peace, at least outwardly.  Be the calm in a storm.

Of course, you can’t go on forever like that, you need an outlet.  That’s where these heavy songs come in for the rescue.  Difficult situations are like gifts you didn’t want (even though a lot of times they end up being what we needed, in a character-building sort of way).  One more secret to add to my pile, the ones I need to make sure you don’t know.

So I listen to Jerry curse his gift and struggle to hide it, and I find comfort in knowing that I’m not alone, that a song was given to me to let me know that I don’t have to keep on carrying these secrets.  These songs provide me places to go, to unload the burden.

Song Reflections: Dishwalla “Counting Blue Cars”

I have a soft spot for songs about God and meaning of life.  This song paints a picture of that moment in life where you stop and go “why am I here? What am I doing?”  And while our religious traditions try to give us answers, a simple twist such as calling a traditionally masculine God “her” gives the song a fresh feel.  A pure, unadulterated child-like point of view, who still hasn’t learned that we’re not really supposed to put God and “she” in the same sentence, allows us to ask honest and pure questions like “what’s out there?  What’s the point of life?”

We all would like to feel secure in our knowledge that our existence is justified.  Ideally that comes from being a child raised in abundant, unconditional love of parents, but —  for most of us, we have issues that prevent us from being comfortable with that notion.  We know what we’d like to believe, but we have doubts, reasons to believe why it may not be true.  So we keep looking out, keep looking for something beyond ourselves, something bigger and greater, to come down and validate that yes, it’s good that we exist.  It’s good that you exist, here and now.

But since we’re uncertain, we keep looking, we keep asking — and this song is about those moments of uncertainty.  It’s a feeling quite familiar to me, so when I come across a song who seems to share that sentiment, I feel very grateful.  It’s such a gift.

Song Reflections: Vertical Horizon “Everything You Want”

This seems like a poppy, romantic song on surface, but underneath, it’s about something more sinister.  A desire to manipulate the world, to have it give you something exactly the way you want.  And while we all have such desire from time to time, there is tension and stress involved in being attached to particulars about your desire.

The thing is, even if it were to really materialize — you get exactly what you asked for — there still is no guarantee that its results work for you.  And the let down you would feel, after all the efforts to realize your precise requirements — it can be intense and profound.

There are two factors are play here.  The results you want, and reality that may produce them.  You push all the buttons and make all the right moves to make that reality, but does it really produce the results?  How do you know?  How can anyone?

I know I get attached to fantasies like that.  It’s a form of arrogance, to think that I know exactly what I want and what will give me that.  I need to realize that it’s a folly, a desperation, even, to develop and get attached to certain details and specifics.  A far better, if more vulnerable, approach is to keep my eyes on the results, but be open to what may give me those results, and have an honest look at my reality with flexibility and trust.

So this is a song that helps me realize that.  It’s not exactly a happy song, but it makes me feel melancholic and bittersweet.  It reminds me of what I need to let go.