It was just too big to post it all at once, and I need a time buffer to finish it.
Enjoy, and please give me some feedback!
It seems to me that the capital “P” Problem plaguing humanity is, at its most fundamentally basic level, a lack of empathy. And as with most of our flaws as human beings, this functional error is given a megaphone and license to breed on social media.
A person of the Christian persuasion posts something on Facebook, attempting to persuade people to “like” or “share” this picture of Jesus if they are not “ashamed of the gospel”. This, at the same time, seems to imply that everyone who doesn’t IS ashamed. Some go so far as to smear talk of hell and condemnation across the note without context or kindness, as if hoping someone who is “God-free” will see that their ultimate fate is apparently an eternal lava-death and turn their life around.
An atheist reads this and responds in kind, posting say, a picture of a rotting zombie Christ with a comedic oversimplified mockery of the Christian faith, equally as misguided and vitriolic.
Both of these individuals have missed the point (many points, actually), and have damaged the reputation of their “side” of the argument. The Christian, while possibly possessing what they seem to think are pure intentions, ends up reducing the act of the death and resurrection of Jesus - the very heartbeat center of the Christian faith - to a trite witticism designed to placate and uplift those they agree with while simultaneously condemning those they don’t. The atheist, on the other hand, attacks the Christian (and thus every Christian), for belittling those who choose not to believe in a God. This response comes across as petty and condescending, and it lowers this probably intelligent and logically minded person to the level of the zealot he or she is attempting to mock.
These sorts of things become an unending public battle, with each side growing exponentially more immature and unendurable. Both believe the other to be some sort of idiotic bigot that needs to be silenced. Neither has taken the time to hear the other out on a personal and conversational basis. It’s all internet screaming by imbecilic children who want to be right. The entire argument is devoid of empathy and becomes a noisy and obnoxious affair.
Meanwhile, I present to you the onlookers of each respective philosophy. One is a man who has read all of the science texts and filled his mind with knowledge gleaned from countless hours of research into the natural world and the evidence - for and against - the existence of a God. He has come to the conclusion that there is no God, and that everything in the universe is part of a great natural order and progression, brought about by chance. However, in order to stay well informed, this man researches the great thinkers who oppose that idea. He reads the Christian apologists. He debates his friends of faith often and amiably. He is always willing to teach and challenge those who disagree with him, and to learn from them.
The other is a man who has read all of the science texts and filled his mind with knowledge gleaned from countless hours of research into the natural world and the evidence - for and against - the existence of a God. He has come to the conclusion, through his research, and perhaps his own experiences with what he considers to be the Divine, that there IS a God. However, in order to stay well informed he reads the works of the great thinkers that oppose that idea. He learns to defend his faith with humility and love, and is always willing to debate his non-believing friends. He desires to be challenged and learn from these discussions, and if at all possible, to teach a little of what he believes as well.
The uniting factor in both of these individuals is that in all of their level-headed empathizing and discussing, neither of them have time to post judgmental, condescending bullshit on Facebook.
So please, if you want to share your faith on Facebook, do so. But don’t reduce such a complex philosophy to a picture, an out of context Bible verse, and a condemnation of people who are different.
And if those sorts of posts annoy you as an atheist, seek that person out and talk to them about how you feel. Posting a condescending, petty, and juvenile attack that seems to reduce every person of faith to blind misguided imbeciles does nothing but create an echo chamber of idiocy.
Remember, there are most likely atheists and Christians watching these exchanges and shaking their heads, wishing for a healthy discussion. None of them are posting propaganda and mean spirited diatribes, so why should they be made subject to that sort of things every time they log on? You aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem. So stop it, man. It bugs me.
And if I’ve ever done this, or ever do this, call me on it. I don’t want to be one of those buttholes.
“It’s easy to forget! Stupid, forgetful Michael.”
The constant playing of “Sounds of Silence” over GOB’s depressing existential crises.
“Daddy needs to get his rocks off!”
“I’m here! I’m queer! Now I’m over here!”
There’s not too much immediately memorable beyond that. We shall see.
Fish, having been thusly rebuked by Labrador Retriever and Aubergine, re-examines himself in the light of this knowledge. He is a weed growing in gravel, separated from others due to his self-importance that has been disguised as humility and wisdom [Sorrel in the gravel]. He describes himself as wearing a saffron colored robe [and the saffron robe]. Saffron robes are forbidden articles of clothing in Islamic tradition, and thus the wearing of one symbolizes a certain distance and separation from God. It is a realization that will spur Fish to action. He bemoans the fact that he has slept far too long like a shark among the sea grass growing in the shallows [sleeping like a shark in the cord grass]. He sees now that he has become a practitioner of solipsism [until I saw how far I’ve traveled down the solipsistic road]. Solipsism is the direct antithesis to the themes of self-denial, self-sacrifice, and community presented on Ten Stories, which we have already discussed at length. It is the belief that only the self-mind is sure to exist and that everything else is nebulous and illusory, and even possibly false. This flies directly in the face of Tiger’s realization that the one way to really be sure he exists and is alive is through the forgetting of self and the embracing of connections with others. Furthermore it contradicts Mother Elephant’s words about thoughts themselves being mere objects, no more sure to exist than the physical world.
The first line of the song sets the scene. The gallows stands tall over the platform where the accused shall plead her case, surrounded by instruments of imprisonment, like stocks and pillories [Pillory and stocks at the gallows tree dock]. A crowd has gathered and awaits this “trial” impatiently as a storm approaches [the crowd grew impatient, as the clouds threatened rain]. Mother Elephant is led in by the police constable with her trunk and ankles firmly chained [Elephant arrive at the constable’s side, with her trunk locked in shackles and her ankles in chains]. Let us pause now to examine this trial about to take place, and what makes it a complete sham. In any normal circumstance, a trial would be held in a courtroom in order to determine whether or not the accused is guilty. Mother Elephant, despite being innocent of any crime, is already at the gallows when they put her on “trial”. There is no possibility they will acquit her in this case. The trial is all a show, as the song will soon indicate.
The Bailiff announces the arrival of the judge, who arrives to a fanfare of trumpets [Bailiff: “All rise, All rise! His honor presides!” The judge took the bench to the village brass cavalcade.] This fanfare solidifies the image of this whole trial as merely a show to satiate the bloodlust of the villagers, who have worked themselves into a frenzy with their rumor-mongering about the train crash that we witnessed in “Grist for the Malady Mill”. In fact, the word usage here almost brings to mind a certain carnival atmosphere to the proceedings, as if there is a circus in town and the center attractions is the hanging death of a criminal elephant. One can almost imagine children eating cotton candy and tossing darts at balloons while the townspeople string up God Himself. Elephant calls them on it pretty quickly, and refuses to swear any oath they offer her [Elephant refused to swear the oath].
This reinforces the idea that Tiger has finally come around to an understanding: community is the answer to his loneliness and hopelessness. Other beings with which to relate can reignite his desire to live again, freedom or no. He and Peacock have both been denied their very self-worth, held captive in a world of fraud and made to perform to sell tickets. They earlier made the decision to choose self, in one way or another, over freedom. Now, self is being stripped of them to the point that Peacock, once vain and proud, has begun to spout the same nonsense that Tiger did while in his cage amongst the wreckage of the train. Tiger, on the other had, has used this denial of worth to finally understand what it means to deny his own selfish hopelessness and connect with another creature aside from himself. He has begun to sound suspiciously like Mother Elephant.
In the book of Proverbs, chapter 22, the paths of the wicked are described as being beset by boxthorn vines that cause “snares and pitfalls”. This mistake of a relationship has soured, grown as old as a tree that can live thousands of years, and it has became a snare and a pitfall for Rabbit that he cannot bring himself to escape from [Then hidden in the boxthorn vine, we grew old as the foxtail pine]. For the Fortune Teller, who longs to roam, the relationship has made her feel like a caged sheep and has, from her point of view, become as unnecessary as gilding gold with more gold [sheep in the fold, gilding our gold]. Rabbit, as we will soon realize, is under the delusion that this sour love is still nourishing and fruitful for them both, but the Fortune Teller is already planning to move on. They are both in the same relationship, experiencing the same things, but with two vastly different perspectives on the whole situation. It is as if they are drinking from the same cup, but one tastes milk while the other tastes water [sipping our milk and water lives].
I want it to be about the ministry and death of Jesus. I want the style of the setting and the costumes and the characters to be bright and vibrant and detailed. Something Baz Luhrmann might direct.
And into this world steps a Jewish carpenter, completely contrasting the setting by being so dull and nondescript. He should be a real human being, something close to how Willem Dafoe played him in The Last Temptation of Christ, but with less crippling doubt and more unendurable and focused love.
This, I think, would be a good movie.
But everyone films Bible stories in Death Valley and casts long haired twenty-six year old actors to portray a Jesus-bot. Sigh.
As the news reaches new ears, the devastation of the wreck seems to be seen quite differently than it was when the animals thought of it as a means to freedom. Here the humans are shocked by the violence. “The track itself was torn apart at the seams [railspikes ripped like the seam of a wineskin]!” they cry. “The authorities really screwed up by letting this happen! Isn’t it heartbreaking how much pain this has caused [Brass Hat slept at the helm of that woeful train… Ain’t it an awful shame! And don’t it just break your heart to hear of so much pain?]? Notice that with a different perspective - a very circus-like and institutionalized perspective - the freedom of the train crash instead looks only like the destruction of the “proper” way of doing things.
If one has been told all his life that Freedom looks a certain way, or that Freedom is something to be afraid of and shunned, it will look like chaos and woe when Freedom actually appears in the headlines of his local newspaper.
The final count of pages written for this song in my word document is six. Yikes.
“The song now switches gears, focusing on the animals escaping the wreckage. The narrator, who seems here almost to be adopting the voice or thoughts of Elephant urges Rabbit to race on into the blizzard before dawn, and to keep running until his heart finds peace somewhere [Run on, Rabbit, run! Before the East sky wakes the sun! Sails set to the dreadful cold, until your anchor-heart takes hold]. Notice that here the emphasis is on setting sail to the wind, which is a freely wandering natural force. This can be immediately compared to the rigid railway of predetermined destination and societal expectation.
A train speeding down the tracks is easily derailed when an Elephant decides to alter its course. The wind, however, can never be tamed.
So, that’s all for now. I will continue the journey tomorrow!
…and I just got to the part where Elephant derails the train. So, you know, not even halfway through the first song. This is going to be a lengthy one, folks.
I am currently beginning work with a friend of mine on a followup to my infamous “Ten Stories” glossary. This time I seek to discuss the plot, themes, literary references, and philosophical implications of the album. This will be more difficult than just googling words I don’t understand like last year. Is this something you mwY fans would be interested in? Keep in mind that I, along with my writing partner, are both layman and may well be way off base with many of our assumptions, though we will do our best.