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the antidote to poison (or semi-philosophical ramblings on the psychology of song lyrics)

recently i was introduced to a song by born ruffians called “this sentence will ruin/save your life.”

it is an odd song.

but i was told to expect that. so i won’t criticize the vocals or the often unintelligible diction/singing. if it were a case of someone who really should just not be a musician, that would be one consideration. but in this case, the delivery made the song more compelling than it might have been otherwise.

so here’s how it starts out:

i need to know who i am
and what i’m going to do while i’m on earth
i need to understand
everything and everybody’s lives

you can identify with that, yeah? that’s what everyone wants to know, deep down at the earthy nub of the soul. who am i? what am i doing? why am i here? those are basic philosophic questions most people start asking by the time they’re on the brink of adulthood. the precocious start wondering earlier; the stolid wake up in their 40s and wonder how they got there, which, i think, is a contributing factor to many a mid-life crisis.

while we’re on the subject of understanding/identity confusion, this reminds me of the song “iris,” by the goo goo dolls. i saw the music video once when i was 11 or so, and the chorus was so striking i remembered it until i was 16, when it actually occurred to me i could look up the lyrics to see what the song was called.

and i don’t want the world to see me
’cause i don’t think that they’d understand
that when everything’s made to be broken
i just want you to know who i am

looking at it now, the music video’s kind of angry adolescent 30-something ’90s punk rock, but the lyrics are striking as ever.

i need to know who i am.

i just want you to know who i am.

two eternal, universal yearnings.

anyway, the fella from born ruffians goes on to list, in a breakneck speed frantic stream-of-consciousness sort of way, tasks he needs to accomplish, the development of his philosophy (maybe what some people would call ‘world view’), the fact he’s hungry and what he’d like to eat (a blt and some juice — no, coffee), the fact that he’s lonely of soul and anxious of body (and would like a girlfriend or something to take care of those issues — he says it very bluntly, so watch yourself if you look the song up), and then various areas in which he needs success (i.e. wealth, women, clothes, a car) in order to get on in life.

so, in essence, he doesn’t know who he is, but he wants to know what he’s supposed to be doing, anyway, and he does know he’s lonely. and, i’m guessing, kind of empty.

which brings me to another song, and the explanation for what i’ve titled this post.

anberlin has a beautiful song called “the unwinding cable car.” the lyrics have really spoken to me the last couple of years as i’ve watched brilliant, wonderful people (“shining people,” i called them once) struggle with some ugly, miserable things. that’s the reality of life, though — apart from Jesus and His saving grace we’re all stuck on repeat when it comes to the corrosiveness of sin.

emotive, unstable, you’re like an unwinding cable car
listening for voices, but it’s the choices that make us who we are
go your own way, even seasons have changed, just burn those new leaves over
so self-absorbed you’ve seemed to ignore the prayers that have already come about

this is the correlation of salvation and love
don’t drop your arms, i’ll guard your heart
with quiet words i’ll lead you in

backing away from the problem of pain you never had a home
you’ve been misguided, you’re hiding in shadows for so very long
don’t you believe that you’ve been deceived that you’re no better than…
the hair in your eyes, it never disguised what you’re really thinking of

this is the correlation of salvation and love
don’t drop your arms, i’ll guard your heart
with quiet words i’ll lead you in


you’re so brilliant, don’t soon forget
you’re so brilliant, grace marked your heart
you’re so brilliant, don’t soon forget
you’re so brilliant, grace marked your heart

this is the correlation
between salvation and love
don’t drop your arms, i’ll guard your heart
with quiet words i’ll lead you in and out of the dark

gah, it gives me chills.

imagine, though, that you’re the guy from born ruffians, or the guy from goo goo dolls, and you’re singing your confused, angry, lonely, broken, scared and stubborn little heart out at the top of your lungs because if you can hear your own voice you think that proves you’re alive, at least.

and then imagine God is standing a little way off, singing the anberlin song to you, and with each stanza He sings He comes nearer and nearer to you, ’til you’re standing face to face, and He’s staring right in your eyes with more love than you ever dreamed was possible.

i’ve oft heard blaise pascal quoted as saying “there is a God-shaped vacuum that exists in the heart of every man.” i found out that what he actually said was this, but this statement is even more apt:

what else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? this he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God Himself.
[pascal, p
ensees #425]

everyone has that raw, gaping hole in their metaphorical chest; that’s just the reality of what sin does to us. we try to plug it up with stuff (kind of like all those tires and golf balls they tried to plug into the bp oil pipe down in the gulf) to make ourselves complete so it’ll heal over, but nothing is ever quite enough to fill it up. and then things fall out, since there’s nothing really to hold them in, and we end up emptier than ever.

but God, when we get over our pride and invite Him into the hell of that festering hole, fills it up completely, so that there’s not even a little chink or air pocket for anything else to get in or anything to fall out. and the wound starts healing.

being a girl with a healthy dose of natural curiosity, i’d like to think the songs people love or recommend to others reveal something about the state of their inner person. right now i’m wondering what’s going on inside you.

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