Friday, June 15, 2007

Armor & Sword

Track 2: Armor & Sword

The snakes and arrows a child is heir to
Are enough to leave a thousand cuts
We build our defenses, a place of safety
And leave the darker places unexplored

Sometimes the fortress is too strong
Or the love is too weak
What should have been our armor
Becomes a sharp and angry sword

Our better natures seek elevation
A refuge for the coming night
No one gets to their heaven without a fight

We hold beliefs as a consolation
A way to take us out of ourselves
Meditation, or medication
A comfort, or a promised reward

Sometimes that spirit is too strong
Or the flesh is too weak
Sometimes the need is just too great
For the solace we seek
The suit of shining armor
Becomes a keen and bloody sword

A refuge for the coming night
A future of eternal light
No one gets to their heaven without a fight

Confused alarms of struggle and flight
Blood is drained of color
By the flashes of artillery light
No one gets to their heaven without a fight
The battle flags are flown
At the feet of a god unknown
No one gets to their heaven without a fight

Sometimes the damage is too great
Or the will is too weak
What should have been our armor
Becomes a sharp and burning sword

I really like the lyrics to this song because they have so many subtleties and possible interpretations. The second half of the first stanza – “We build our defenses, a place of safety, and leave the darker places unexplored” – is such an apt description of how so many people live their religious lives. For them, religion and spirituality is not so much about personal growth and self-actualization as it is about comfort zones and shelters against fear. This is the hallmark, in my opinion, of evangelical Christianity. Take up the cross against the fearful world, and then bury yourself under it, poking your head out now and then to scream at the passers-by to join you in your fallout shelter.

As the song tells us, the natural result of this kind of Fortress Faith is violent struggle to maintain the wobbly walls. “Confused alarms of struggle and flight, blood is drained of color by the flashes of artillery light.” Too entrenched in our beliefs to step away, we fly our battle flags at the feet of our chosen God, and go to spiritual, and physical, war with the enemy who threatens our stability. Our Fortress Faith – our armor – becomes a sharp and burning sword, used to cut down those who stand against us.

This, I believe, is the darker meaning of that repeated phrase, “No one gets to their heaven without a fight.”

I believe, however, that a different interpretation can be taken from that phrase. Whether Neil meant it as a double-entendre or not remains to be seen, but I can find a spark of hope in those words. The lyrics say, “Our better natures seek elevation, a refuge for the coming night. No one gets to their heaven without a fight.” We long for spiritual connections, whether they come through concepts of “God as supernatural benefactor” or “God as source of being” or “Universe as Mother/Father.” We seek comfort from the prospect of a cold, indifferent universe, of eternal annihilation upon the extinction of our consciousness. We hope for something more, something different, something better. In that sense, we struggle to find our heaven, to find our source of peace and love.

So when I listen to this song, and contemplate these lyrics, I see two sides of the same coin. Heads is the spiritual seeker, searching spiritual elevation and self-actualization through understanding and communing with God - whatever their definition of God may be. Tails is the comfort seeker, searching for refuge and shelter from a sin-stained world, burrowing under the cross, the crescent moon, or the six-pointed star, and coming out from time to time to fight off those who threaten their comfort zone.

As for me, I call heads.

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