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Flickering Lights

September 26, 2009

Last night I watched the movie of Rent for the first time.  I was sitting at a weird angle to the screen, so during the title song all I could see were balls of fire streaking through the air and spreading all over the street.  I loved it, the wickedly gleeful nihilism of it all.  It reminded me of a lot of the songs I listen to.

I can think of several off the top of my head that deal with blazing skylines and people at the end of their ropes.  I understood the destruction, but until now I didn’t see the joy behind it as well.  That’s not to say I’m about to go out and start fires.  Still it’s cathartic to watch something burn, knowing that it’s gone forever.  Why would people burn old photographs, if not because they couldn’t stand to look at them anymore?  Why climb on a car to watch the flames?  It’s wonderful to know you can start over and rebuild things to be the way you always wished they were.

Sometimes it feels like the world is old and creaky.  The same thing happened in ancient Rome.  They got lazy and content, letting things go until they fell apart.  Legend says that Nero wandered the palace playing his fiddle as the flames roared outside.  Not the best tactic.

I see songs about destruction and chaos as constructive criticism.  It’s as if they’re saying, just try something different.  Admit that some things are a mess and move on.  True, the thing that works best might be the one you don’t want to try.  But there comes a point when you have to take the chance.  It’s no fun to keep dragging a ton of baggage along behind you.  Get rid of it, once and for all.

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