Saturday, June 4, 2011

Seeds of Gold

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Neal Morse
Album: Testimony 2 (Bonus Disc)
I know I won't be able to do this song justice in this post, and I apologize for that right away. I'm not even going to try to describe how incredible the instruments are in this song, especially the guitar solo performed by Steve Morse towards the end. What I hope to do is somehow capture the meaning this song has for me.
Like many of Neal's epic songs that I love, this song depicts a journey. It begins in "the fields of gray and far from home." The fields of gray can represent so many things. For me, it represents any place that is away from God, or any activity or lifestyle that doesn't include Him. Neal describes it as a danger zone, but encourages us to "Look away to a place where this war is worlds away." I imagine that place as heaven, where God is. Neal continues, "Where it's all about you, and it's not about me. In a place where you'll always want to stay." A little later, he exclaims, "There's a place for me in the city of light, if I'm found there." If I want to go to the city of light, to God's presence, there is a place for me. I need only decide to go there.
But then we hit part of the song where I often find myself; I try to make it on my own and find fulfillment in things that can't last. Neal describes this fruitless chase with the following words: "It's all just a show," "Grind down the wheel 'til you can't feel it no more," "Run 'til you drop." But at the conclusion of all this, a voice still calls to us, "I'll still love you more." No matter how much I try to find something fulfulling in this world, God still loves me more than anything else can.
The next part of the journey is this sudden realization that the things the world has to offer are empty. "This is the day all your life you've looked forward to...but now that it's here, it's the great disappointment." When we realize that the world has nothing of substance to offer, we may find ourselves feeling destitute. I know I have experienced that. But again comes the voice from the distance that calls to me, inviting me. "There's a homecoming beyond the danger zone, where you never feel alone and tomorrow feels like home! Yes, there's a homecoming when you'll admit you're wrong, when you're tired and you've lived too long. Come on home, where you belong."
Those lines are so beautifully sung! As soon as I admit that I am wrong and turn back to the true Source of life, I immediately find a homecoming. I love the line "when you're tired and you've lived too long." I've certainly felt that way before. But it doesn't mean that I have been on the earth too long. To me, it really means that I've lived away from God too long. That is why I need to come home.
And thus concludes the journey! Perhaps we are still in the fields of gray, but through the redemption of the Savior, we are able to sow the seeds of gold. My chains break free, and the seeds of gold transform my world, until I truly can "look away to a place where [I] know [I'll] be ok." Suddenly, I'm not tired of living. "I have my whole life in front of me." This song is a reminder for me to seek satisfaction and fulfillment from that which is everlasting. I honestly cannot write my feelings adequately about what this song means to me, but hopefully you can follow me to a small degree along the journey where this song takes me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dreams We Conceive

Genre: Rock
Artist: Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Album: Night Castle

I did a song from this album only two songs ago (although that was nearly a year ago now). There are other songs from this album I would love to do as well. This song isn't so much the lyrics that touch me as it is the emotion behind them. But I will still try to do it justice.

In this song, a soldier is telling his captor about how he met his wife, how they spent only one night together before he was deployed, and how he got a call two months later telling him he was going to be a father. He had dreams of spending time with his child. He would play catch. He would tell stories. He would be a happy family man. But now, as he lies sick inside his captor's tent, he realizes with anguish that none of these dreams will come true.

His dreams were beautiful! The stars would star at them in wonder. But the night faded away, along with all of his dreams. The man "never believed that the dreams we conceive would ever not ever come true!" He feels left behind and forgotten. He describes a train driving in the night and everybody is on it except him. He wonders, will that train return for a single life--for him? Does he matter enough that the train will return for him, or will he and his dreams be forgotten?

Like the man in this song, I too have dreams. They are beautiful dreams. They are dreams to treasure and love. But I have recently come to the sad realization that many of the dreams I have conceived will never come true. Some dreams will come true, and those are the dreams that really matter. But other dreams will have to be sacrificed for things that are more important to them.

In the live action Peter Pan movie that was released in 2003, Mrs. Darling tells her children that their father is a very brave man. She explains that he has a drawer in which he keeps his dreams. Sometimes he opens the drawer and admires the beautiful dreams. But he always closes the drawer again. She explains that each time the drawer is harder and harder to close, but still he does it. And that makes him a brave person. As much as I want to live my dreams, I have already committed to be like Mr. Darling. Although it is hard, I will always close that drawer and keep my priorities in order.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Set the Kingdom

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Neal Morse
Album: Lifeline [Bonus Disc]

I love this song because it causes the listener to evaluate what matters the most. The first words of the song immediately call for reflection: "What have I set before me?" What a profound question! "Are my eyes on the desert or are they up where all things arise?" "We become what we're beholding. What's the food our souls find to feed?" What am I putting into my life? What is my focus? What is my goal? Sometimes I lose track of what really matters. But this song reminds me of what I need to do.

"Set the Kingdom before your eyes!" I need to place the Gospel before me and make it my top priority. Everything else shifts and changes, but the Gospel remains firm. Ever since I was a little boy I loved the Gospel more than anything else. At twelve, I received a blessing where I was told that I had already dedicated my life to the Savior. As I look at myself now, I feel that I have lost track of that. I sometimes seem to be living from one day to the next, with no real goal in mind. I need to look above everything else and see through eternity's perspective again. I need to see that there is so much more than what is before me.

I am grateful for times of reflection and self-evaluation. I am grateful for the Atonement, which lets me repent and improve. If I ever seem to lose track of where I am going, I need to ask myself, "What have I set before me?" If it is not God's Kingdom, then I need to make changes in my life. I must set the Kingdom before my eyes, and trust the promise in the scriptures that everything else will be added to me.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

There Was a Life

Genre: Rock
Artist: Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Album: Night Castle

This song has become an instant favorite. It is a song full of reflection, searching for the meaning of life. As the man looks back on a life of mistakes and failures, he wonders if redemption is possible. As the man is overwhelmed with his failure and sins, he stands at the edge of a cliff and debates committing suicide. He asks himself, "Are you scared of your life? Are you scared of your death?" He decides, "There are reasons to live, there are reasons to die." But the anguish and indecision rage inside him. I love the feeling behind the voice and the lyrics during this crucial moment. He wonders if the mistakes of his life must always remain the way they are, or if they can be made right. So much of what he has done cannot be repaired. "And in this darkness is there salvation? Is there forgiveness?"

Like the person in this song, I have faced such crucial moments where I could not see from a more eternal perspective, where I have also cried out, "Can someone say when the Writer of this story will just tell us how it will end?" The singer compares his life to a drop of water in a wave. He realizes that the wave cradles each drop, and each one is missed. Sometimes I have felt lost, or forgotten. But God cradles me along with everyone else, and if I stray I too am missed.
There is so much hope for tomorrow! Each evening when we sleep, we have a chance to wake up a new person. It is God's way of erasing our sorrows. "There are parts of yourself the soul decides to keep, and parts of yourself that the soul does release." Each day is an opportunity for redemption, an opportunity to repent and be a better person. There is never a time that is appropriate to give up. "The end's not the end while you're still alive."

The emotion and message of this song are incredible! I have listened to it so many times during this week (I just heard it for the first time on Tuesday). I can relate to the person in the song. I love the hope it offers! I wish I could do it justice on this blog, but I cannot. All I can say is that its beauty astounds me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Whirlwind

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Transatlantic
Album: The Whirlwind

Wait. Am I reviewing an album, or a song? The answer is BOTH! The Whirlwind is a nearly 78-minute long epic! It is divided into twelve individually named parts (tracks), but it is meant to be listened to as one great song. After a long seven years, the musical genius of Neal Morse, Mike Portnoy, Roine Stolt, and Pete Trewavas come together to produce another brilliant masterpiece!

The Whirlwind can be interpreted on so many levels, but the heart of the message is that the whirlwind represents life's trials. We might think everything is going great, but suddenly life's storms come upon us and beat us down. We might think we are happy and successful, only to be torn down. Although the storm may seem merciless, there is a power at the center of it that is actually quite calm. In the eye of the storm lies the Savior. If you trust in Him, rather than being tossed by the storm, you will see how it can bring you closer to Him. You can dance with eternal glory, rather than be drowned by life's sorrows.

The CD is masterfully put together, with each of the four artists contributing so much material to make it perfect. One of my personal favorite parts is the segment titled Rose-Colored Glasses, which Neal wrote about his dad, who died earlier this year. In this segment, he talks about how there are times of suffering, but these times will pass and we will be reunited with those we love. He says that his faith is more than just rose-colored glasses; he trusts in something he believes to be real. It is by trusting that Source of faith, hope, and power that we can overcome life's trials.

I cannot even begin to describe the musical genius of the album. A blog post would be insufficient. There are several themes that connect the parts into one great whole--themes that represent the actual whirlwind, the calmness of the eye of the storm, the presence of the Savior, etc. And these are only the themes. There are also the amazing solos, the powerful harmony of the instruments coming together, and the subtle movements that lead from one part to the next. Then there are the vocals! Everybody sings and the parts they sing fit perfectly! All in all, this is a masterpiece never to be forgotten! Thank you, Transatlantic! I hope there is more in the future!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I Will Go Sailing No More

Genre: Disney
Artist: Randy Newman
Album: Toy Story

Poor Buzz Lightyear... A lot of the comedy in the movie revolves around Buzz's vision of who he is. He sees himself as a hero with a special mission to save the universe. Woody screams at him, yelling the truth into his face, but Buzz is not deterred. It is not until he sees a commercial, reality slapping him harshly across the face, that he begins to realize that his ambitions are nothing. Still unable to face reality, he jumps from the top of the stairs to prove he can fly, only to find himself crashing to the floor. His broken arm is but a symbol of his broken heart and broken dreams, as he consigns himself to a life he views as meaningless.

I also have high ambitions for my life. With my dreams, I almost feel like I can fly, until my dreams are shot down. Sometimes people don't believe in me. Other times people let me down. Oftentimes, like Buzz, I feel that I have a "dream that ended too soon." When reality slaps me across the face, I think to myself that "I will go sailing no more. All the things I thought I'd be, all the brave things I'd done, vanished like a snowflake with the rising of the sun. Never more to sail my ship where no man has gone before...and I will go sailing no more."

But even though my dreams are sometimes crushed and I am left empty and broken, I still rise from the ground, determined to prove that I really can fly. I just can't seem to accept that "clearly I will go sailing no more." Fortunately, Buzz eventually pulled himself together. Defying all odds, he eventually flew, soaring in the sky where he belonged, but with a new realization that the place he really belongs is where he is loved.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wherever You Are

Genre: Disney
Artist: No clue.
Album: Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search For Christopher Robin

This song is so sad to me, but it's still one of my favorites. Winnie the Pooh and his friends have been searching long and hard for Christopher Robin with no success. One night, Pooh wanders away from his friends to the empty, cold night sky. There, all alone, he sings, "Come out, moon. Come out, wishing star . . . I'm out here in the dark, all alone and wide awake. Come and find me." He sings to Christopher Robin, pleading for him to come to him, "because without you I am totally lost." He finally comes to the sad conclusion, "I used to believe in forever, but forever's too good to be true."

This very sad song touches me every time I hear it. I can relate to Pooh's loneliness. I have gone through many times in my life when I have felt alone. The worst is when I feel alone, even though I am surrounded by people. It especially reminds me of the times when I had something beautiful, something I thought would last forever. I think of those times when I have felt the most happy and content . . . that feeling that I have finally found what I have searched for all my life. But, as Pooh says, "Forever's too good to be true." Those moments always end. And when they are ended, the loneliness returns, the loneliness that is only too real for the Wishmaster.