Sunday, April 26, 2009

Never Neverland

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artist: Music by Jule Styne, Lyrics by Comden and Green
Album: Peter Pan

I remember when my mom got the video recording of Mary Martin as Peter Pan in this Broadway musical. I must have watched that video so many times. I also remember seeing the play performed at Orem High School while my brother Danny was there. It had always been a favorite.
This song is sung shortly after Peter Pan meets Wendy and he is telling her about where he lives. What I like about this song, though, is that it doesn't refer to Neverland as a far away place that you cannot reach. "You must find it in your heart . . . It might be miles beyond the moon, or right there where you stand." That is Neverland for me. It is not a physical place that I go to (though I often wish I could). It is a mental place, an emotional place. But it is a place that is necessary for me to discover time and time again. "That's my home where dreams are born."

What is the treasure in Neverland? "You can never, never grow old." What is the key to finding Neverland? Happy thoughts! It is the sad, depressing, pessimistic thoughts that keep people grounded, including myself. It is bitterness, resentment, lack of trust, and hate that make people grow old and weary in heart. But forgiveness, love, and joy have the power to lift to a higher ground, to set one's heart one wings, and lift them above the drudgery of the world.

"I have a place where dreams are born." It is a place where I will forever be young at heart. It is a place where I find hope and encouragement. It is my own Never Neverland. It does not hide me from all bad things. Even Neverland had the wicked Captain Hook. But going to my own Neverland gives me my own pixie dust to fly, giving me the advantage over such things.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Epilogue (Finale)

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artist: Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, and Herbert Kretzmer
Album: Les Miserables

This scene is the perfect end to the musical. Valjean, a man who was once a and criminal, has dedicated his life to help others in need and has taken care of the daughter of a former employee, for whose death he was partly responsible. Now, after having spent years of service and charity, his time has finally come. Lying in his bed, he calls out to God and now asks for a blessing on himself--that he might be brought Home. Fantine, the mother of the girl he has taken care of, appears and tells him to lay down his burden. After saying goodbye to Cosette, who he has raised as his own daughter, he passes to the other side. The passing is very peaceful and hopeful as Fantine comes to accompany him to heaven. When I die, I want to die as Valjean, feeling ready to meet the Lord. I want to be satisfied with what I have done.

The musical is called "The Miserables" because it portrays the misery of the poor. It portrays the levels to which they must stoop in order to make a living, their disease-rampant streets, the deaths they face, the treachery and dishonesty of some people, and much more. And yet, the end of the musical shows the end for those who still strive to walk the higher path, even in the midst of difficulty. As Valjean passes away, the chorus begins to sing, quietly at first, but then ever stronger: "Do you hear the people sing, lost in the valley of the night? It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light! For the wretched of the earth, there is a flame that never dies. Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise! They will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord! They will walk behind the plowshare, they will put away the sword! The chains will be broken and all men will have their reward! Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see? Do you hear the people sing? Say, do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!"
No matter how difficult life can be at times, there is another world where our chains will be broken and we will be free from our misery. Valjean knew that world, for in the midst of his misery he tried to do the right thing, even when it wasn't convenient for him. At last, there on his deathbed, he is allowed to go to a place where chains will never bind him, where he is no longer remembered for his past transgressions, but is able to go to a place where he is not seen as a criminal, but as a good man that has centered his life around love.Valjean's story teaches forgiveness and the reality of repentance. I hope to one day end my life as marvelously as he ended his.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

To Each His Dulcinea

Genre: Broadway Musical
Artist: Lyrics and music by Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh
Album: Man of La Mancha

I really like the Padre's reflection on dreams. Before we build our lives on dreams, we must remember that a man holding a moonbeam is really not holding onto anything. And yet, the Padre does not condemn dreaming. He concludes that life would be wonderful if every person was capable of dreaming. In the midst of people condemning and mocking Don Quixote for his dreams, the Padre remains calm and sees the goodness of the life that Don Quixote leads.

I have lived the cycle of the dreamer multiple times. This is the cycle:

1. A person has a dream
2. The dreamer tries to live the dream
3. The dreamer is mocked by unbelievers, people afraid to live their own dreams
4. The dreamer faces a huge obstacle, possibly fails somehow
5. The dreamer gets discouraged and considers giving up
6. The dreamer experiences a moment of reflection and self-discovery
7. The dreamer regains determination and strives to live the dream again
8. The dreamer succeeds and the dream is realized

Steps 3-7 can be repeated multiple times. There are constantly people that make fun of me and my ideas. There are times when I have given up dreaming because I get too discouraged. I hate feeling like I have no dreams left to live.

What I need to remember is that dreaming is not bad. So what if my life is built on dreams? They keep me from despair. They keep me fighting. They give me a will to live. More than that, my dreams are not empty. By fighting to fulill them, I will make them meaningful and I will accomplish many things. I am a dreamer. It defines who I am. So I will keep on dreaming.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Spirit Carries On

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Dream Theater
Album: Metropolis pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory

This song is meaningful to me in a way that does not quite fit its meaning in the story. The singer (James LaBrie) begins by asking some questions in a very soft and meaningful tone: "Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where do we go when we die?" He goes on to say, "Life is too short, the here and the now, and you're only given one shot. Or could there be more? Have I lived before? Or could this be all that we've got? If I died tomorrow, I'd be alright because I believe that, after we're gone, the spirit carries on."

Imagine this life being all there is. There would be no point in our existence. But the good news is that there is more after this life. It doesn't all end here. However, what our life will be like beyond the grave is up to us now.

Sometimes I feel like I am working so much that I feel like a machine. My life feels hollow. This song reminds me that I need to make sure that there is more to my life than just working and studying. In sacrament meeting today, one person said that our lives are so short. We need to make a difference now. That really stood out to me. The words of this song came back to me, reminding me that life is indeed short and that I only have one chance to make the most of it.

When my spirit carries on to the other side of grave, what will I have to say for myself? "I stayed out debt because I worked all day." I think God has more important questions to ask, such as, "How did you use the talents I gave you? How did you bless the people I put in your path? What did you do to strengthen your family? How did you let your light shine forth?" Life is too short for me to spend all my time stressed and over-worked. I need to do what I was born to do. Then, I truly will be alright when I die, because I will be ready, "safe in the light that surrounds me, free of the fear and the pain."

At the End of the Day

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Spock's Beard
Album: V

This is probably my favorite song by Spock's Beard. The musical introduction to it is beautiful. It is very calm but then as instruments are added to it, the tempo picks up. But it is very upbeat and happy. Finally, after a great introduction, Neal begins to sing. Combined with the beautiful music are the beautiful lyrics.

The song basically talks about how difficult life can be, comparing life to one day. During our lifetimes, we encounter struggles, heartache, loneliness, and disappointment. "You walk a lonely line" "You literally curse each day," "You feel like you're all alone." But the message of the song is that "At the end of the day, you'll be fine . . . You'll know what this was for . . . You won't feel any pain . . . You'll be feeling right as rain as the veil reveals it all." The message, basically, is that life is full of challenges. But at the end of our lives, we'll understand the purpose of the suffering and it will all come to an end. "Say goodbye to the world that you know . . . You'll be dreaming as you fly away."

This song always puts me in a good mood. It reminds me that no matter how hard my life is right now, soon all the suffering will be ended. When I am having a hard time, I just need to remind myself that one day I will see the reason for it. There are times when I feel completely alone, but that feeling doesn't have to last forever.

One of the great things about the last couple albums that Neal did with Spock's Beard is that they contain hidden spiritual messages. Eventually, Neal left Spock's Beard to be open and clear about what he was trying to teach. But At the End of the Day is a great example of a song where Neal tries to give hope to the listener. The powerful message, coupled with the beautiful music, makes this song a masterpiece.

Friday, April 17, 2009

All of the Above

Genre: Progressive Rock
Artist: Transatlantic
Album: SMPT:e

In honor of some very exciting news, I am returning to the first artist I discussed in this blog: Transatlantic. After seven years apart, the members of the supergroup have come back together and a new album by them is due to be released at the end of this year. To commemorate such a marvelous event, I have chosen to discuss the song that started it all.

All of the Above is over 30 minutes long and, like all of Transatlantic's songs, it is a complete masterpiece. It follows a person's struggle as he loses all hope and loses himself. The song actually starts out very positively. It is like it begins after the story has ended, but rather than saying, "Once upon a time," it beings, "In a state of fallen came" taking the listener back into that state of fallen grace. It follows a man who believes nothing matters. He has lost himself to some things he has done. But the narrator sings to him that his actions are not all there is to him, but he doesn't hear the narrator. He degrades himself in order to find fulfillment. He chooses less-than-desirable company, becomes the enemy just to be better, and ends us looking complete, but only being half alive.

One day while he is in the dumps, he finds himself in a railway station. There is no peace in his mind. He feels trapped, imprisoned, and hopeless. But then, in the midst of despair, he looks up at the full moon and senses the moon is somehow aware of him and declares softly, "Innocence and undying love will reign!" The man has sought fulfillment in all the wrong places, but then realizes that in order to find what he has been looking for, he must return to who he really is inside and turn away from what he has become. There, in his state of fallen grace, the full moon arose and smiled. Like a child, but fully grown, the man becomes aware of that fire in the sky, the fire that burns inside him and returns all hope to him.

I also find myself going through the same cycle as this man. Sometimes I feel backed against the wall of despair and hopelessness. At times I forget the true source of fulfillment. In moments like these, I need to re-evaluate who I am and who I have become. If I don't like who I am, then I realize that I must make some changes. I must get out of myself and serve others and express love for those around. It is through service that I find happiness and fulfillment. It is by making other people smile that makes me feel whole, complete, and truly alive. All of the Above is able to capture all these emotions that I feel and sometimes this song is all I need to get back on my feet again. I really love this song! It is a classic and demonstrates true talent on so many levels.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Rising

Genre: Religious
Artist: Jason Deere
Album: Joseph: A Nashville Tribute to the Prophet

This is definitely not a song you would hear in Sacrament Meeting, but it is great to listen to. The previous track on the CD recounts the First Vision with music playing in the background. As soon as that track ends, it immediatlely goes into The Rising. The song begins with Joseph Smith telling his mother about the vision that he had. Then he tells the preacher. As soon as he does, he sees the rising of the persectution and the great destiny before him. The chorus is the following:

The boy, the faith, the prayers, the hate
From weak things great things are rising
The love, the fear, the fire, the tears
The persectution, the spirit, the peace

That pretty much sums up the prophet's life. All these things mingle into the rising of the Church of Jesus Christ. I love other lines in the song, where Joseph says that preaching the Gospel to all nations "put a price upon our heads." They were constantly "running from darkness and running to light, praying on our knees for one more day every night." I just love how the song captures the challenges that Joseph and the early pioneers faced, and yet still they pressed forward to bring about the "restoration of all things."

I greatly admire Joseph and his courage. He is a man that dedicated his life to the Lord. I wish I could be as dedicated in my own life. It amazes me how the Gospel was central to everything that Joseph did. I often complain that I am really busy and I often feel like I do not dedicate myself to the Lord as much as I should. I need to learn to be more like Joseph. Look at all the things he had to juggle, and still the Lord took first priority in everything and was easily woven into everything that Joseph did. I am so greatful for him and his example. I know that he was called to be God's prophet in these modern times. The rising that Joseph started is still going strong, and it will until it fulfills Daniel's prophecy.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Power of God

Genre: Religious
Artist: Steven Kapp Perry
Album: From Cumorah's Hill

To me, this is one of the most beautiful songs on the album. It talks about the way some people see the world without God in the picture--how they see us as just an island in space. This imagery evokes a feeling of loneliness. But then in the chorus we are told that the power of God can be seen all around us, if we'll just look with the eyes of faith. I love the concluding lines of the chorus: "For how could we hope to see His face, who never could see His hand?" This song is based on Alma's statement that all things denote there is a God (Alma 30:44).

In challenging times, it is almost a natural reaction to wonder where God is. Some doubt His existence. Some fear He has abandonded us. Others continue to have faith and look for tiny miracles. I remember realizing this on my mission. When I began to look for daily miracles, I began to find them. I need to be better at that now. But I still maintain faith that if we look for those miracles in our daily lives, we will find them. These miracles are also called the Lord's tender mercies.

I remember that back when I had my paper route I would often ride my bike through parks when I was done and just enjoy being outdoors with the trees and fresh air. One of my friends started to accompany me and we would talk about a lot of things. I remember one day we were riding our bikes and talking about God and His plan. My friend mentioned how atheists do not acknowledge any of the things we were talking about. I remember pointing to a tree and saying, "Look at that tree and tell me God doesn't exist. It's impossible!" To me, nature has always been an example of God's power and love for us. When times seem hopeless and discouraging, all we need to do is take a step outside and look around us. God's creations testify that He lives and that He is aware of us. He loves us. "Listen to the wind blow, then listen once again."