This song is one of the all-time electronica/trance greats and so there are several versions and remixes available. One of the best is a live performance by the Dutch DJ Tiësto (here) which captures the excitement and immersion of the collective dance experience.
In the spirit of choosing the road less travelled however, I have used a different version here. This video comprises clips from the Japanese role-playing computer game Final Fantasy VIII, in which heroes battle a great evil, but also have to deal with their own relationships and internal struggles [sounds familiar?]. The song matches the images of tension and yearning so well that it could have been part of the original soundtrack (an epic in its own right), but it was not – the editor has just made a really good montage that is a sympathetic interpretation of the music.
This mix is the original from the 1997 album ‘Karma’ and it opens with Gregorian chant: ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ – glory to God in the highest which sets the scene for the singer to tell of her personal religious journey –
Heaven holds a sense of wonder And I wanted to believe That I’d get caught up When the rage in me subsides
In this white wave I am sinking In this silence In this white wave In this silence I believe
There seems to be an ironic contrast between the noise of the dance floor and a search for tranquility, yet for some people this could be a path towards God. The insistent rhythms of the trance style can have a calming effect leading to an inner peace and then, when the clamour has died away – ‘In this silence I believe’. It reminds me of this encounter between the God and the prophet Elijah:
“Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. (I Kings 19:11-12)
Sometimes a song speaks with new relevance and its message comes to life. That’s what happened with this song today as it popped up in my playlist. The words resonate during the present national pandemic
If you’re on your own in this life The days and nights are long When you think you’ve had too much of this life To hang on…
Everybody hurts sometimes; Everybody cries…
I have become aware of many people who have been totally on their own, going for days without seeing another person. Each person has their own particular story with their own aspects of pain; one person’s mountain may be another person’s molehill. What may seem small to one may cause great anguish to someone else. But I am mindful of what my nurse friend often says, “The pain is what the patient says it is”. Pain is pain…
I’m also aware that to tell someone in pain that “everybody hurts” is not the most sensitive response. It doesn’t acknowledge their own particular pain that they are experiencing and actually seems to belittle it.
This led me to think about the age-old question often posed in times of great pain or searching…”Where is God when it hurts?” or sometimes phrased as “If God is a God of love why is there suffering in the world?” Huge questions to ponder, to research, to meditate on, not run away from or be simplistic about.
And so I reflect…. God is close to the broken hearted… Psalm 34:18
For a fairly introspective 17 year old the music of Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) drew me with a fascination bordering on obsession; I can still remember sitting alone in my bedroom listening to ‘Bird on a Wire’ on repeat. The phase soon passed, and I only recently came to appreciate the depths of this song ‘Anthem’, from Cohen’s 1992 album ‘The Future’.
‘The Future’ contains references to traumatic historical events, including Hiroshima and the Second World War. The massacre of students in Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin wall both happened in 1989; it was a time of massive upheaval and uncertainty in the world.
Listening again in late 2019 you have to ask, has much has changed? Just thinking about our own country (quite apart from the rest of the world!) Britain is facing a bewildering parliamentary election, Brexit is unresolved, the country has more Foodbanks than McDonalds….. there surely still is ‘a crack, a crack, in everything’, but Cohen leaves us with a note of hope, ‘that’s how the light gets in’. We need the light, in our national and our personal lives, as never before.
Currently it is Advent, traditionally the time for preparing for the coming of Christ. For me this song provides a kind of transcendence, bringing hope into the apparent hopelessness of our world. The parallels are obvious I hope.