I’ve never really listened to Soundgarden, but I’m fully aware of their importance in the history of rock. When I saw this morning that Chris Cornell died, likely of a suicide, it certainly made my heart sink. I thought instantly of fellow Progarchist Carl Olson, who has expressed his love and admiration for Cornell’s music in several posts here at Progarchy over the years. His tribute today to Cornell captures that sense of loss that we all feel when one of our musical heroes passes away.
While I’m saddened by each of the recent passings, those that die by suicide, such as Keith Emerson and now Cornell, seem to impact me the most. So many often ask why these greats choose to kill themselves, but suicide needs no reason. Depression isn’t a choice, and those suffering from that awful sickness are typically not in their right mind. When they choose to take their own life, I really don’t think it is them making the decision. There’s something whispering in their ear that ending it all will make things easier – the pain will end… no one will miss you… your loved ones would be better off without you – or any other such nonsense. Whenever I hear of someone committing suicide, my heart sinks because that awful voice has claimed another victim. He’s added another notch to his belt.
Combine the depression that so many people suffer from with the endless stream of crap spewing at us from different “news” sources, and it is all too easy to get angry. It is easy to scream at the television or curse at those with differing opinions. Some may pick up signs and stones and march in public demanding whatever it is that they feel strongly about. Who cares if property gets damaged or people get hurt… as long as the point is made.
But what about the people on the receiving end of that anger? How are they to respond? Jesus tells us to return evil for good… to turn the other cheek… to rejoice in suffering and persecution. This sounds so foreign to today’s ideals where everyone is entitled to their opinion and wants to shout it loudly from the rooftops. But maybe, just maybe, the world would be a better place if we replaced cursings with blessings.
The Strawbs – “Benedictus”
In 1972, the Strawbs released a concept album entitled Grave New World. The first song on that album, “Benedictus,” is a simple call to bless those that hate us. It calls us to bless the good and to bless the bad. I’ve listened to this song more times than I can count today, and I certainly feel convicted.
The wanderer has far to go
Humble must he constant be
Where the paths of wisdom
Distant is the shadow of the setting sun.
Bless the daytime
Bless the night
Bless the sun which gives us light
Bless the thunder
Bless the rain
Bless all those who cause us pain.
Yellow stars may guide the way
All diversions lead astray
While his resolution holds
Fortune and good will will surely follow him.
Bless the free man
Bless the slave
Bless the hero in his grave
Bless the soldier
Bless the saint
Bless all those whose hearts grow faint.
What would the world look like if more people asked God or made an effort to “bless all those who cause us pain?” What if we even made an effort to forgive those people?
Perhaps the most important point here is the one the Strawbs end with: “Bless all those whose hearts grow faint.” Sometime within the last 24 hours, Chris Cornell’s heart grew faint. If anybody needed blessing at that time, it was him. Maybe you know somebody in a similar position… somebody too afraid to talk about it. Maybe you find yourself in that position (and if that’s the case, please don’t shut others out, and for heaven’s sake don’t listen to that voice telling you to end it all – he’s a lying bastard). Maybe you find yourself pained by others, and subsequently you are bitter about it. In their own simple way, the Strawbs ask that you let go of that hate. Choose to bless those who need it, and you may find your own burden lifted from your shoulders.
Now I know this isn’t easy – believe me, I struggle to love and bless those that hate me on a daily basis. It is certainly not human nature to bless that which we dislike. However, the Strawbs get at the real meaning of peace with this song. So many artists talk about peace in some undefined hippie sense, but the Strawbs have shined the light on the real path to peace… a path that Jesus paved 2,000 years ago. Choosing to pray blessings over every situation we come in contact with isn’t merely an action. It is a way of living, and if more people lived that way, then maybe we finally would have peace in this world.
Bless the Cornell and Emerson families. May their hearts never grow faint, even in these tough times.