31 May 2013

A Walk with Aqualung – Slipstream

Greetings Dear Reader,

Again we are confronted with a very short song with great impact on me.  I chased wealth for a time in my life.  Would that I could undo the damage done by that choice. 

Again those who attend the dead are seen as “spiritless” here.  This is not the only time that the lack of spirit in the trappings of religion is pointed out by Ian Anderson.  It is one of those separations that he makes clear.  There is a clear difference between Jesus and the constructs that have developed around him. 

We all will be separated from life at some time.  Ian seems to be saying that we can choose to paddle out of the mess.  We can choose between religion and following Jesus.  I am not saying that he intends that fine a point on it, but it is what makes the difference for me three years down the road from 1971.

I feel the interlude between Hymn 43 and Locomotive breath is so important.  Remember that we started out as one of those observing Aqualung in all his desperation.  We see here that in his need there are also those dying with plenty.  The church could do much more than it does to aid those in need.  It chooses not to do so.   It is not “the church”, however, that is culpable.  It is me.  It is you.  It is anyone who is part of the church and allows this dichotomy to exist.  That, Dear Reader is a mess that we can paddle out of which we can paddle if we choose to do so.


Slipstream – Ian Anderson

Well the lush separation enfolds you
And the products of wealth
Push you along on the bow wave
Of their spiritless undying selves.
And you press on God's waiter your last dime
As he hands you the bill.
And you spin in the slipstream
Tideless, unreasoning
Paddle right out of the mess.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

30 May 2013

Second Thoughts - The Young Captain Kirk

Greetings Dear Reader,

Sometimes I will end the day with thoughts that are important to get out.  Usually I just write them and put them in my journal folder.  I have chosen that on occasion I will share them with you Dear Reader.

Those who know me know of my lifelong love for all things Star Trek.  I have heard over and over criticism
of the Captain Kirk in the last two movies as lacking the morals and character of the original series (TOS) Kirk.  I would propose a few things in our young captain’s defense. 

He is in a different time line and there will be differences, full stop.  To expect everything to be the same is not in keeping with history of Star Trek.  We do not know for sure where the history diverges but from that point on our two Kirks would be different in small and large ways.  We know our original Kirk lived on Tarsus IV and went through a devastating food crisis.  Our new Kirk does not have that history.  He grew up in Iowa with a stepfather.  Our TOS Kirk has a very different path through the academy and to command than does our new one.

He has not had the experiences that our TOS Kirk has had when we first encounter him.  It is obvious that the new Kirk is younger and less experienced.  He does have the same friendships.  Gary Mitchell is absent in the new timeline.  He was TOS Kirk’s helmsman before Sulu.  It also seems that the TOS Kirk’s service aboard the USS Republic is not a part of our new Kirk’s history.

Since we are a product of our environment and experiences in many ways I would posit that to judge our new Kirk too harshly is to not give him the freedom to become.  He is just stepping into the shoes that will lead him to greatness.  I surely would not want to be forever judged by the foolishness of my twenties self. 

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

A Walk with Aqualung – Hymn 43

Greetings Dear Reader,

Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta
When I was young and they packed me off to parochial school I was told over and over about how the church was always right.  When life crushed my innocence and optimism I sought out people in the church to help me through the things with which I dealt.  This song showed me a glimmer of what I would eventually come to see as the difference between any church and following Jesus Christ.

This song is so simple but says so much about the contradictions between what Jesus does to save us and what the church has turned it into.  I see the repeated “Oh Jesus save me!” as a genuine plea.  The world needs deliverance form the impure application of the message of Jesus. 

It took me many years to see that I should not judge Jesus by the actions of his followers but by who he is.  I also see, as one would follow Christ that I must take care that my actions reflect who he is and not what some organization claims about him.

I live in a town where I have often seen the bumper sticker “Dear God please save me…from your followers.”  It is horrifying that this has often been too true in the world.  On the fringe and in the mainstream there have always been those ignore what Jesus taught and use him for their own purposes.

In this song I references to the commercial church, hypocrisy in the church, and the failure of the American church.  The second verse seems a clear reference to manifest destiny and it absolute rejection of the truth of the Gospel.  It also seems that the last verse is an image of how the true image of Christ is weakened by the failures of the church and its people to live out the words of Christ.

I also took the time to look up Hymn 43 in the hymnal for the Church of England.  They do not have an “official” hymnal but they do use one.  Hymn 43 is an evening hymn and quite beautiful although I could not find a rendition suitable for you Dear Reader:

Savior, breathe an evening blessing - James Edmeston and Edward Henry Bickersteth
1870

Savior, breathe an evening blessing
Ere repose our spirits seal;
Sin and want we come confessing:
Thou canst save, and thou canst heal.

Though the night be dark and dreary,
Darkness cannot hide from thee;
Thou art he who, never weary,
Watches where thy people be.

Though destruction walk around us,
Though the arrow past us fly,
Angel guards from thee surround us;
We are safe if thou art nigh.

Father, to thy holy keeping
Humbly we ourselves resign;
Savior, who hast slept our sleeping,
Make our slumbers pure as thine

Bless├Ęd Spirit, brooding o'er us,
Chase the darkness of our night,
Till the perfect day before us
Breaks in everlasting light.

Before I conclude I wonder how many of you notice that the interlude riffs in this song an excellent prelude to Locomotive Breath.  It is intriguing to me how well this song sets the stage for the remainder of the work.  It is also amazing to me that it evoked so much anger in me when I was young.  Then I heard the final phrase of each verse as a mockery.  Now I see that I too want to be saved from the pollution of religion by truly following Jesus Christ.  Oh Jesus save me!

Hymn 43 – Ian Anderson

Our father high in heaven, smile down upon your son.
Who's busy with his money games, his woman, and his gun.
Oh Jesus save me!

And the unsung Western hero, killed an Indian or three,
And then he made his name in Hollywood to set the white man free.
Oh Jesus save me!

If Jesus saves-well, He'd better save Himself
From the gory glory seekers who use His name in death.
Oh Jesus save me!

Well, I saw Him in the city and on the mountains of the moon -
His cross was rather bloody - He could hardly roll His stone.
Oh Jesus save me.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

29 May 2013

A Walk with Aqualung – My God

Greetings Dear Reader,

This song leads the B side of the original album.  The soft guitar at the outset is deceptive and lulls one into a false sense of calm.  The words are tumultuous and raw.  The song also clarifies that any religious hints on the A side were intended.  The song stands on its own musically.  I will focus on the words and their impact on me.

The accusation in the first line is not directed at the church organization but rather the people in it.  It is not allowable for the people of the church to put responsibility on the organization for the truth of who God is.  If we remember the words on the album cover this is a continuation of the problem of making God in our own image.  We take Christ, who conquered death through the resurrection and force him into the mold of a religious construct.  If the construct is all we can see then the God we worship is not a god at all.

In contrast Ian Anderson expresses that the God who is part of all of us is the God of everything.  He then insists that we not ask him to save us from our own accepted sins.  It is not the construct of the church or religion that leads to salvation.  It is arrogance to think that we can demand God’s presence in our rituals when we do not acknowledge him everywhere (Windup).

We turn leadership into graven images by assigning them power they do not have.  We make things and people our gods instead of turning to that with real power.  We use guilt, sin, and confession to control people instead of love, grace, and mercy to spur them to greatness.

I must follow Christ, not any construct or organized system.  I must allow the trappings of religion to be the man made things they are and follow only what Christ teaches.  This does not mean that I abandon the church but rather that I work within it to build it into what it is meant to be for God.

Back then, in 1971, it was not that I did not believe in God.  I was in full belief and so angry at him that I was rejecting everything about him.  If all God cared about was my sin and my confession then I wanted nothing to do with him.  It would be some time before I realized that the God of the universe was not what the church told me he was.  Rather I would come to learn that he was much more than that.  On the night of that realization this song was running through my head.

My God  – Ian Anderson

Oh people - what have you done
Locked Him in His golden cage.
Made Him bend to your religion
Him resurrected from the grave.

He is the god of nothing
If that's all that you can see.
You are the god of everything
He's inside you and me.

So lean upon Him gently
And don't call on Him to save you
From your social graces
And the sins you used waive.

The bloody Church of England
In chains of history
Requests your earthly presence at
The vicarage for tea.

And the graven image you-know-who
With His plastic crucifix
He's got him fixed
Confuses me as to who and where and why

As to how he gets his kicks.
Confessing to the endless sin
The endless whining sounds.
You'll be praying till next Thursday to
All the gods that you can count.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

Second Thoughts - Brat Fest 2013

Greetings Dear Reader,

Sometimes I will end the day with thoughts that are important to get out.  Usually I just write them and put them in my journal folder.  I have chosen that on occasion I will share them with you Dear Reader.

As a chilly rainy Memorial Day weekend closed I thought of all the picnics, celebrations, and events impacted by the weather.  When one lives in a place where summers are short every chilly day between Memorial Day and Labor Day means loss for the merchants who make a living off of summer.

One of my favorite such events is Brat Fest.  It is the world’s largest celebration of brats.  It is also a world class charity event.  I have written about it often and one can lean all they wish from the official Brat Fest web page.  As of this writing the count for the weekend is just over 151,000 brats.  The record set in 2010 is 209,376 seems to be out of reach this year.

The weather impacted the money that will go to charities.  I care deeply about this but I also know that the money raised will help.  I often wonder how the weather impacts things such as this in the long term.  Will a rainy weekend keep people from including it in their plans next year?  I know that I did not go every day like I usually do and part of me wishes I had.  I know that I look forward to it every year rain or shine. 

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."


28 May 2013

A Walk with Aqualung – Up to Me

Greetings Dear Reader,

One must begin any thoughts on this with the defining of certain terms.  I have read many analysis of this who do not get some of the basics of British culture and so those analysis proceed from false assumptions.  So in list fashion here are some key terms in this song:

Wimpy Bar – A fast food hamburger chain

Silver Cloud – A Rolls Royce
Tennis Club – Tennis Racquet
Copper – A police officer
Half of Bitters – A half pint of a very hoppy beer
Day-glo Pirate – I have no idea

The music, the timing, and structure of this song are both lovely and unsettling for me.  This person is obviously wealthy and does as he pleases.  I find this honest at least.  To whomever he is speaking he is explaining that whatever they have done it was his choice.  The individual sees everything as up to him.  I think that Cousin Jack’s is either a literal cousin or a place he frequents and causes a ruckus.  It is up to him but he takes no real responsibility for the results of his actions.

In the second verse he shows that even given the needs of our cast of characters he will have excess if he wishes.  If he wants to spend his money on a Rolls and playing tennis it is his choice.  Think about the great distance between owning a Rolls and riding a bike in the cold then having a flat tire.  I think the “yellow fingered smoky girl” may be another reference to Cross Eyed Mary.  Again we see, an excess that is his choice.

In the bridge he threatens the second person in the conversation.  Even though he is rich enough to buy Rolls he views himself as a “common working man.”  He explains that he will gladly put a beating on his friend as soon as the police officer leaves if he chooses to do so.

In the last verse we see two distinct things that are negative: the rainy season and the sinking of the “day-glow pirate.”   Whatever is meant here we know that he laughs at it and too soon for that matter.  He then returns to addressing his “friend”.  He is clear that no matter that friend’s feelings what has happened is up to him.

The way in which this song impacted me was simple.  No matter my level of affluence or poverty my choices are mine.  The truth is that my choices determine who I am.  When I am honest about this I usually choose well.  It is when I do not take personal responsibility that I get into trouble.

When I first encountered this song, I took the protagonists side.  I arrogantly thought it was just up to me without caring for the consequences of my actions.  The feeling that one can do as he pleases without any responsibility for the outcome pleased me at that young age.  We become what we do and I embraced this thinking.  Driven by anger and pain I saw my birth father in the thinking and headed down the path to become him. 

Fortunately for me there was an intervention to come.   At the time, however, it was anger fueled self-centeredness that ruled my spirit.  It caused me to see the rest of the album in a far different light than I do now.  I hope the coming contrasts thought provoking.

Up to Me – Ian Anderson

Take you to the cinema
And leave you in a Wimpy Bar --
You tell me that we've gone too far --
Come running up to me.
Make the scene at Cousin Jack's --
Leave him put the bottles back --
Mends his glasses that I cracked --
Well that one's up to me.
Well you know it’s up to me
I said it’s up to me.

I buy a Silver Cloud to ride --
Pack the tennis club inside --
Trouser cuffs hung far too wide --
Well it was up to me.
Tires down on your bicycle --
Your nose feels like an icicle --
The yellow fingered smoky girl
Is looking up to me.
Oh you know it’s up to me

Well I'm a common working man
With a half of bitter -- bread and jam
And if it pleases me I'll put one on you man --
When the copper fades away.
Oh you know it’s up to me
Whoa I said it’s up to me.

The rainy season comes to pass --
The day-glow pirate sinks at last --
And if I laughed a bit to fast.
Well it was up to me.
Take you to the cinema
And leave you in a Wimpy Bar --
You tell me that we've gone too far --
Come running up to me.
Well you know it’s up to me
I said it’s up to me.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

27 May 2013

A Walk with Aqualung – Wond’ring Aloud

Greetings Dear Reader,

And the transitions begin.  The brightness and hurry of Mother Goose give way to a gentle sweetness in Wond’ring Aloud.  The opening statement is inclusive.   How do “we” feel today?  Imagine the impact of always caring about how others feel as you examine your own feelings on a subject.  I have incorporated this into my life in many successful ways.

As we ponder the meaning of this song we avoid that many see it in puerile fashion as a veiled sexual reference.  Since Ian Anderson is a master of double, triple, and multiple entendre I will not state that it is not there but if it is, the final message is even more important.

What impacts me is that he focuses on the fact that we sustain each other.  We are our own saviours in that we sustain each other.  Like Milton he understand
s that no man is an island.  At this point I must say that no matter how many layers of entendre you assign to this song the message is the same on every level.

“It is only the giving that makes you what you are.”  Again my young attempts to descend into solitary self-loathing have a voice telling me that this is not the way.  I will not listen for some time but the voice is there none-the-less. 

In light of this the modern or current me finds this song a constant reminder that even in something simple as making toast I need to see that others give themselves to me.  What a beautiful gift that realization is.  I can give to others even if it is only a cup of cold water.  If I do it in love from the heart I am beating life that person.

Giving makes us who or what we are.  If I give only to myself then I become selfish and bloated.  If I give to others I become light and perhaps can float as well.  Will the years treat us well?  Only if we are truly giving to each other.


Wond’ring Aloud – Ian Anderson

Wond'ring aloud -- how we feel today.
Last night sipped the sunset -- my hands in her hair.
We are our own saviours as we start both our hearts beating life into each other.
Wond'ring aloud -- will the years treat us well.
As she floats in the kitchen, I'm tasting the smell
Of toast as the butter runs.
Then she comes, spilling crumbs on the bed and I shake my head.
And it's only the giving that makes you what you are.


Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

26 May 2013

Second Thoughts - In Memorium

Greetings Dear Reader,

Sometimes I will end the day with thoughts that are important to get out.  Usually I just write them and put them in my journal folder.  I have chosen that on occasion I will share them with you Dear Reader.

I have friends, family, and students in the military.  Most of them have served over seas during the last decade.  I know one family who has three sons serving.  I would be remiss in my responsibilities is I did not take a moment to say thank you to those who serve so I can do as I please.

In that thinking I want to mention something that I think we do not realize as fully as we should.  Even those who seem just fine on their return home may not be so.  We need to insist that in every aspect of life we honor and care for our veterans.  We must assure that society welcomes them home and demands that their needs are met. 

They need time, jobs, education, and constant gratitude in the form of us being good to them.  There is no statute of limitations on the debt we owe people who put themselves in the line of fire for us.  We need to care for them and their families as if they are our own.  They are.

To those I know, I thank you for your service.  I thank you for your sacrifice.  I thank your families.  I will remember.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

A Walk with Aqualung – Mother Goose

Greetings Dear Reader,

I find the music in this song so very bright after the sweet sadness of Cheap Day Return.  The harmony between Ian Anderson and Martin Barre is almost playful.  Ian has said in a rare explanation of why he wrote a certain song that this was created to cheer him after writing Cheap Day Return.

There is has been much speculation as to the references in this song.  Here are my opinions and I claim no special knowledge as to the author’s intent.  He adds new characters that will appear again in other songs.  He also gives us a hint about what is happening around him.

Piccadilly Circus 1971
One must remember that Jethro Tull is beginning to experience real commercial success.  The band’s tours have expanded across the pond to the United States though I will not get to see them perform live until 1972 in their first visit to Atlanta.  This backdrop is necessary to see my perspective on this song.

I think that from the beginning Ian Anderson had a very deep feeling about the commercial aspect of the music world.  He was never in it for the money.  As he is writing and recording this album the Beatles are breaking up.  I think this is the reference to crying school girls.  I think as well that the comment about labourers and gold is a reference to his feelings about the money the band is making.  They work hard to make money to buy records whilst he sings and plays to get their money.

I also see a progression from the money aspect to the social aspect of wealth.  His character, Johnny Scarecrow will show up again in another song about the needs of the homeless.  Here, I believe he is commenting on the fact that a man is cold and a snowman has a mac or coat.  Can one really steal from a snowman?

What this song does for me is end a prelude.  We have seen Aqualung, Mary, Ian’s own sadness, and other social aspects of London (Piccadilly Circus).  The music is about to turn a corner going from specific to general; personal to universal.  I remember how much I enjoyed this song and played it over and over.  I researched the meaning of the things in it without the lovely aid of a computer (my first computer encounter was still fifteen years away).

What I saw then and still see clearly now is that even in our success there must be something outside of ourselves to which we give our attention.  Even in “cheering himself up” Ian Anderson considers the needs of others.  This gnawed at me because I was trying to close in on myself and shut the world out.  Here was an artist I admired telling me I could not.

Mother Goose – Ian Anderson

As I did walk by Hampstead Fair
I came upon Mother Goose 
So I turned her loose
She was screaming.
And a foreign student said to me
Was it really true there elephants and lions too in Piccadilly Circus?

Walked down by the bathing pond to try and catch some sun.
Saw at least a hundred schoolgirls sobbing into handkerchiefs as one.
I don't believe they knew I was a schoolboy.

And a bearded lady said to me
If you start your raving, and your misbehaving
You'll be sorry.
Then the chicken-fancier came to play
With his long red beard (and his sister's weird: She drives a lorry).

Laughed down by the putting green
I popped 'em in their holes.
Four and twenty labourers were labouring
Digging up their gold.
I don't believe they knew that I was Long John Silver.

Saw Johnny Scarecrow make his rounds in his jet-black 'mac
(Which he won't give back)  Stole it from a snowman.
As I did walk by Hampstead Fair
I came upon Mother Goose 
So I turned her loose
She was screaming.

Walked down by the bathing pond to try and catch some sun.
Saw at least a hundred schoolgirls sobbing into handkerchiefs as one.
I don't believe they knew I was a schoolboy.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

25 May 2013

A Walk with Aqualung – Cheap Day Return

Greetings Dear Reader,

For those who do not already know it, a “Cheap Day Return” is a reduced price return train ticket in which the round trip is made on the same day.  Ian Anderson has indicated that he wrote this and Nursie concerning a visit to his ailing father.    I have included both below.

I cannot imagine how little fame matters when a beloved family member is ill or dying.  Cheap Day Return is one of the bands shortest songs.  The sweet guitar in it transforms one to the sadness of the man standing on the platform.  He is dancing on the outside but wondering if his father gets the care he should.

I remember how this short tune reached deep inside me to the place where I was hiding all I was feeling.  Sadness hung in my heart constantly ripping away any good feeling that tried to penetrate it. 

I remember feeling like a misfit and outcast everywhere.  My encounter with Christ that would change me was still three years down the path.  I remember making the conscious choice not to care about anyone or anything.  This song touched the sadness and set the stage for other more malevolent feelings that would arise in me.

At age eleven I was already trying things that were dangerous and unhealthy.  I would listen to this song over and over.  I was trying to play the guitar and had an ear good enough to fake this song.  Only later did I realize the complexity of the music and depth to which that complexity carried the listener to the pit of sadness hanging in the singer.

There was no Nursie to cool my fever at this time.  No one was left to brush away the pain and darkness was warming up a sirens call that tethered to the depth of my being.  The trips back and forth between surviving my daily life and turning inward became less taxing and more costly almost daily.  My pain and gathering darkness offered unending cheap day return.

Cheap Day Return – Ian Anderson
Preston Platform

On Preston platform
Do your soft shoe shuffle dance.
Brush away the cigarette ash that's
Falling down your pants.
And you sadly wonder
Does the nurse treat your old man
The way she should.
She made you tea,
Asked for your autograph --
What a laugh.


Nursie – Ian Anderson

Tip-toes in silence `round my bed
And quiets the raindrops overhead.
With her everlasting smile
She stills my fever for a while.
Oh, Nursie dear,
I'm glad you're here
To brush away my pain.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

24 May 2013

A Walk with Aqualung – Cross-Eyed Mary

Greetings Dear Reader,

In an interesting juxtaposition we are introduced to another of the players.  Ian’s comments on the song are below. 

"Cross-Eyed Mary is a song about another form of low life, but more humorous. It's about a schoolgirl prostitute but not in such coarse terms. She goes with dirty old men because she's doing them a favour, giving people what they want because it makes them happy. It's a fun kind of song."  Ian Anderson in Disc and Music Echo, 20th March 1971

One should remember that this is said in the vernacular of the seventies and Ian’s choice of words to not, therefore, reflect the insensitivity they would today.  The writer’s own words clear up that the girl is a prostitute and not just a slattern as some have speculated.

More importantly is that this is the song that first drew me to Ian Anderson’s amazing skill with the flute.  The intro is currently my favorite intro to any song.  One must also note the power of the bass line in this.  It is an eternal testament to Jeffery Hammond-Hammond’s skill.  Both musically and lyrically this offering is brilliant and amazing.

The story shows us a girl who chooses to give or sell herself to lecherous men.  Much speculation has been made about her name.  The writer has not chosen to weigh in on it so one cannot say what it means with authority.  The possibilities as I see it are an actual affliction,  a religious reference (perhaps she goes to a parochial school), or a reference do death where her eyes are “x” as in cartoons of the earlier era.

What is clear is that even in affluent Highgate the morals of the place are in dire need of revision.  The thing about prostitution is that it would not exist if there were no one willing to participate.  That our subject does it willingly and for fun does not change the culpability of those who use her.

We see another example of how society has failed to assure that people can get their needs met without abusing or using others.  I do not wish to make Ian’s song carry more baggage than he intended but I also see the deep dark sadness of both Mary and her customers.

I must assure that I never use others.  It is not just wrong it does long term damage.  It puts eternal pain into the life of the used.  I have made others feel used before and I hate that I have done it.  I must not use others. I must serve them, love them, and be all that I can to show Christ, not religion to them.

Cross-Eyed Mary – Ian Anderson

Who would be a poor man, a beggar-man, a thief - if he had a rich man in his hand?
And who would steal the candy from a laughing baby's mouth - if he could take it from the money man?
Cross-eyed Mary goes jumping in again.
She signs no contract but she always plays the game.
She dines in Hampstead village on expense accounted gruel,
And the jack-knife barber drops her off at school.

Laughing in the playground gets no kicks from little boys:
Would rather make it with a letching grey.
Or maybe her attention is drawn by Aqualung
Who watches through the railings as they play.
Cross-eyed Mary finds it hard to get along.
She's a poor man's rich girl and she'll do it for a song.
She's the rich man stealer but her favour's good and strong:
She’s the Robin Hood of Highgate- helps the poor man get along.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

23 May 2013

A Walk with Aqualung – Aqualung Proper

Greetings Dear Reader,

First we are introduced to the main character.  He is not a pleasant man.  We do not know his history nor do we know how he came to be where he is.  What we do know is that he is both in need and in pain.

I immediately felt for him.  His pain and poverty touched my soul.  This was unique as I was already a very angry and quietly disturbed young man.  That I felt compassion for this fictional soul was something that has not stirred in me for a couple of years. 

We first see Aqualung as the disheveled man he is.  The hard electric guitar and heavy drums create a harshness that belies the compassion about to come.  The song shifts to a soft acoustic mode and gently demands that we see Aqualung’s pain and circumstance.  There is also the first hint of a theme that will carry throughout the album.  That theme being the place of the church in Aqualung’s plight. 

We are then treated to a harder view of his situation.  He is dying.  He smokes dog ends he picks up off the ground.  He freezes in winter and has no shelter.  More important the singer knows him.  He is trying reach out to him.

This touched a place in me that I was trying with all my being to wall up.  I have mentioned this once or twice before but I am sure at this age I was headed toward becoming a cruel and malevolent being.  I was brick by brick walling off all kindness and compassion within me.  This song in its beauty and harshness weakened the mortification of my spirit.  It kept the soil of my soul soft for the seeds that were to come.

Whether he intended to or not, Ian Anderson had begun to spin a thread in my destiny.  He does not realize that this single thread became the life line that would save me from eventual suicide.  I do know it and have always been very grateful.

The link with the lyrics is Jethro Tull comprised of Ian Anderson (guitar, voice), Martin Barre (Electric Guitar), John Evan (Piano), Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond (bass Guitar) and Barriemore Barlow (Drums) performing Aqualung during their Aqualung tour show in Berkeley, California, June 1971.   It is not the best performance of this song but the video does capture some excellent pictures of the band in the moment. This link will take you to a better recording of the song if you wish it.

Enjoy and please share your thoughts with me.

Aqualung – Ian and Jennie Anderson

Sitting on a park bench, 
Eying little girls
With bad intent.
Snot running down his nose
Greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.
Drying in the cold sun
Watching as the frilly panties run.
Feeling like a dead duck
Spitting out pieces of his broken luck.

Sun streaking cold
An old man wandering lonely.
Taking time
The only way he knows.
Leg hurting bad,
As he bends to pick a dog end
Goes down to the bog to
Warm his feet.

Feeling alone
The army's up the rode
Salvation a la mode and
A cup of tea.
Aqualung my friend
Don't start away uneasy
You poor old sod
You see it's only me.

Do you still remember
December's foggy freeze
When the ice that
Clings on to your beard is
Screaming agony.
And you snatch your rattling last breaths
With deep-sea diver sounds,
And the flowers bloom like
Madness in the spring.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

22 May 2013

A Walk with Aqualung – First Thoughts

Greetings Dear Reader,

For those of you who do not know, the band Jethro Tull is my favorite of all bands ever.  I think that Ian Anderson is both a lyrical and musical genius.  My first introduction to the band was shortly after the album Aqualung was released.  I had recently suffered the loss of my Grandfather and was struggling with many other things.

For the uninitiated, Jethro Tull is the name of the band but no one in the band is named Jethro Tull.  The historical Jethro Tull invented the seed drill and changed agriculture forever.  He deserves his own kind of honor.

As I questioned the life around me I found no real answers.  The church told me I was bad and that my questions were unwelcome.  My home was not the stability I needed.  I was just discovering how much I loved music and I was knee deep in my hatred for God.  Then this piper called a tune that would change me forever.

I do not think I have ever clearly articulated how much this collection of songs around a single theme impacted me at that young age.  It is true I was young; only eleven.  Rock music was in its early adolescence.  Aqualung was not a concept album.  Ian Anderson made this very clear in a 2005 interview.  However, It carried a theme of its own that addressed an issue that young adults on both sides of the pond were aggressively pondering.  The United State was knee deep in Vietnam.

I bought the album based on the cover art and a series of verses on the back penned by Ian Anderson.  I had no idea how the honest question and directive penned on the back would change me.  I had no idea how much this music would impact my path and my faith.  So I invite you to journey with Ian and I for a bit.  He may not agree with all my inferences from his work but as the author his intent is truth in his writing.  As for my inferences they are mine and they are what have done so much to shape my thinking.

1. In the beginning Man created god: and in the image of Man created he him.
2. And Man gave unto god a multitude of names. That he might be lord over all the earth when it was suited to Man.
3. And on the seventh millionth day Man rested and did lean heavily on his god and saw that it was good.
4. And Man formed Aqualung of the dust of the ground. And a host of others likened unto his kind.
5. And these lesser men Man did cast into the void. And some were burned,
And some were put apart from their kind.
6. And Man became the god that he had created and with his miracles did rule over all the earth.
7. But as all these things did come to pass, the spirit that did cause man to create his god, lived on within all men, even within Aqualung.
8. And man saw it not.
9. But for Christ’s sake he’d better start looking.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

21 May 2013

Second Thoughts - Lingering Illness

Greetings Dear Reader,

Sometimes I will end the day with thoughts that are important to get out.  Usually I just write them and put them in my journal folder.  I have chosen that on occasion I will share them with you Dear Reader.

Early this spring I made an effort to increase my exercise and activity.  I had planned for some ventures that I have not indulged in a long time.  Then in early April a respiratory illness set in and has yet to let go of me.  I am finally on the mend but I have had little energy other than my day to day obligations.

In the imposed solitude of this I found that my passion even for writing flagged which led to me feeling even worse.  It made me very aware of the fact that I am growing older.  I do not wish to be one of those who complain about old age but I can feel subtle changes in my frame that warm me of a coming winter.

I am not depressed about it but I feel there are so many things I still wish to do.  I have noted that I am increasingly discontent with some things and that others could be daily habits and I would love them for life.  I cannot get enough time with my Children and Grand Children. 

I have also noticed that I sleep a little longer.  This is new and strange to me.  The differences remind me of a song from my youth.  As I approach the autumn of life it challenges me to be more genuine with who I am.

“Do you care what's happening around you? Do your senses know the changes when they come? Can you see yourself reflected in the seasons? Can you understand the need to carry on?”  - John Denver

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

A Christian Nation – Closing Thoughts

Greetings Dear Reader,

We are not a Christian nation.  It is time we decided that thinking we are hinders and does not advance the Gospel.  What then is our relationship to government to be as Christ followers?  Paul made this very clear:

Rom 13:1-10 Every person should obey the government in power. No government would exist if it hadn't been established by God. The governments which exist have been put in place by God.  Therefore, whoever resists the government opposes what God has established. Those who resist will bring punishment on themselves.  People who do what is right don't have to be afraid of the government. But people who do what is wrong should be afraid of it. Would you like to live without being afraid of the government? Do what is right, and it will praise you. The government is God's servant working for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid. The government has the right to carry out the death sentence. It is God's servant, an avenger to execute God's anger on anyone who does what is wrong. Therefore, it is necessary for you to obey, not only because you're afraid of God's anger but also because of your own conscience.   That is also why you pay your taxes. People in the government are God's servants while they do the work he has given them.  
     Pay everyone whatever you owe them. If you owe taxes, pay them. If you owe tolls, pay them. If you owe someone respect, respect that person. If you owe someone honor, honor that person.  Pay your debts as they come due. However, one debt you can never finish paying is the debt of love that you owe each other. The one who loves another person has fulfilled Moses' Teachings.  The commandments, "Never commit adultery; never murder; never steal; never have wrong desires," and every other commandment are summed up in this statement: "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."  Love never does anything that is harmful to a neighbor. Therefore, love fulfills Moses' Teachings.

There are some very important things to note here:


  • Paul is speaking of Rome under Nero when he insists that we obey the government.
  • It is clear that God gives us the government we have and we are to work within it.
  • He is clear that resisting the government is opposing God.
  • No matter how evil a government may seem to us, God is using it to work out ultimate good.
  • Whether they acknowledge him or not people in the government are God’s servants working out his plan.
  • If we accept this as truth we need not fear the government if we are doing right.

So why do we spend so much energy on politics and so little on showing the love of Christ to our neighbors?  Should we not work as a church to feed the hungry no matter what the government does?  What would be the impact if we led the fight against aids instead of condemning homosexuality?  I am not weighing in on the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality.  I am simply weary of Christ followers not being know by their love for people with whom they disagree.  Why do we expend so many resources on the political side of abortion when we could make choosing to keep an “unwanted” child a profitable, loving, safe, and healthy alternative for the expectant mother?  Why do we allow the abuse and neglect of those who come here seeking refuge when we are commanded to welcome them and care for them? 

If we act as Christ commanded us to act there will be an impact that we cannot imagine.  This nation was born out of a rebellion against another government.  No matter how we characterize that now, we had other choices.  I cannot shoot my enemy and claim to love him.  I cannot rebel against the government over me and claim to be obeying God.  I love the nation I live in but I am also concerned that Christ followers want all of the privileges without any of the responsibility.

This is not a Christian nation.  No amount of rhetoric will make it one.  We could, however, choose to make Christ followers known as those who lead in love and care for others.  We could demand social justice for everyone.  We could shelter the stranger in our land and love them as a neighbor.  We could make this a nation where Christ followers are known by their love and not their politics.  I know this is what I must be.  How about you, Dear Reader?

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

20 May 2013

Second Thoughts – The Passing of a Friend

Greetings Dear Reader,

Sometimes I will end the day with thoughts that are important to get out.  Usually I just write them and put them in my journal folder.  I have chosen that on occasion I will share them with you Dear Reader.

One of my students passed away suddenly last quarter.  His memorial service was held over the weekend.  Of the dozens of people there I only knew two.  I sat with my student’s mum for a couple of hours and we shared stories about him.

I realized how many of the same things we saw in him that we admired.  I saw how the deep love he had communicated for his mother has clearly been realized in their relationship.  I also got a rare glimpse of the ways in which I impacted this student.  I had no idea that I meant so much to him or that he credited me with so much of his success at school.  From my perspective I do not see the contribution but whenever I would introduce myself to someone they would remark that they had heard about me and how much this young man valued out relationship.

I journeyed home with the pain of his passing a freshly opened wound.  I also found a renewed understanding of the difference I can make in the lives of others. 

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

A Christian Nation – Measured by Success

Greetings Dear Reader,

In as much as I wish that the positive commands of Christ ruled our nation it is clear that they do not.  It is clear that we are by and large unheard and relegated to the margins.  What is the difference between what we do and what we are called to be as Christ followers?

The first difference I see is that we as a whole are not socially responsible.  We are not successful at living out the social aspect of the Gospel.  That aspect is the thing that earns us the right to be heard.  The track record of the church through history is shameful.  There are pockets of success and real living out of the Gospel.  There are many more incidences of the church abusing its power and position.

In the nation the church enjoys some very privileged status and freedom.  The only way to honor those benefits is to live out the responsibilities Christ gave us.   If I could work my way no church that did not live out the social message of the Gospel would have tax exemption. 

With freedom and privilege comes great responsibility.  Our failure to successfully address the needs of those around us means that we fail at the lateral aspect of the Gospel.  We cannot succeed and the vertical (spiritual) aspects if we ignore or even worse walk over the social one. 

If I wish to be heard on the subjects spiritual then I must have earned that right by living out subjects social as Christ commands me to do.  Taking on the name of Christ and ignoring the needs of our fellow man may be the highest form of taking the name of God in vain.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

19 May 2013

A Christian Nation – My (Our) Responsibility

Greetings Dear Reader,

Jesus made it clear that we are accountable to the governments that are over us.  We are to pay our taxes.  We are to obey the law.  The government provides certain things for us as well.  Roads and a power infrastructure are very nice. 

There is, however, an area where I may not relegate my responsibility to Christ.  It is the Christ follower who has been charged by God to care for the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned, the poor, the widow, and the orphan.  It is Christ followers who are to make the reality of the Gospel known through their care for those in need.

I have not right to protest things that are political in these areas if I am not doing something practical to relieve the burden.  I have no right to rail against sin that I find more socially unacceptable than mine when what I am supposed to do is assure that my actions aid in the care of the sinners.  I am supposed to compel the church I attend to address these needs.  I am supposed to attend to them even if no one else does.

The church has lost much of its credibility because it has in large relegated the social care of others to the state.  We are not allowed to relegate the charges that Christ gives us to the government or any other body.  The church and more importantly I am supposed be responsible to both Christ and my fellow humans for the social well-being of those around me.

If the church wishes to stand against abortion then why are they not caring for women with unwanted pregnancy in such a way that it seems foolish to go anywhere else?  If the church is going to take a social stance on health care why are not more church directing resources toward free or low cost heath care? If we find a problem with social welfare programs then why are we not assuring the welfare of society?

There is no substitute for Christ followers acting in love to relieve the burdens of others.  There is no limit to the amount resources that God will provide if the church channels them to the needs of others.  If we relegate the care of others to the state we should not be surprised when people and the state have little use for us.  This is not a Christian nation.  It is a nation of people who know in souls what Christ followers should be and what responsibilities they carry.  If I and you Dear Reader do not live out those responsibilities how can we expect to be relevant?  How can we hope to be heard?

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

18 May 2013

A Christian Nation – Why We Do Not Want To Be One

Greetings Dear Reader,

I realize that if one does not know me and what I believe that some of what I am saying in this series of posts may be offensive.  Please let me take a moment to clarify that I do believe in God, the Bible, and that I follow Christ alone in my faith.  I am very theologically conservative but I also have no tolerance for making that theology Americanized in any way.

I am very certain that I do not want America to be a “Christian Nation” because our government has declared it to be one.  They have not and our constitution forbids it.  History teaches us over and over that we are not going to succeed and making any religion a state religion.  It always leads to killing people.  Killing people in the name of Christ is a bad idea. 

Do not think for a moment that I do not wish that every human being had a working relationship with Jesus Christ.  I do.  I believe that is the right thing to do.  I will not, however, suggest that Christ followers well behaved enough to handle the power that comes when the state requires people to follow Christ.  It always turns out bad when we do this.

It also flies in the face of what Christ offers the world.  No matter where you fall in the free will/predetermination debate if you are honest you recognize that Jesus says that whosoever will can come to him.  He never says that one must come to him because the law says to come to him.  We want to coerce and force that which Christ desires of others willingly.

It is not the place of Christ followers to demand faith in others either locally or nationally.  It is not my place to manipulate or push someone into seeing Christ.  It is my responsibility to love others so deeply and purely that they want what I have in Christ.  If I struggle daily with following in a way that is right and consistent imagine the horror that it would be if we handed over administration of daily faith and following to the government. 

I want a nation of Christ followers because they each have come to him of their own will and seen the beauty and grace that is there.  I do not ever want elected officials to tell anyone that they must follow Christ.  We are already too efficient at killing the innocent and those with whom we disagree.  We are not mature enough to feed our hungry and provide health care that works for everyone.  We do not want the sure results of a state sponsored religion or faith. 

I will continue to follow and be as loving as I can learn to be to others.  I will not weigh in on laws that tell us we have to have a certain flavor or morality.  I will love you Dear Reader for who you are and hope that you see enough of Christ in me that you want to know him better.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

17 May 2013

A Christian Nation – Why We Never Were

Greetings Dear Reader,

I cannot reconcile some of the things done to establish this country with what Christ commands me to be as his follower.  As a Christ follower reading books like A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn really caused me to examine what the early development of this nation had as a goal.  It seems that we cared much more for resources than we did people.

I agree that there were groups of people that came here with idea of establishing a God or Christ centered society.  I cannot find an instance where slavery, genocide, or greed did not rule instead.  I am not saying that everyone was evil or that there were not good intentions in some cases.

I am saying that we cannot claim to be a Christian nation when we allow slavery and destruction of indigenous people in the name of God.  No matter what destiny we think we have our treatment of Africans and Native Americans is in no way in keeping with the Gospel. 

Taking the name of God for the purpose of gaining wealth and resources is the opposite of the truth of Christ’s message to the world.  Once again those who followed Christ had many opportunities to show his love and grace to people who did not know him.  Once again the politics of greed and exploitation used God as an excuse to motivate the ignorant to deeds of horror and disgrace. 

That God gave us great resources and opportunity in this land is true because all good things come from God.  The founders were correct that the inalienable rights we have are from God.  They were right that there are biblical principles that should guide the development of this nation.  I cannot see a time when the governing built those principles into the nation for all people.

As a follower of Christ I must not harm anyone else in the name of Christ.  I must not use the name of God for my own purposes.  It is not my country right or wrong.  It is not the power of a nation that makes it right.  It is that I must follow all the commands of Christ without anything hindering my pursuit of love and peace.  I must live righteously and be an example to the best of my ability whilst respecting others at a level that they feel neither judged nor condemned by me.  The Gospel is a tool not a weapon.    

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

16 May 2013

A Christian Nation – The Measure


Greetings Dear Reader,

Something I wish to be clear about before I begin this segment is my theology.  Theologically I am very conservative.  This does not mean that I side with the “religious right” or that I am a Republican.  It means that I believe in God and the Bible.  It means that I also believe that claiming to be Christian does not make you a follower of Jesus Christ.  It is just not that easy.  If you have questions for me about this feel free to ask.

So I ask myself what the measure of a “Christian Nation” would be in light of my beliefs.  I think first I need to see what the Bible has to say about a nation that is set apart to God.  Israel was commanded to be set apart as God’s people.  They were to be separate but treat everyone with love and respect.  They were to be an example of the right way to treat each other and strangers.

If we are to consider a nation to be following Christ then what must be true of that nation?  If we ask James, the brother of Jesus he makes it clear what true religion is.  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  Jesus made it clear that whatever we do to the least in society we do to him.  He also made it clear that we are to care for the poor and that they will be with us always.

This nation has never truly protected the poor, the homeless, and the oppressed.  Most of the organizations that address these needs well are not affiliated with the church.  So I will turn my attention to the church.  Those who claim we are a Christian nation do a very poor job of addressing these issues.  I realize that this is a generalization and that there are exceptions.  The thing is that there is more neglect than care.  The church in most cases has relegated the care of others to the state.  I will talk more about that later.

I challenge the church to make true care for the poor their banner instead of political stances and rhetoric.  What does that mean for me?  I am to address the needs of others whenever I encounter them.  It is not allowable for individuals to say the follow Christ and neglect the needs of others.  I am not to make meeting those needs a tool to coerce others to faith.  The acceptance of Christ must come from the natural action of his love for individuals as expressed through my actions.  I must show that love to others with no expectations attached. 

The measure of a nation that would claim to be Christian is the same as a the measure of a man who claims the same.  “By this will all men know that you are my followers – If you have love for each other.”

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

15 May 2013

A Christian Nation - Our Founding Fathers

Greetings Dear Reader,

I think that as I ponder this aspect of a “Christian Nation” it brings me to place where everyone needs a reality check.  I went to elementary school in the sixties and early seventies.  Patriotism was a big part of the given in the curriculum.  I witnessed the inclusion of God as part of the foundation of our nation and I saw my second grade teacher escorted from the classroom for reading the Bible in class.

The truth is that biblical principals were more commonly accepted and those principles influenced the framing of our system of government.  It was understood that no religion could be a part of governance.  It was also understood that religion had a place in society that was to be protected from the government. 

Some of our founding fathers were devote followers of Jesus Christ.  Others were deists, theists, and atheists.  The intent seems to be that all beliefs are accepted within the bounds that none of those beliefs may become a state belief.  The state may be informed by the beliefs of the people but no group of people may make the state sponsor any religion.

For me that means that I must live in such a way that my beliefs stand on their own merit.  I must not count on a state or any governing body to provide my faith for me.  The relationship with Christ is an individual one.  I am accountable to God as is every other living being.  I must follow faithfully and allow my life to influence others.  The beauty and providence of God in our nation is that if enough Christ followers do this and allow the Holy Spirit to guide them we will get the political results are best for everyone.  If we are politically responsible then we can influence culture through the proper channels.

It is wrong for me to use my faith as a weapon to force others to do what I think is right.  It is holy and beautiful for me to serve Christ and others with all my heart and let my life speak to my beliefs.  The founding fathers understood that if this country was to remain free that the divisive nature of religion had to be set outside of the government.  It is mine and every other Christ followers responsibility to follow in such a way that people desire what we have.  There are simple ways to do this.  I am getting to that part.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."