Father John Misty’s “Total Entertainment Forever” is prophetic.
Imagine a world where people prefer virtual reality over embodied, physical experience. Having trouble? Just revisit the major plot line of Ready Player One, or Tron, where virtual and physical realities intersect, merge, and somehow overlap.
I don’t care much for the “Total Entertainment Forever” video. The lyrics are the juice. Father John Misty describes the world emerging before us today, a place where we date the celebrity of our choice in a virtual environment, where we are “free” to live however we want (in prisons of virtual illusion), where rich and poor are equally “entertained,” distracted by fantasy. The “nightmare” we’re invited to awaken from is our lives, preferring instead our dreams being beamed straight into our eyeballs in marvelous hi-def.
No gods to rule us
No drugs to soothe us
No myths to prove stuff
No love to confuse us
Not bad for a race of demented monkeys
From a cave to a city to a permanent party
The song closes with a proper scene. Father John Misty imagines a future society unearthing the evidence remaining from our own period, human beings “plugged into our hubs,” smiling but wasted away. We’re left to ponder whether the final line–“This must have been a wonderful place”–is uttered by our posterity in marvel or disdain.
This is a word for our times. The prevailing narrative is that any and all technology will only make human life better. There is truth in that claim, but it is not true. I’d still rather experience life in the body over being a brain in a vat.
Truett Seminary held a convocation service yesterday at the First Baptist Church of Waco, marking the beginning of our twenty-fifth year of ministry.
Supporters of Truett, faculty and staff, leaders at Baylor, members of the community, many students, and members of the inaugural class gathered to dedicate the year ahead to God. This silver anniversary, as it is, presents the opportunity to look back and give thanks, to look around and take stock, and to look ahead and dream of what might be. The service and the luncheon that followed were wonderful from gathering to goodbye.
One particular moment of our time together, however, left a great impression upon me. Prior to hearing from Dr. William D. Shiell, President of Northern Seminary, who would offer our convocation address, we listened to the Truett Chapel Worship Ensemble present “Is He Worthy?” by Andrew Peterson.
I revisited the song today, paying particular attention to the lyrics, thinking carefully about the words themselves. My cheeks became damp with tears. The music is beautiful. The visuals are quite good. But the song’s power comes from the words. They are powerful because they are the truth about the deepest realities of existence, expressing not only the promises of God as they are found in Scripture that inspire hope in the deepest recesses of the human heart, but also by pointing us to the person who has fulfilled them all.
This is a great video (how romantic!), a gripping lyrical story, excellent ring walk music (Fernando Vargas!), and a powerful message (“I don’t know how to quit;” “Only God can take my life away;” “I’m not afraid of those ‘lengua larga’ guys.”).
As goofy as it sounds, I’ve been listening to the song excessively since I figured out who it was and what it was about after hearing it for many years on a sports talk radio show during a regular boxing segment (Thanks, Steven St. John!). I love it. Molly thinks I’m a goof. She’s right.
This is a song about the lies we tell others. We also tell them to ourselves.
I’ve been a fan of Glen Phillips since singing “Thank You” in a service of worship many years ago in Kansas City. I’ve been singing that song since the day I first heard it. God’s love is everywhere.
“Nobody’s Gonna Get Hurt” is a song about the power of words and the deceptions that we persist in, the phrases we utter in our attempts to soften, dismiss, minimize, or distort the realities we face. Well meaning lies, whether meant to protect or obscure or outright hide difficult truths, nevertheless do harm, maybe not in the moment they are uttered, but in their corrosive effects over time. Sometimes silence is better, or a simple, “I don’t know.”
“There’s no price to love, there never was” are words that can only be said by someone who has never loved. Love involves sacrifice, and the deepest loves often come at the greatest cost. Look at Jesus.
“If it’s meant to be, it’s easy,” can only be said by someone who has never had to work for something eternally worthwhile. The easy things aren’t the only things that are “meant to be.” Again, look at Jesus.
“Broken hearts always mend” is a half truth. Sometimes the comfort we long for is elusive; we do not find it in this life. For Christians, hope must remain fixed on the day when God wipes away every tear. I find it interesting that in the new heavens and the new earth there will be any tears at all, but I find it more interesting that God will put a hand to cheek and wipe them away. Only afterward will God abolish death and mourning and crying and pain. Whatever caused the tears, the hurt and the pain, it is not dismissed, but met. It is met by God. Then and only then is it resolved and healed.
Our words have power. We must steward them well. Self deception, must be avoided; the first step in doing so is admitting we are prone to believe our own lies. We must also strive to tell the truth. To tell the truth one must know the truth, and be formed in such a way as to become a truthful person. For Christians, such formation is only possible through encounter with the God who is truth, revealed to us in Jesus Christ, truth in the flesh, truth for us.
Metallica’s Black Album is an absolute classic, and I have fond memories of my little brother humorously whispering the bridge of “Enter Sandman.” Virginia Tech likes the tune and has for years. Metallica was a go-to source for pregame tracks in the 90s, and I guess they still are considering how often their sound makes its way into hype videos.
There are many covers of “Enter Sandman,” but none as good as the one I heard this week from Iron Horse. Without further ado, let the pickin’ begin.
Back in 1973 Jerry Jeff Walker recorded Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” and included it on his Viva Terlingua album. It’s a classic. But I never knew the story behind it until recently.
“I walked in and there were thirty or forty people drinking, including one old woman,” he recalls. “The jukebox stopped and they all turned and looked at me.” He nervously asked the bartender for a case, and while he waited, he found himself getting baited by the woman and her son. “How can you call yourself an American with hair like that?” she asked. Her son added, “You want me to beat him up?” Hubbard got his beer and fled, but not before eyeing a pickup truck in the parking lot with a gun rack and a redneck bumper sticker. Once he was safely back with his pals, he picked up his guitar, strummed a G, and made up a song on the spot, about a redneck mother whose son was “thirty-four and drinking in a honky-tonk, just kicking hippies’ asses and raising hell.”
In the late 90s and early 2000s I was listening to a bunch of Outlaw and Red Dirt Country music. Singers gave call outs to other singers, and thanks to the magic of the internet, I kept collecting MP3 tracks and discovering music that I hadn’t heard on mainstream radio. That’s how I found Jerry Jeff. I went to see him play live at the Heart O’Texas Fairgrounds with my buddy Justin Newcom under a little tent with maybe five hundred people, and loved every minute of it. I’ve been a fan ever since. Here’s a picture I took back at the 2018 Texas Bash. Molly and I had a blast seeing him live.
I’m still keeping my eye out for a good “Goat Ropers Need Love, Too” sticker. If you see one, let me know.
This is a beautiful song, telling a simple story, allowing much room for imagination. Who is the traveler? Where are they going? Who is the father, mother, and child?
Do we seek the welfare of the stranger? Asking for God’s mercy upon those we do not know, that we only perceive from far away, perhaps only knowing that they are road-weary and in need of rest?
You could apply the imagery in this song to many scenarios, maybe even this one. There are others, not as politically charged, but nonetheless suitable, for wherever we see the stranger traveling the road, we must always remember mercy and never forget that we also were once without a home, without rest, until God chose to grant an everlasting mercy, rest, and hospitality to us.