Hey, I’ve been thinking about sacred rage. I had a friend who hated his coworker for her taste in music–insipid, bland. Well, maybe he hated her for other reasons, but her taste in music sealed the deal.
I listen to chill music, but I can listen to angry music too. When I was a teenager, my two favorite bands were Nine Inch Nails and the Sundays. Both bands I’d been introduced to by a friend who lived in Los Angeles and seemed very sophisticated and worldly!
Nine Inch Nails addressed angry truths that I’d never heard anyone speak of before, when I was 14. And the Sundays has a sublime peace I also needed.
Here’s an angry NIN song. It’s about capitalism and gives voice to the sacred rage of someone who’s been exploited a lil too much. “No, you can’t take that away from me,” is a favorite line. I hadn’t worked retail yet, but I’d definitely had things taken from me by powerful people who should have left me the fuck alone.
The sound was exciting–the production was nice! I’d never heard anything like it. I had a cassette tape my LA friend had recorded for me from his tape, and later I learned Trent Reznor did this album himself. A testament to a loneliness like mine.
When I hear this music, I remember how I felt as a teenager, listening to Pretty Hate Machine on my walkman. It was cathartic, a message from another world where people admit sexuality can be very dark.
“If you don’t want children to need music like this, don’t create a world where children are abused,” is a thought I’m having about NIN. It’s not happy music about things going well. It’s a reaction to harm.
This song Closer was edgy, appropriately, and includes the f word used as a verb, which I’d never heard in art at that time. I was impressed by the religion and sex mixed together. “My whole existence is fraud–you get me closer to God,” was important to me. Wow, I could relate.
Then the sublime of the Sundays is like an antidote to the antidote. Yeah, I could enter that Sundays mode deeply also. I guess these bands were healing mood music, for me, and I associated the Sundays strongly with my sweet second girlfriend. We loved this music together.
Soaring vocals so honey, and jangling guitar–the genre is called shoegaze. I like when she mentions finding a pound on the underground. It’s like Nine Inch Nails, but the other way.
Nowadays for the sublime I go more to Innocence Mission. I was just playing for Ming this youtube of a set from a Borders Bookstore in 1996.
Wow, the ceiling is so terrible. But I love these songs. Well, I could do without Moon River, but they make it almost good!
I relate to Karen Peris, singing her vulnerability and crazy. Yes, I see the holy spirit burning in those trees too. There’s medicine for that–I was on it for 11 years.
content warning: violence
Lately I wanted to hear this Heavens to Betsy song Terrorist, which is about wanting to kill a man who’s trying to prey on the speaker. It’s about responding to toxic masculinity. I’ve felt the desire to do violence back to violence–wanting to kill my rapist, for example.
Not saying we should do violence, at all. But the desire is familiar. I like to admit the truth. Sometimes it’s appropriate to have a visceral physical reaction to harm.
Sometimes this song is too much for me. I remember the first time I heard it, I thought I was going to barf. Not because I object to the truth expressed, but because I could relate to the speaker too much.
She was screaming for me. Some screams I never screamed were being screamed for me, for when I could not.
I spend a lot of time with hippies; some might say I am a hippie myself. There can be strong opposition to anger, like anger is bad. It bothers me, when uncomfortable emotions are considered wrong by my hippie friends. How could an emotion be wrong? I can feel anything, as long as I don’t get stuck.
When I was a kid, if my mom cried, it was an emergency. Uh oh–Mama’s crying. It meant something was very wrong, that she was so upset, she couldn’t keep it contained. In that family I learned I was supposed to hide my feelings and not speak the truth. Denial was the slide we slid on, like Ice Man on ice–denial was our path.
But if my mom had cried appropriately when sad, and we told the truth about what was happening, crying could be just a regular part of life, one aspect of being honest. It might have saved me an ulcer and a lot of other harm.
As an adult, feeling my feelings is like a full-time job. I can feel anything, from the deepest grief to the angriest sacred rage, the highest elated bliss, awestruck curiosity. If I let myself feel how I feel, the emotions don’t get stuck, fester, and harm me. Like chi, my emotions need to keep moving.
Yes, I do non-violence–it’s part of who I am. Non-violence is only possible through truth. Truth is, people do horrible things. Responding with sacred rage can be appropriate.
I feel the feelings, face reality, and show up at the air force base to dance. Dancing is one of my favorite ways to put love energy into the world–dance ministry. It was great, at Shut Down Creech, our houseguest brought a little speaker. As workers came in, they could see us dance by the roadside.
Maybe they thought, “Those crazy hippies must be on drugs,” but we were not. In fact, I’m not on drugs anymore, in the sense of psych meds, and I have a lot to dance about.
I’ve heard, “Success is the best revenge,” and I like that quote, though I’m not into revenge. I prefer a quote like, “Being happy is the best example.” Happy people don’t drone brown kids in other countries.
Facing the truth is an important part of being happy. Not a fake happy of denial, anesthetized or entertained into a stupor. A real happy of seeing reality and feeling the joy of life, despite everything.
Sacred rage can help us do important work. Thank you for facing reality, speaking the truth, and letting the people around you do the same.