My musical taste is very eclectic. I enjoy almost anything from a symphony by Mozart or Beethoven to the guitar riffs of AC/DC, Judas Priest, Def Leppard, or Van Halen. About the only kinds of music I don’t care much for are country, folk, rap, and hip hop. Music has tremendous power to change one’s mood, or take you back to a specific place and time. It can evoke deep emotions, and make you forget the worries of your day. A nice guitar riff can lift my mood instantly.
Some songs take me back to childhood memories. AC/DC songs take me back to summers with my cousins. Emotional Rescue by the Rolling Stones was the first album I bought. Anytime I hear a Creedence Clearwater Revival song, I’m instantly transported back in time to 1986 at a seedy bar in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico called Caballo Loco. When I was 19, I went with a bunch of co-workers from the restaurant I worked at for two weeks in Puerto Vallarta, and our days often started out at that bar. Always, there was CCR on the jukebox.
Some music however, resonates with me on a much deeper level, for more personal reasons. Metallica has always been one of my favourite bands. In the past, it was just their sound that appealed to me. It’s a sound that’s evolved throughout their career from their earlier more thrash metal, high tempo sound to later more lyrical sounds. They haven’t been afraid to grow and evolve and try new things, but I’ve always appreciated an underlying, what I’d describe as ‘heavy guitar’ sound throughout most of their music.
The reason now that Metallica’s music resonates for me on a deeper level than most is not just their sound. It’s the lyrics of many of their songs. In some cases, I relate to them on a very personal level. You see James Hetfield, their lead singer and the author of much of their music is, like me, a former Christian Scientist. While I can’t speak for his feelings, and he doesn’t go into much depth publicly about loss in his family, the lyrics of some songs hit very close to home for me nonetheless.
Hetfield grew up ‘different’, just like many of us who grew up in Christian Science. In the above interview, where he’s discussing the song The God That Failed, he discusses how his Christian Science upbringing alienated him as a child from his peers, especially when he was taken out of health classes because his strict Christian Scientist parents didn’t want him learning about the body or disease, both of which are false mortal illusions in Christian Science. He would be taken out of these classes, his classmates would notice, then he’d have to try to explain it to them, which made him feel uncomfortable. The way he described this feeling describes how I felt as a child perfectly. I did everything I could to hide the fact that my family was Christian Scientist, because that made me different–weird, and as a young child in elementary school, that’s the last thing I wanted to be. This alienation I sometimes felt continued through high school. None of my friends knew I was a Christian Scientist, and I always was afraid someone would find out and I’d be ridiculed as some sort of freak. Although I was afraid to really admit it at the time, I realize now that I was ashamed of being a Christian Scientist. I was different, I was some sort of freak; and I didn’t like that. At the end of this segment, Hetfield speaks of his music and writing it as his ‘therapy’. He’s speaking his truth, and nobody can take that from him or deny it. That’s exactly how I feel. Here in this blog, I speak my truth.
“Where do I take this pain of mine
I run, but it stays right by my side.”
~Metallica “Until It Sleeps” (from the album ‘Load’)
When Hetfield was 16, his mother died of cancer that went untreated due to her adherence to Christian Science. Although I have not found any instances where he discusses its effect on him in depth, it undoubtedly had an effect on him. His father had left the family, so he went to live with an older brother; an upheaval at a critical time in a youth’s life. The emotional and sometimes physical pain that a tumultuous life, and especially a childhood in Christian Science can inflict, is a pain that does stay with you. Often, I wish it would go away. It tears you up sometimes, and you wish you could rip it from your heart, but yet it’s still there. For me, the anger seethes under the surface, bubbling up when some trigger releases the pressure. Hetfield’s lyrics trigger that sort of release for me, whether or not it’s the same emotion as Hetfield felt. It releases safely, because it resonates with me. I feel as if I’m with someone who understands, even though I don’t know Hetfield, and probably never will. Sometimes I sing along in the car, but most of the time I quietly relate to the rage, and let it flow through me.
Often, I feel conflicted. On one hand, I deeply wish Christian Science had never been a part of my life; on the other hand, I realize it has been an integral part of my life journey that has brought me to where I am now, a life I love (minus that Christian Science-induced anger). I’m happy with the person I have become, the career I have, and the life I have built, and while I know I’m not perfect, and life is a continual process of growth, I’ve finally come to accept and love me. That’s something I haven’t been able to do before. In a subtle way, with its relentless emphasis on ‘perfection’, Christian Science, or at least Christian Science culture, paradoxically makes you feel anything but perfect. It makes you feel like an utter failure, especially if you get sick (that must mean you weren’t doing your ‘protective work‘), and most especially if a healing doesn’t happen. So desperate you become for that ‘healing’, you convince yourself that it does happen, even if it doesn’t really, and you become so utterly convinced by the lie that a polygraph machine probably wouldn’t flinch at your touch. ‘Knowing the Truth‘, as it’s called in Christian Science is not knowing truth at all. Rather, it’s convincing yourself of the veracity of the fun-house lies that Christian Science puts forth.