How I Became A Walking Contradiction

“Ain’t nuuuthin I would rather do….
My friends are gonna be there too, yeah!”

Highway To Hell: Released 27 July 1979

You know what’s comin outta my mouth next…I’ll spare you the mantra. 

I was 14, when I first heard and saw the cover of that album… Upon hearing it: I was stunned. As an anxious pre-pubescent 14 year old boy, I couldn’t believe the words he was singing! Bewilderment. Where in the hell, did he get the idea that hell was going to be a party?  Did he not have the same hell imagery I had?

I imagined, he must have thought of hell as some sort of rough & tough biker bar. A dusty, outskirts sorta place where  all the tough tear drop tattooed, whiskey & beer drinkin “hell raisin’” (of course) bad boys are fed a steady diet of sinners comprised of bad accountants, naughty postmen and other less warrior type sinners of all genders who have happened to have run out of gas about a mile up the road…

Of course, being on the planet long enough I can now just say, “From Dusk till Dawn”, just no vampires. Trust me, former humans with no accountability are far scarier than undead flesh eating beasts. With the beasts, things are clear: You don’t ask to borrow a cellphone before realizing how fucked you are.

Maybe he thought that upon being cast into hell, it would then be like getting a job? Since he was such a “baaaad sinner”? Instead of suffering, he gets promoted to a special demon status? He gets to punish other former humans? Those that refused to sin as willingly as he did? Or as frequently with as much reckless abandon? To this day I can think of no reference, any reference at all, where hell has the potential for some “suffering decrease” depending upon “earthly evil increase”. If that were the case, then wouldn’t Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot & Amin all be just loving their hellish afterlife? When it comes to gladly upping the evil quotient, they added a fourth podium to fit those evil olympians! So comparatively speaking, why is he going to get special treatment, when afterall – he was no dictator?

Baffled. Here is a fellow human being, stating that not only is he supposedly NOT afraid of hell. But on the contrary! He thinks he is going to love it there. 

I just cannot fathom the conceptualization of hell he is portraying. It is nothing like any of the pictures, vivid descriptions and other various imaginings of shit I was fed regarding the nature of hell. Old tapestries, paintings, marble reliefs, statues, every imaginable medium has presented hell as something that will always be filled with you doing the opposite of partying with friends. There are too many moving parts for me to be listening to this song to think the lyrics author is just an idiot. Afterall, I’ve had too many great ideas shat upon very quickly by my immediate surroundings to think someone could write a love song to Satan, and be given a metaphorical megaphone to repeat the message; for it to be just a dummy who got fed a bizarre diet of “hell ain’t so bad” talk, while in his youth.

I couldn’t help but wonder, al almost every preacher and mother in the midwest was yelling out loud in unison:

Is he a henchman of the Prince of Darkness and Father of Lies? 
Sent, as it were, “…from the very pits of hell to vex us…”? 

That narrative certainly seemed plausible. If the devil’s desire is to have my soul, and there is a loophole in God’s plan that says I am allowed to give my soul to the devil…then wouldn’t it make sense that the devil would use every possible means to ensnare us in order to acquire that sweet succulent prize of a soul?

For a moment, ignore that powerful rock rhythm. Just think of that voice that sounds like it was exposed to the very fumes of hell. Hear past the syncopated beat of the guitar hammering. Focus only on the context of the lyrics.

Seems the lyrics are nothing short of military recruitment propaganda. According to all those 1955 Good Housekeeping, Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver types, that was exactly what was going on! This song, those lyrics are an outright tool of the very devil himself. Powerful narrative for a 14 year old boy fed a steady diet of Western European theories about hell.

Clearly, the singer’s voice has nothing in common with most other “singing voices” I had ever heard. Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger, to me, up until then, were the only voices that were “artistic” in nature.

But I think: What voice would have worked in that song? His guttural growls and sounds that seem more like what you would hear if an escaped zoo panther met you in a dark alley. How in the hell would Whitney Housten sing this song? It had to be Bob Dylan’s voice, after being run over by a truck driven by Mick Jagger. Yet given life sustaining mouth to mouth from Louis Armstrong! Dare I say…it had to be a voice from hell, in order to sing a hellish song.

But hold the phone! You can not just nevermind the music. Drummer hits that bass drum AFTER the guitar slams out those three chords. Sweet. How can you not like this? Sherlock Holmes might deduce the alluring nature of this music, as a property of it’s more sinister purpose. To hypnotize, tranquilize and then ever so carefully “…lead them down to hell…”.

Blame it all on Rock n Roll! That’s what the carriers of the torches and pitchforks were chanting.

Granted, there is a bevy of evidence that lyrics, taken literally are nothing more than declarations of fealty to the devil. But it is not just Rock n Roll. Lyrics have been asking me to “commit sin” or to convince me that “sin is not sin” long before those drum beats of hell started making my heart go pitter-patter.

Remember the theme song from M*A*S*H (sitcom circa 1970)? No lyrics, just a haunting melody that belied the humor of the underlying show. I was around the 7 when I discovered that song actually has lyrics.

“Suicide is painless.
It brings on many changes.
And I can take or leave it,
If I please.”

My initial thought was something to the effect of, “this song writer is going to get into so much trouble if his mom finds out that he is saying bad stuff like that.”. But getting beyond that shock, and the older I got I realize that all song lyrics, throughout time, have traversed the spectrum of love/hate, sin/restraint, good/bad desires. It’s not fair to blame Rock n Roll. I would go so far as to say, blaming Rock n Roll is a scapegoat.

Every year, around Christmas time, Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer would starting sing “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. Just know that these lyrics at  face value contain the following:

“…Well maybe just a half a drink more
…Say what’s in this drink
…I wish I knew how
…To break this spell
…I ought to say no no sir –
…At least I’m going to say that I tried…”

[ insert staring/face palm/bewildered emoji here ] 


Getting the girl since 1949.

So a song involving date rape is okay because there is no guitar? Drums? Point is, it is not just Rock n Roll. It is not fair to blame the music that is actually good! For the sinister undertones calling for sinful behavior. For a 14 year old to muster that decision is either wise beyond years, or a good excuse to join every person that you are trying to be friends with…or possibly make out with….or absolutely avoid getting bullied by…in rocking their head front to back with a fist in the air screaming “I’m on a Highway To hell!”

What’s wrong with this picture? What am I supposed to do? At this point, I should point out that this is just one representative example of the thousands of conflicts that I have been stymied by for as long as I can possibly remember.

I had access to all the images of hell you could possibly want. Of course, I had images of heaven, too. The dentist office was my initial exposure to what “heaven must be like”. Pastel colors, duh. Pathways of a perfect white substance, curving through lush foliage that always has tall, majestic Italian Cypress trees.

Of course, everyone is white. But, as I got older, and was allowed to go with friends to various Sunday services. I would get my hands on youth bible story books. In them, heaven often showed an occasional black person. So, we got inclusion covered. And everyone IS smiling. The cartoons and other videos where heaven is depicted always show people as “Milling about”. Ever notice that? I guess in so many afterlife depictions, folks in heaven just like to wear robes, sandals and walk around smiling and say hello to other residents of heaven.

How young was I when I first noticed the gaping disparity between humans’ ability to successfully convey what hell might be like versus heaven? Maybe around the same age as when I found my first porno mag. (That’s another story.)

When people are looking at depictions of hell…So often you hear the phrase ”That’s the stuff of nightmares!”.

We so easily can accept the images of hell creeping into our subconscious dreams and giving us nightmares! But do you, or anyone you know dream of peaceful gardens fenced in by towering italian cypress? Long winding pathways hemmed by lush foliage and perfectly manicured gardens.

I watch a scary show. Go to bed. What happened? If I dreamt, it probably involved that scary show.

Now….instead, I watch a good show. Something truly inspirational for myself. Something filling my heart with hope and my eyes with tears. I go to bed and dream. Yeah – exactly. Goddamn stupid nightmare.

It is said heaven is dreamy. And in heaven, I’m sure we would have only heavenly dreams. But outside of heaven…

It seems the propensity for my subconscious mind to choose to process images from Frazetta and H.R. Giger far exceeds those of Martin, Mignard and Raphael. Did you even know those last three names? You probably knew the first two. Why is that?

Why have all of man’s attempts at describing how wonderful heaven is, and therefore how desperately we should be seeking after admittance, fallen so flat? Yes, there are works of beauty in this world. But their numbers and their ability to captivate, entrance and hold the population’s attention seem almost insignificant to that which is obviously…by all definitions…not heavenly.

Seems my definitions of heaven and hell were formed by rather subjective and evidently random influences. Yet, oh – how they have hardened in my brain. It seems rather unfair, that my physiology is such that such a short lived experience as childhood can have such a forever influence on simply how I process the world around me.

My environmental stimuli has taught me there is no Rock n Roll in heaven. Nowhere in any form of art, education or work of literature, to which I have been exposed, ever gave the slightest inclination that heaven was a place where there was loud noise, yelling, hollering and carrying on! Only peaceful, contemplative quietness is found in that soft pillowy place.

And that, in a nutshell must be my problem. I cannot fathom a heaven, wherein the things that make me happy, exist. Therefore, the only way I can attain the heaven that I have been taught, is to shed every single thought process that makes me, me.

Case, in point: How old is someone when they first see Michelangelo’s statue David? I think I was around five years old, maybe? But my first recollection was “His penis is little like mine! Isn’t he embarrassed?”. So I’m not sure why a five year old would already have penis embarrassment, but, that is how it was. So yeah, my thoughts don’t gravitate towards things that are innocent and pure by nature. Not that I thought they were evil…but…if you see something, and your initial reaction is contrary to a heavenly response…I mean…doesn’t that speak volumes?

If Ave Maria is playing in front of me, I will leave and gravitate to wherever they are playing Highway To Hell.

Why and how my brain and body thirst and hunger for Rock n Roll, seductive women and shocking art is beyond me. It is a component of daily contemplation. Through my years, in my own personal spiritual wanderings, I have read passages about righteous men who thirst and hunger for the word of God! Who seek good things and shun evil things!

I’ve read them in scripture.
I’ve had stories and examples provided.
I’ve seen and heard them on television.
They are held up, in my mind, in a pose from a Superman poster. Easily turning away from temptation. Fixating their time and energy on promoting goodness and fairness! And they are absolutely unreal. I have nothing in common with these men.

I don’t desire evil things. I wish we could all work together in peace to ensure that every person is fed, clothed and loved. I want to laugh, and play music after working hard. I share with others, and desire only to be shared with. I will freely give of myself to see someone else lifted up. 

But I would also love to get a blow job while jamming on the guitar to Highway To Hell.