A Dying Gift

Like a speck in the shallows

The grass that sways with the breeze

Light emitted from office windows

And the bare branches of autumn trees

 

Like the rain that greets goodbyes

And condensation that drips off the pane

From the dimness of winter sunrise

To the final groan of fading pain

The Genius

Pine cones lay with no pine trees

Windy wastes of scattered debris

And from that endless empty lot

The genius picks a dusty blot

 

Thrusts it onto a great black tower

To shadow sun and decompose flower

Unto the world is birthed an acid

To rot smiles and eat horizons placid

An Embankment

Where the river runs the path will follow

With artificial mounds and tunnels hollow

Under shining sun or summer showers

In winter shock when snowflakes glower

 

Wind sweeps rain in wrathful lash

Flailing branches threaten to crash

But in the gentle days of spring

Flowers blossom and hummingbirds sing

 

Foliage hangs over in superfluous comfort

Friends walk under in waking comport

Grass grows wild as if to mock

Ducks hiding behind wind eroded rock

 

And on a rare and boiling day

Still waters might deceivingly say

That timeless waits upon the banks

No action, no change, no need of thanks

#13 – Analysis of Operation: Mindcrime by Queensryche – Eyes Of A Stranger

Here is part 1.

We hear sounds of a hospital similar to the opening song and this final song bursts into life abruptly.

“All alone now except for the memories

Of what we had and what we knew

Every time I try to leave it behind me

I see something that reminds me of you

Every night the dreams return to haunt me

Your rosary wrapped around your throat

I lie awake and sweat, afraid to fall asleep

I see your face looking back at me”

Now that Nikki cannot find a direction he replays the memories over and comes to live in them and sleep in them. It is a nightmare that he tries to escape by clinging on to reality.  But his guilt manifests itself in the face of the one he most grieves having failed. Mary committed suicide with one of the sacred objects she had tried to use to enchant her existence with meaning.

“Is this all that’s left of my life before me

Straight jacket memories, sedative highs

No happy ending like they’ve always promised

There’s got to be something left for me”

Sedatives and straight-jackets are extreme measures suggesting that Nikki has descended into violent madness. The story of this album has not cheated by finding some happy ending but has followed to the inevitable end. Murder and the mental illness brought on by drugs are things that very few are ever able return from to find a meaningful life.

“How many times must I live this tragedy?

How many more lies will they tell me?

All I want is the same as everyone

Why am I here, and for how long”

Viktor Frankel in Man’s Search For Meaning suggested that the question of the meaning of life can be whittled down to its core in an extreme situation like the concentration camps that he had existed in. In the chorus Nikki looks into the eyes of the Other to see if there is anything left. Hegel’s philosophy tells us that we only form our identity in relation to others, and about a million modern philosophers have wondered if relations with others is even possible because since the only subject is oneself, others are seen as objects, and therefore there is a subject-object gap. Nikki tries to reach across that evanescent gap but finds that others turn away.

“Chorus:

And I raise my head and stare

Into the eyes of a stranger

I’ve always known that the mirror never lies

People always turn away

From the eyes of a stranger

Afraid to know what lies behind the stare”

Is Nikki unable to relate with others because he cannot see them as subjects, bound up as he is in himself? Or is he unable to be a subject himself, seeing only his emptiness and not his humanity. I think, from second hand sources, that Hegel would say both were the same problem. Nikki looks in the mirror and likewise turns away. No more able to step outside himself and view himself in the third person than he is to engage with others in the first person I to I. What lies behind the stare is nothing and gazing into the void of a physically living but life-drained human being feels like staring into your own death.

The album ends with clips from the album racing round faster and faster before crashing into an inscrutable demon-like utterance. A menacing low murmur is heard before Nikki says “I remember now” to end the album. It has been suggested that this ending suggests that Nikki is re-experiencing the events of this album every 30 seconds before the cycle begins again. A terrifying idea, in any case the story is the old theme of the descent into hell and it is all too easy to imagine ourselves sliding the same jagged descent.

#12 – Analysis of Operation: Mindcrime by Queensryche – Waiting For 22 & My Empty Room

Here is part 1.

Waiting For 22 is an instrumental on acoustic guitar. My Empty Room begins with the sound of a clock ticking which is then accompanied by guitar phrases.

“Empty room today

And here I sit

Chalk outline upon the wall

I remember tracing it

A thousand times, the night she died.

Why? Why?

There’s no sleep today, I can’t pretend

When all my dreams are crimes

I can’t stand facing them”

Nikki cannot stand who he is and what he has done and this leaves him unable to act in the world and he is trapped in an empty room. In one of the Father Brown stories Chesterton says that every time one falls asleep it is an act of faith. Without the hope a new morning with new hope Nikki cannot naturally avail himself of sleep. The song ends with a crash of drums and guitar as Nikki almost shouts out the last verse.

“Now who will come?

To wash away my sins

Clean my room, fix my meals

Be my friend?”

Nikki cannot function in basic ways without Mary and this is why we will find him in the locked ward in the final song. Notice that Nikki mentions the basic human needs he has been looking for since the start of the story: spiritual fulfillment, order, care and friendship.

Here is part 13.

#11 – Analysis of Operation: Mindcrime by Queensryche – I Don’t Believe In Love

Here is part 1.

“I awoke on impact

Under surveillance from the camera eye

Searching high and low

The criminal mind found at the scene of the crime

Handcuffed and blind, I didn’t do it

She said she loved me

I guess I never knew

But do we ever, ever really know?

She said she’d meet me on the other side

But I knew right then, I’d never find her”

Nikki sadly returns to the body of Mary despite not expecting to find her alive. He is arrested and incarcerated. The last two lines here are interesting as they suggest that Mary committed suicide hoping for a Romeo and Juliet style pact, but that Nikki doesn’t believe in the afterlife and so did not go through with his part. Nikki questions whether someone could really love him and commit suicide. It is felt as a betrayal.

“No more nightmares, I’ve seen them all

From the day I was born, they’ve haunted my every move

Every open hand’s there to push and shove

No time for love, it doesn’t matter

She made a difference; I guess she had a way

Of making every night seem bright as day

Now I walk in shadows, never see the light

She must have lied because she never said goodbye”

This kind of self-pitying tale of woe is a great comfort those who have made stupid or immoral decisions. Notice the lack of agency in the self-described passive victim who is pushed and shoved without pushing back. Nikki likes to imagine that Mary is the only one who has ever reached out to him but perhaps she is also the only person he has reached out to. We only ever count up one side of this ledger.

“Chorus:

I don’t believe in love

I never have, I never will

I don’t believe in love

I’ll just pretend she never was real

I don’t believe in love

I need to forget her face, I see it still

I don’t believe in love

It’s never worth the pain that you feel”

In our time of constant gratification it is a difficult truth that the great virtues and emotions are distinguished from the ordinary by how they stand out. One cannot have love without the pain of its loss, or wisdom without the possibility of foolishness, etc. One has to take the good with the bad or forego anything worthwhile altogether. Nikki is now trying to dull himself from the slings and arrows that flesh is heir to and this means his silence will not be broken.

“No chance for contact, there’s no reason there

My only hope is one day I’ll forget

The pain of knowing what can never be

With or without love it’s all the same to me”

It is particular painful to accept where one is if one has known better. After the loss of love one laments the greying of the world and longs for that otherworldly light that the face of the lover brings to colour one’s every moment. This is why it is important to see any good that comes into one’s life as a gift and not come to expect it. Without a spirit of generosity one comes to disdain the good as false hope, or the object of jealousies, or a cosmic joke in its pointless passing away as Nikki does to his despair.

Here is part 12.

#10 – Analysis of Operation: Mindcrime by Queensryche – Breaking The Silence

Here is part 1.

“They told me to run, but just how far?

Can I go wearing the black mask of fear?

The hate in my eyes always gives me away

The tension building slowly

Now I’ve lost everything I had in you

Nothing we shared means a thing

Without you close to me

I can’t live without you”

The human need for home makes Nikki’s flight unbearable. He looked for it in the cult, found something like home in the church with Mary but now he doesn’t belong anywhere. His paranoia has cut him off from all others who see the hate and fear and not the person beneath. He also has lost his driving force that had inspired his heroic idea to kill Dr. X. Without Mary everything has sunk into an abyss.

“There’s no direction to my stare

No more flame burning in my heart anymore

Quiet, I keep it to myself

Until the sun sets slowly

I hear your voice in the evening rain calling

Nothing will keep us apart

No more lies and fear

There’s no end to our story”

Like a drowning man grasps for air or any kind of help, Nikki hears echoes of Mary like a gasp for life. Love has a poignant lingering quality, especially if it is followed by a period of loneliness.. Without a motivation to act in the world Nikki feels his personality evaporate and so he clings to the story that once gave meaning. A trace of the life that Mary gave him lingers and he wanders aimlessly looking for its thread.

“Chorus:

Breaking the silence of the night

Can’t you hear me screaming?

I look for your face in the neon light

You never answer me

I could make all the wrong seem right

If you were by my side

I’d gather all the tears you cried

And hide them deep underground”

Nikki is reminded of Mary by many small details, the rain, neon lights, even the now omnipresent silence of his existence. The experience of unfulfilled love is now so common that most people will, I think, have looked for the face of the lost love in places they have never frequented. Most of all Nikki laments that he will never be able to redeem the suffering of Mary who, unlike her Catholic namesake, suffered for nothing.

“Can’t look back, it’s just a waste of time

Can’t erase this hate from my eyes”

Nikki wants to absolve his past in some new path forward. But who we are is formed from what went before, and all Nikki knows now is resentment and loss. The song ends with voices heard in Nikki’s mind saying “we know you did it”, “why did you do it?” as he feels the guilt of his actions. Nikki is caught in the moments of transition and nothing around him, no cultural tradition or theory that he is aware of is able to tell him what to do.

Here is part 11.