Soon after we left LA and arrived in NYC I sat in the balcony of the St. James Theatre trying to contain my weeping as I watched American Idiot.
The expression of anger and indignation resonated so powerfully within my core that while we were eating at Sardi's afterward (a hilariously dated and overpriced restaurant down the street) I could only identify with the depressed, couch-dwelling character of the show (stage right throughout).
(I couldn't find a video of the entire opening number, "American Idiot;" so if you have one send it my way.)
The jolting onset of intense media action,
jarring electric sound, and
head-banging choreography awoke in me this intense rage
against the Man.
against chaos and disaster.
...arguably themes of the show and album.
And yet, like Rent will always reveal for me, the community that was broken and re-created from the shambles of atrocity and terror shows a depth originating from no kind of kindness--it's one that only stems from piecing together what's left after a bomb erupts and shatters the foundations of our lives.
This clip is annoying in the transitions but does well to throw you through the moods of the show.
They sing, "welcome to a new kind of tension...where everything is meant to be okay."
Is it...going to be okay?
I don't think so.
Hence the new tension of which they sing.
Living as it is okay or is going to be okay and denying the hurts and addictions of life. We who love this musical reject this notion and therefore resent this tension.
My last few entries of 2010 on this site hint at my emotional upheaval and confusion with everything I thought to be so certain. Taking too literally (and personally for that matter) foundations and ideas like Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and who are called according to God's purpose." Not that it's complete bullshit, but more like, let's keep things like this in context, right? And this idea too--keeping scripture and other writings in their proper genre and contextual paradigms--is a simple approach for mainliners but a theological breech for evangelicals. (I'm getting lost on a tangent.)
Getting back to the point: I value naming the tension, especially when it's a really profound one like seeking life in a world where everything is alright. First of all, how boring. Second of all, how dysfunctional!
Instead, let us break through to a new tension, one that's more honest and life-giving. I want to live not in the aforementioned tension of naiveté and ignorance of pain. Nor do I claim a tension of healthy lifestyles and extreme greed (as promoted by the American media, and highlighted in the musical) while ignoring the needs of the world's poor. Instead I claim a tension that flows from concepts like loving in the midst of hate. Not an eye for an eye, but loving the enemy.
So as I reflect back on my posts of 2010, on articles that have infiltrated The New York Times in the last forty-eight months, along with the overarching condition of humanity (here's where I get all existential) I wonder what empowers us to embrace the tension of living fully and with hope, particularly in the reality that things are not okay, and maybe won't ever be in this lifetime.
Chatting with some friends during dinner last weekend, in regards to their ongoing work with the urban poor population and efforts to eradicate the situation entirely I asked what keeps hope in their future alive. I want to know where they go for restoration. Similarly, a dear friend who works at Bread for the World, an anti-hunger organization, expressed a relief from the rigors of fighting an uphill battle through religion. An elderly African American lady who worked as narcotics rehab officer during the 1970's in NYC spoke to me of her faith providing sustenance. Something to still believe in at the end of the day. I agree, and yet, I still wonder--
How do we hope (through the power of Jesus, or our higher power, or the prospect of Enlightenment, or whatever fills this blank in your sentence)...how do we hope for things to be made well while maintaining integrity and awareness to the realities of life?
Did Neitzche simply name what the rest of us fear, "Religion is an opiate for the masses"? Do we hope in the intervention of a Higher Power so we can get some rest at night, in tandem with the prescribed Ambien? Or does God really reach out in saving acts of grace? If God exists to love and be loved as love, a love so bold and refreshing that all fear is truly cast out, where do I find this? What does this mean? I want proof.
My previous answers to this are what crashed when I wasn't looking.
And full circle back to the music of Green Day, it's worth getting angry about the ways American youth are jolted around in a schizophrenic quest for peace. Our institutions of family and church (to keep the list short) fail us. Yet, I wonder if when redefined and re-imagined in our current cultural mix-up, might these be a few places to hope freely in and work for a radical world where things will be just that...okay. Talk about a new kind of tension.
I don't want to be an American idiot. But I wouldn't mind being an idiot for something that authentically lives the realities of hope and love amidst trauma and loss. Let's just be honest about it. It's unpredictable.