“These Are Nowhere Near the Best Years of Your Life”

I’m a big fan of Country music: I love it. To me it’s one of the most reliably pleasant and uplifting art forms on the market today. And one of my favorite artists is Mr. Brad Paisley. As a matter of fact, it was Mr. Paisley’s music that first made me a Country fan. Before discovering him, I had heard Country music before that I had liked, but Mr. Paisley was the one who caused me to embrace the whole world of Nashville with a delirious enthusiasm.

Among the first songs of Mr. Paisley that I discovered, and still one of my favorites, is a bittersweet song called “Letter To Me,” in which the singer meditates on what he would say if he could write a message to his seventeen-year-old self. There’s a lot of gentle wisdom and heart-tugging regret, but in the midst of it all is the simple message which Mr. Paisley says he would end with: “Have no fear / these are nowhere near the best years of your life.”

That is to say, high school is not life. It isn’t even an especially important part of life. It’ll pass away, and you’ll experience joys and triumphs that you could never have imagined, while all the drama and heartache of adolescence will appear, in retrospect, to be rather silly and unimportant.

It occurred to me that this is true not only of high school, but of life in general. The life we are leading now is only the equivalent of high school: a highly atypical and often unpleasant threshold on the way to something much greater and more substantial than we can appreciate. Like in high school, there are people who obsess over this life and who seem to consequently do very well. But they’re putting their energies into something temporary. To be sure, some of the skills required for success in high school will help you get by in life, but not as many as you’d think. Besides, high school is so unlike normal life that it won’t really help you much. Even so, those who obsess over success in this life will find themselves unprepared for the next.

Similarly, those who actually are preparing for their actual future existence tend not to be very popular either in high school or life. They are the outcasts, the losers, the freaks, and yet very often they’re the ones who actually make something of their lives while the popular kids sink into obscurity, knowing that their best days are gone.

And so, the same advice applies to life as to high school: it’ll pass and it’s not as important as it seems now. Just be yourself and concentrate on preparing for your future and don’t worry what anyone else thinks. Their power and prestige is based on a world that will pass away much quicker than you think. Just like how “at seventeen it’s hard to see past Friday night,” it’s hard for us to see past the temporary mortal existence which comprises the bulk (I will not say the entirety) of our experience. But, just like high school, this will pass away and we’ll look back and wonder at how silly and stupid the whole thing was.

Pluto Day!

I’ve got a lot of things I want to write about, but that can wait. For right now, let’s celebrate New Horizons finally reaching the late ninth planet with my favorite song about Pluto (granted, there aren’t many).

Dueling Nights, Or the Internet Amateur Outdoes the Celebrity

As you know, I’m a big Minecraft fan. Now, something most non-Minecraft people don’t know is that the Minecraft community (for lack of a better word) loves to come up with songs about the game. Usually these are parodies of popular songs, but occasionally we get original ones. I’m serious; there are a lot of Minecraft songs out there: on YouTube you can find “Top 20” or even “Top 50” countdowns.

One that almost always shows up in the top ten of any countdown is called Don’t Mine at Night, which is a parody of Miss Katey Perry’s Last Friday Night. Meaning no offense to Miss Perry, but I actually think it’s a better song than the original.

Here’s the original:

Now here’s the Minecraft version:

See, I think Don’t Mine at Night is just a better song. It has stronger lyrics: it’s less repetitive, it flows better, and it doesn’t stretch for rhymes as much. The original version is basically a series of random thoughts set to music: Don’t Mine is also a little random, but more coherent and better structured. One lyric transitions into the next better than in Miss Perry’s version.

Anyway, that’s what I think, possibly influenced by the fact that A. I heard Don’t Mine at Night before I heard Last Friday Night and B. I’m more comfortable with a song about the disasters that befall in Minecraft than I am with a song about how much fun it is to do really stupid and degrading things, be it oh so catchy.

Heavy Metal Goes to War

My tastes in music, as I’ve mentioned before, are very eclectic. I love Country, but I also enjoy some rock and heavy metal (I’m particularly a fan of Mr. Alice Cooper, but that’s a story for another day).

Sabaton is a Swedish heavy metal group that I particularly enjoy. Their shtick is songs about war and historical battles, which they often describe with surprising feeling and pathos, but I couldn’t detect a hint of the shallow pacifism that often mars modern war stories. Rather, they simply tell the story without regard to politics and their advocacy seems to amount to simply “remember this.”

It’s frankly a higher cause than most rock bands can aspire to, and I salute them.

Here are a few of their songs: first is “The Price of a Mile” about the Battle of Passchendaele, July 31-November 6 1917, which was a suicidal and pathetic attempt by the British army to accomplish something in the bloody stalemate that was the Western Front. Well, they accomplished something alright: they captured the small, meaningless town of Passchendaele (which they lost a few month’s later) and suffered 450,000 casualties (reading The Last Lion, I learned that Winston Churchill begged the army to abandon the scheme and wait for the American troops to arrive before attempting any assault, but, as often happened, he was ignored to Britain’s sorrow).

Next is “40 to 1” about the Battle of Wizna, from September 7th to 10th during the invasion of Poland, in which 720 Polish soldiers faced 42,200 Nazis and held their ground for three days, delaying the German assault and giving other Polish forces time to regroup and escape. The battle was led on the Polish side by Captain Wladyslaw Raginis, who swore that he would hold his position as long as he was alive. He held his position until his men ran out of ammunition, then permitted them to surrender before (already seriously injured) committing suicide with a grenade.

Finally is “In the Name of God,” which is pretty much a broadside “the reason you suck” against contemporary Muslim terrorists. And that’s always a good thing.

The Last Plane Out

So, I stumbled on this song earlier this week by a music group from the 1990s called ‘Toy Matinee,’ whom I’ve never heard of, but that’s not a surprise, since I’m no expert on 1990s rock groups. Anyway, I really liked it; I thought it was a catchy tune, with actually really good lyrics and an uncomfortably appropriate theme for our times. It’s basically a catchily sarcastic song about living in a completely hedonistic society (don’t worry; there’s no objectionable content).

See what you think:

Meditating on the Good

I don’t know about you, but I find I have an unfortunate tendency to focus too much on evil. I read crime stories, books by criminologists and cops, blogs about self-defense and that’s not even counting the fictional evil that I find so unnervingly fascinating. I know I’m not alone in this either; how often have you heard people quoting the Joker from The Dark Knight over the past few years?

And yet, what we take into our minds has an incalculable effect on us, which means that a steady diet of evil cannot possibly be healthy. As Emerson said, “We become what we think about all day long.”

As a way of counteracting this unhealthy mental diet, I try to make myself spend time each day focusing on good things. I don’t just mean God, or Jesus, or Mary or the saints, though that’s of course part of it. I mean things that a beautiful, or honest, or innocent. Things that showcase real talent used well. Things that uplift rather than subvert.

So, I’m going to regularly post these things here as they strike me, in the hopes that they’ll uplift my readers as well (and so that I can have a chance to gush about things I like).

For this first entry, I’ll just go with something obvious; one of the most beautiful, haunting, and enigmatic songs of the latter twentieth century: Don McLean’s American Pie (The Day the Music Died).

I don’t have time right now to attempt to delve into the song, so just sit back and let the words and music wash about in your head.