Metallica: The Music of Catharsis
When I worked in Harrods in London (1985-1989), I began having issues with my identity. My friend Peter, who also worked there, had the same issues. In the daylight we were sales assistants in Men´s Suits, dressed in bright silk suits. At night, when we stepped out of our daily routine coffins and into the leisure, we were Rock ‘n’ Rollers, faded to black. Almost every weekend we went to rock concerts in the Mecca of Rock, London, as well as all around the UK.
August 17th 1985 we went to the Monsters of Rock Festical at Castle Donington Raceway, Derbyshire. Already from the morning, in the train, we started up with the dangerous Danish Aalborg Akvavit snaps.
The 1985 show received the most pleasant weather of the decade, whereas other outdoor events held around the same time were deluged by rain, Donington, was, for once, blessed with constant sunshine. This did not of course, mean that people would stop throwing bottles of urine at other punters for no good reason, but at least there wasn't much mud (unless of course it resulted from earth soaked by beer or piss ... or a combination of both).
The music was:
The music was a bit of a mix of styles, Bon Jovi were received with indifference, Marillion, which at that time was our favorite band, were that strange phenomena, like Genesis before them, a prog rock band who managed to appeal a hard rock audience and they were able to perform at festivals such as Donington and Reading with relative success, whilst one would have imagined they would have been bottled offstage in normal circumstances.
The newspaper advert from early August indicates that some of the support acts had still to be finalized, including Metallica who would eventually headline in their own right, but at this point in time they were relatively unknown in the UK. Attendance is reported to be 80,000, the biggest crowd so far at the event.
It was a great day – I remember Cliff Burton’s bass sounding (fantastically) like nothing on earth, the hail of plastic bottles between Marillion and ZZ Top; a triumphant set by Magnum; Bon Jovi being brilliant; Marillion riding their crest and it being a hot, sunny day. Fantastic!
When Eliminator (ZZ Top’s car) slung beneath a helicopter circling the festival, Peter and I were pretty pissed, and were entering (Sandman) - some dark, astral Twilight Zone. We got away from each other. The last thing I saw for him, was when he rolled down a hill, utterly pissed, like falling down into a hell hole, where he disappeared into the mass.
When the concert was over I just waved into one of the many busses, and just by pure coincidence it drove to London. It could just as well have been driving to Scotland or Ireland. Monday morning I was back at work in my Valentino suit, ready to serve the rich and famous, but with some blunt eyes. Peter had not shown up, and I called his landlord, who told that he had been hospitalized at the Royal London Hospital. After work I went to see him. He had a tendon tored in the hand. Though it sounded as a minimal damage, it was rather serious and complicated…and painful. Peter was obviously drugged, when he said: “This is a section for Elephant people. I don´t want to be here!”
Well, Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, who was made famous in the film by David Lynch, certainly were hospitalized here. Peter whispered:
“I can hear them cry at night. Get me out of here Morten!”
Merrick also lived on the premises, and died there. “Maybe it´s his ghost who hunts the corridors at night?” I suggested. Still affected from the weekend though, I began to think out a great plan of escape as when two friends of the American musician Gram Parsons, stole his corpse from The LA Airport and drove it out to Joshua Tree desert and cremated it in an enormous fireball, just as Parsons had wished. But Peter was not dead though, and fortunately he stayed and got a proper treatment.
Change of tack that year. The 'Monsters of Rock' tag was dropped for some reason. Maybe because the two top names this year couldn't or wouldn't be associated with the heavy metal genre. Instead we got 'ZZ Top - Rockin' The Castle', the irony of all this was the fact that one of, if not THE biggest heavy metal band of the future was on the bill, namely, Metallica.
And it was first many years later that I myself actually discovered them for real.
Because they were restless seekers, not content to think and sound the same, Metallica has changed, James Hetfield has changed, not just musically but personally. As the lead singer, chief riff writer, and main lyricist, Hetfield is the band member fans most readily identify with. His struggle is our struggle, his virtues and vices our own.
Virtues are character traits that make a person a good person. We typically think of patience, self-control, and honesty as virtues, but power, well-placed aggression, and even manipulation can be virtues to some accounts, as I have shown in connection with New Age and the self-help industry.
In the Blackwell series on Popular Culture and Philosophy, the philosopher William Irwin writes that Hetfield´s lyrics and biography suggest that he has journeyed through three different sets of virtues. Hereby Hetfield manifests the monomyth about the Hero´s Journey. In his book The Hero´s Journey the mythologist, Joseph Campbell, the monomyth, or the hero´s journey, is the common template of a broad category of tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed (see my article The Hero´s Journey).
Hetfield´s journey – the search – begins in Hetfield´s youth with the rejection of Christian virtues enforced by family. In their place come warrior virtues adopted in adolescence and adulthood, which – fueled with alcohol – finally failed. The result is, Irwin suggests, perhaps unwittingly, the acceptance of Buddhist virtues.
In his book The Good Life the Danish philosopher Mogens Pahuus writes, that if you ask about, what the old Scandinavians (the Vikings) saw as the highest and the greatest in life, the ecstasy of life, then the answer would be, that it is self-assertion – the assertion of oneself and the family. He also writes, that you in Christianity find a diametrically opposite view of self-assertion, – both in its Catholic form as in Protestantism. In Saint Gregory and Thomas of Aquinas haughtiness/pride/self-assertion was the first and greatest of the seven so-called deadly sins. And in Luther self-assertion nor was a goodness, but the vice over all vices. It is the seven deadly sins Dante in The Divine Comedy must look in the eyes one after one, in order to be able to progress. He must use the discrimination, which is the purification process, where you look your destiny in the eyes and do penance after having realized how your perspective distorts reality.
Hetfield was raised in the tradition of the Church of Christ, Scientist (also known as the Christian Science church), which in addition to preaching traditional Christian virtues, forbids the practice of medicine. Christian Science is a set of beliefs and practices belonging to the metaphysical family of new religious movements. It was developed in 19th-century New England by Mary Baker Eddy, who argued in her book Science and Health (1875) that sickness is an illusion that can be corrected by prayer alone (so-called faith healing). Bizarrely, in Christian Science medicine is forbidden because it wouldn´t do any good in healing the body anyway. So, in the paradoxical emphasis on the concept of science, mixed with its skepticism towards modern medicine, Christian Science belongs to the many branches of New Age Alternative Medicine practitioners. According to the church´s doctrines, the body is really an illusory cage for the soul and, if someone is sick, all one can do is pray that God will heal the sick person. Whether a person lives or dies – sick or not – is totally in the hands of God. Add to this the idea that what is most important is your soul and what will happen to it in the life to come, and we can see why the Chrich of Christ, Sciencist would seem dogmatic and world-denying. It´s no wonder that Hetfield rejected the religion of his upbringing and, with it, many of the virtues it held dear.
In that we of course have to deal with the question of anger, not only the anger, which is implicit in an ideology, but also the anger in the critique of an ideology. Because ideology should be criticized, but not end up in violence.
For example the whole of Karen Blixen´s life is a rebellion against the mediocrity of the common Christian life, which tried to clip her wings in her childhood (I have examined this closely in my book Lucifer Morningstar – a Philosophical Love Story). It is a human insult. I will say that this is probably the biggest wall you will meet on your spiritual journey. And it is much more painful when you also meet it from friends and family, if you not are behaving “normal”. Like this it is somehow something that is coming from “within”.
To stand up against these influences, and keep your philosophical integration intact, will for certain create a spirit of greatness. In some cases it is best totally to avoid these people, because they will clip your wings if they get the chance for it.
My own advice today is: Do as Epicurus, treat people with friendliness and compassion as long as it is possible, but withdraw to your garden when they try to lure you into the world´s noise and political quarrels, because they think that this is a part of being “normal”. When you in peace are cultivating your garden you can also keep on cultivating your philosophical integration and the refined pleasure in this. But not without being critical! Epicurus´ way of life can be said to be a critique in itself.
Hetfield chose the warrior virtues with their emphasis on self-assertion. Although the word virtue can have a rather feminine connotation these days, as it is readily associated with such Christian virtues as meekness and chastity, the English word virtue is rooted in the warrior, coming from the Latin word virtus, meaning “manliness” (from the root word vir, man, as in “virile”). Surely this fits Hetfield, who hunts with Ted Nugent, watches old Western movies, and gets greasy with classic cars and custom bikes. He´s indisputably a man´s man, a warrior – not some pretty boy, politically correct rock star.
The warrior virtues get plenty of play in Metallica´s music. Consider these: courage (“bloody, but never cry submission”), hardness of heart (“no remorse is the one command”), self-sufficiency (“by myself but not alone/I ask no one”), proper pride (“I have stripped of all but pride/so in her I do confide/and she keeps me satisfied/gives me all I need”), aggressiveness (“pounding out aggression”), physical strength and health (“move swift all senses clean”), individuality (“following our instinct, not a trend/go against the grain until the end”), perseverance and endurance (“We will never stop/we will never quit/’cause we are Metallica”), honor (“dying on your feet for honesty”), loyalty (“We are as one as we all are the same/fighting for one cause”), and emotional control (“I adapt to the unknown”). But it´s not just the lyrics; the music itself reinforces the warrior virtues, particularly aggressiveness and individuality.
With songs including “Metal Militia,” “Phantom Lord,” “No Remorse,” “Seel and Destroy,” and “The Four Horsemen,” Kill ‘Em All is a pure celebration of warrior virtues. Using the imagery of the warrior to represent adolescent, existential crisis and rebellion, the message is clear: life is war, “war without end.” Life is a struggle with no God or guardian angel looking out for you (“I know I’m my best friend”). Only the strong survive. For Metallica, like-minded individuals can choose – not to be forced – to join together in a “metal militia.” And they can un-choose that membership as well. There are no uniforms, just “your leathers and your spikes.” The causes are not noble, just doing a little senseless destruction in the kill-or-be-killed world in which life, as Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) said, is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
The struggle is not to be taken literally of course. Kill ‘Em All was unparalleled in its appeal to angry, alienated, suburban, white teenage males for whom life was a struggle despite having no real war to fight and dwelling in seemingly comfortable circumstances. Rather than simply accept that life sucks and fade to black, they took up the fight against whoever, whatever. As they saw it, war is hell, and life itself is hell. William Irwin includes himself in this war.
As Irwin makes clear, the kill ‘em all lifestyle calls to mind Nietzsche´s “transvaluation of all values.” Declaring that “God is dead” and finding the virtues of Christianity poisonous, Nietzsche advocated a new morality. Our new resolution and commandment, as Nietzsche´s Zarathustra puts it, is “Stay true to the earth.” For Nietzsche, an action is good if it is done out of strength and bad if it is done out of weakness. The warrior must be emotionally tough, immune to feelings of pity and remorse.
Life, as Nietzsche sees it, is governed by the “will to power,” the innate drive to gain and express power. Getting shit-faced and causing some senseless destruction is one, unrefined, way to exercise the will to power, but ultimately a more fulfilling way might be to rule a country, make billions like Bill Gates, become a movie star, or even make music that unites musicians and listeners. The aggressive thrash of Kill ‘Em All is nothing if not an expression of power, a creative act to be shared with an audience, “when our fans start screaming/it´s right.”
But while one´s own power is to be expressed and celebrated, Irwin continues, the power of others is to be watched and suspected. As I have mentioned several times, then Nietzsche belongs to the so-called Hermeneutics of Suspicion, which I have listed as a thought distortion in my book A Dictionary of Thought Distortions. The philosopher Paul Ricoeur has referred to the “hermeneutics of suspicion” encouraged by writers such as Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. What people think, and the reasons they produce, may not be the real reasons at work. It then becomes easy to become suspicious of the motives of everyone, whether as the representative of an economic class or the purveyor of a morality, or just as an individual with psychological problems to solve.
The last mentioned is a typical trait of the management theories and their use of coaching and psychotherapy (for example Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP – see my article Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT)) in leadership theories and personality developing courses. In this way they end up in concealing power relations at the workingplace, they lead to difficulties assigning responsibility towards children in the schools, they reduce our spouses to means for our personal development (self-improvement), and remove political incitation and social responsibility by disguising social problems as personal/psychological problems. They try to remove rationality and critical thinking through the hermeneutic of suspicion. And they have success. A whole time-tendency within school, folk high school, universities and continuing education, focus on so-called ”self-improvement – self-help”, which are inspired by them. And the management theorists are in rich degree inspired by Nietzsche. The management theories have today turned the seven deadly sins into virtues. So, in this you can see that they today represent the warrior virtues. And I really don´t think Hetfield and Metallica want to be seen in that light.
The management theorists are what the the Vikings would call “svagpissere”, which directly translated means “weak-pissers.” An example: On October 8, 2009, at a New Age “Spiritual Warrior” retreat conceived and hosted by James Arthur Ray at the Angel Valley Retreat Center in Yavapai County near Sedona, Arizona, two participants, James Shore and Kirby Brown, died as a result of being in a sweat lodge exercise. Eighteen others were hospitalized after suffering burns, dehydration, breathing problems, kidney failure or elevated body temperature. Liz Neuman, another attendee, died October 17 after being comatose for a week.
After having played God for a weekend James Arthur Ray just stood nailed to the ground of fear, while he witnessed other people trying to save peoples´ lives. What a weak-pisser! (see my article James Arthur Ray and the Sweat Lodge Tragedy).
The removal of genuine rationality from the stage (which Nietzsche and the management theorists try to do) leaves open the possibility of accusations of rationalizations for ulterior motives. This form of analysis (leading us to think of groups or individuals “what is in it for them?”), is not only corrosive of trust in society. It is bound eventually to undermine itself. Why are such views themselves being propagated? What are those spreading them going to gain?
So if we should talk about rebellion, I think it is time for rebellion against this tendency in society, and especially within leadership theories. If we shall save our democracy and welfare society it is absolutely necessary, that we in relation to democracy-parasitic ideologies become philosophical rebels like Socrates, Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Krishnamurti – a kind of spiritual anarchists.
In that light you would say that self-assertion is a vice. Self-assertion is a kind of self-interest, where everything turns around the Ego, and therefore makes the mind mediocre. To live in a world, which is controlled by self-assertion, without being self-assertive, means, truly, to love something for its own sake, without seeking a reward, a result; but this is very difficult, because the whole world, all your friends, your relatives, struggle to achieve something, to accomplish something, to become something.
As mentioned: today self-assertion once again is considered as a virtue. The gurus (warriors) are the many advocates for the market and the economical competition, as for instance several management theorists. And the education-instrument is the personal development movement. The disciples are the consumers; that will say, that this outlook of life obviously is shared by most people in our society: that it is about becoming something, to get success, to conquer a place on the top of the mountain, to become a winner. Mogens Pahuus believes that the modern ideal about becoming a success, a winner, is a perverted ideal. The society praises a self-assertion, which has gone over the top, and there dominates a self-assertion, which is a vice, because it both spoils the life of the self-assertive, and the lives of those, whom the self-assertive measures himself in relation to, and whom he wants to overpass.
Pahuus mentions some of the forms of self-assertion: 1) Vanity, which is a vice, because the vain-full always is bearing in mind, how he or she looks like, or is considered like, in the eyes of others. 2) Ambition, which is a vice, because you here constantly are on the way forward, or upwards. 3) Haughtiness, which is a vice, because you here, in your feeling of own superior value, look down at others, are letting others feel their inferiority; that is: because haughtiness is unethical. But also in the arrogant himself, haughtiness is destructive: it isolates. 4) Joy of power. The ethical seen most violating form of self-assertion is the joy of having power over others, of controlling others, or oppressing them.
Pahuus quotes Alfred Adler and says that the above-mentioned forms of self-assertion are attack-characterized. But there also exists a non-attack characterized form, as for instance the hostile isolation, anxiety and bashfulness, which you see in the Underground Man in Dostojevskij´s small novel Notes from an Underground.
The vice (the paradox) in the different forms of self-assertion is that it leads to an unreal life.
And so beginning with Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets the lyrics of Hetfield and Metallica become at times critical of literal war, reflecting on the abuse of the individual warrior by those in power. “For Whom the Bells Toll” and “Disposable Heroes” portray individuals who are prawns in the games played by powerful war pigs. In a war he did not choose to fight the warrior kills for reasons he is not privy to. “Shouting gun, on they run through the endless gray / On the fight, for they are right, yes, but who´s to say? / For a hill men would kill, why? They do not know.” The warrior obeys the commands of those who care not for him – “Back to the front / you will do what I say, when I say / Back to the front / you will die when I say, you must die” – and to whom his death matters not - “Soldier boy, made of clay / now an empty shell / twenty-one, only son / but he served us well.” Still worse, “One” from the Justice album, shows the unfortunate results of a soldier not lucky enough to die in a battle, whose catastrophic injuries and disabilities leave him as nothing but “a wartime novelty.”
Metallica consistently espouse warrior virtues even while being highly critical of the loss of life and liberty due to the abuse of military and governmental power.
Still, Irwin says, Metallica are not whiney rock stars, wearing their conviction on their sleeves and shouting them from the stage. And most of their anti-war songs are not overtly political. “Fight Fire with Fire,” for example, features no holier-than-thou criticism of those making the decisions that lead to tragedy. Rather, the sad outcome simply seems the inevitable result of the warrior virtue of revenge in an absurd world. “Do unto others as they have done unto you / But what the hell is this world coming to? / Blow the universe into nothingness / Nuclear warfare shall lay us to rest.”
“Blackened” is most often interpreted as a song about environmental abuse, but certain lines – “winter it will send”; “millions of our years in minutes disappear” – suggest themes of nuclear fear, echoing “Fight Fire with Fire.” Indeed, “Fire to begin whipping dance of the dead” readily suggests helpless hordes fleeing the fallout of a nuclear winter. While conveying horror and disapproval, Irwin says, Metallica´s emphasis has remained on the metaphorical battle, the struggle within. It´s better to choose your own war – to be a vigilant member of the metal militia or damage, Inc. – than to be the victim of someone´s else´s. We need to be on guard and ready to fight in the defense of personal liberty. As “Don´t thread on Me” instructs, “To secure peace is to prepare for war.”
Still, we shouldn´t too quickly conclude that Metallica accepts and embodies all of the warrior virtues. “Man should be educated for war, and woman for the recreation of the warrior; all else is folly.” Thus speaks Nietzsche´s character, Zarathustra. Indeed, sexual potency is often classed among the warrior virtues, but, because it is a rock and roll cliché, it gets little play for Metallica. Only the Nick cave cover-song “Loverman” expresses it. While James and Lars have been known to frequent strip clubs, Metallica´s lyrics are completely without the usual bullshit about fast women and fast cars (except “Fuel”). Metallica is noteworthy among metal bands for their lack of sleaziness and misogyny, recognizing that in life´s war, as in Plato´s Republic, men and women alike must wield the blade. Neither Plato nor metallica are overt feminists, but both recognize that women too can “kick some ass tonight.” They sure did this in the time of the Vikings.
And kicking ass means facing the enemy head on. Craftiness – the trickery and deceit of one´s enemies that Nicoló Machiavelli (1469-1527) advocated – is often classed among the warrior virtues. Thinks of the Trojan horse trick by which the Greeks finally penetrated the walls of Troy. But craftiness is not a virtue Metallica endorses. Instead, they stand for a kind of death before dishonour, “dying on your feet for honesty.” For Metallica at least, honesty is a warrior virtue. Indeed, “Honesty is my only excuse” and “When a man lies he murders / some part of the world.”
Metallica also lacks a further warrior virtue (particularly prior to St. Anger): emotional control. In western culture this virtue is most associated with stoicism, the philosophy that counsels self-control, detachment, and acceptance of one´s fate. Clearly, there´s a lot of acting out of emotion; the warrior pounds out his aggression. But with Load/Re-Load Hetfield´s lyrics become introspective and critical of an inability to manage emotions. Consider “King Nothing´s” self-destructive desire for control and the pointlessness of feeling bad for the “Poor Old Twisted Me.” Consider too the dawning realization of the futility of warrior virtues expressed by the sentiment “won´t waste my hate on you.”
Irwin claims that warrior virtues can only succeed with a healthy dose of stoicism, and stoicism itself will fail without a deep trust in fate. Yet trust and fate are precisely what Metallica lack. Hetfield and company are driven by engaged emotions, not detached reason and spiritual acceptance. Without stoicism, Irwin says, the life of the warrior virtues leads to nihilism – a belief in nothing anchored nowhere – and the inability to relieve one´s own suffering or the suffering of others. Looking outward for a fight is just a distraction. The warrior virtues don´t relieve the suffering within. The lyrics of St. Anger reflect this defeat, this inability to overcome suffering. Consider these lines from “Frantic”: “I´ve worn out always being afraid / An endless stream of fear that I´ve made / Treading water full of worry / This frantic tick tick talk of hurry.” And these lines from “The Unnamed Feeling”: “I just wanna get the fuck away from me / I rage, I glaze, I hurt, I hate / I wanna hate it all away.”
The warrior lives by the code of an eye, which eventually leaves everyone blind. Just consider the outcome of “Fight Fire with Fire.” Warrior virtues are adopted to fill the void, the emptiness inside, but warriors who don´t die young eventually find the void swallows them whole. “My lifestyle determines my deathstyle.” With time, the mental and emotional pain that comes from “dealing our agony within” is too much to bear. Irwin concludes that the warrior virtues lead to self-destruction in the forms of addiction, madness, and despair. As I suggested above: the vice (the paradox) in the different forms of self-assertion (the warrior virtues) is that they lead to an unreal life.
If you´re Hetfield what do you do at this point? Irwin asks. You´ve taken two extreme paths. The life of the warrior virtues has taken its toll on you, and you can´t go home again to Christian virtues. Christianity had you on your knees, and St. Anger choked you. Where to go?
The good news, Irwin says, is that Buddha can remove the thorn within. Buddhism counsels the “middle way” with all things. And this middle way in this case is the mean between the extremes of the Christian and warrior virtues. Note that J.R.R. Tolkien´s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are a mix of Norse Mythology (the Viking´s warrior virtues) and his own Catholic faith (see my Pop Culture Files on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings).
Buddhist virtues include wisdom, kindness, compassion, and freedom from suffering. Although Kirk Hammett meditates and reads eastern philosophy, Irwin makes clear, that he´s not suggesting that Metallica have become Buddhists, no more than he is suggesting that in the past they were actual warriors or devoted readers of Nietzsche. Buddhism shares much in common with stoicism and its disciplining of the emotions. But as Hetfield´s lyrics have gradually moved with maturity from the raging reaction of the warrior to the introspective reflection of the Buddhist, the search for emotional control is now paired better with Buddhist virtues than with the stoicism of warrior virtues.
At this stage of Metallica´s development we can talk about three kinds of anger: the philosophical anger, the painful anger, and the mix between the two.
The philosophical anger
The philosophical anger is the anger over prejudice, hypocrisy, manipulation and injustice, which philosophy is in opposition to. This anger is controlled through objective thinking, critique and argumentation. I have already in my first book Meditation as an Art of Life – a basic reader, made clear, that in order to come to this kind of control you must begin with basic meditation exercises. I call them supporting exercises. The supporting exercises are intended to give you the calmness, which is a necessity in order to acquire the philosophical question´s ideas and concepts in a daily, self-inquiring practice. The exercises are therefore exclusively meant as support for my central meditation-technique: asking philosophical questions.
Objective argumentation is an ethical way to convince others about your views, because it in reel sense shows what is appropriate or inappropriate about a case. Objective argumentation contains some of the following elements: summary or abstract, informations, description, reason, concrete choice of words, nuanced objective statement.
The hallmark of philosophy is exactly to use objective argumentation, and to show the untenable aspect of painful anger, subjective argumentation and inappropriate assumptions. This is the essence in using philosophical dialogue.
In the philosophical dialogue you focus on, what cooperation and conversation require of you in order to that you at all can exist: that you speak true (don´t lie), that you are prepared to reach mutual understanding and agreement (don´t manipulate), don´t make an exception of yourself (but treat others as equals). From this rises the eternal moral values (as for example that it is wrong to lie), and generally our ideas of right and justice: the so-called human rights, the idea about the individual person´s autonomy and dignity: you shall treat the other not only as a mean, but also as a goal.
Many NLP-coaches and psychotherapists often misunderstand the philosopher´s rationality and critical thinking as a symptom on a problem with anger – on the contrary, it consists in love to wisdom.
Jesus said that anger is a sin, yet himself got angry, for example in the temple. Is he a hypocrite, or is he a man with psychological problems which have to be solved by a NLP-coach? (I have already shown this way of suspicion in connection with Nietzsche). Of course not. The anger of Jesus is the philosophical anger.
The painful anger
The painful anger is coming from the emotional pain-body. A thought-pattern can create an enlarged and energy-charged reflection of itself in the form of a feeling. This means, that the whole of the thought´s past also can create a reflection of itself in the body. And if this past is filled with pain, then it can show itself as a negative energy-field in the body. It can nearly be seen as an invisible, independent creature.
The pain-body is the inner demon, or the devil in the heart. Some pain-body ´s are relatively harmless, some are anxiety-filled or angry, others are directly malicious and demonical. They can be passive or active. Some are passive 90% of the time, others are active 100% of the time.
The pain-body is activated in the same moment as specific challenges activate the inappropriate basic assumptions, which have been created by bad experiences in the past. And they are being maintained by the vortex of negative automatic thinking, which follows from these basic assumptions.
This anger is controlled through neutral observation, and flexible (critical) thinking. See my article The Emotional Pain-body and why Psychotherapy Can´t Heal It. Also see my article Cathartic Psychotherapies, which can be read in relation to whether Metallica´s music can have a cathartic effect. That discussion, as well as the problems of alcoholism, I will return to in coming Pop Culture Files on Metallica.
The mix between philosophical and painful anger
Often this mix is coming to expression in the culture of debate (débat, from débattre, struggle, quarrel). The culture of debate is especially seen in politics, but is the common used form of communication in the whole of society.
In debate people all the time work against each other and are seeking to show each other's flaws. They often only listen to each other in order to find flaws and defend their arguments. They more and more harden their own perspectives, because they are so busy judging the positions of others. They defend their own positions as the best solutions and eliminate others´ solutions. They fundamentally seen have a closed attitude, which is due to a fixed decision to be right. They wholehearted invest in their own conceptions, and they therefore calculate others´ positions, without being aware of feelings or relations, yes, they even often happen to play down and offend the other person.
But is this not exactly what the philosophers´ critical thinking and objective argumentation also do? No!
The debating attitude is unethical, and leads to violence and war, where the pain-body suddenly also is released. Why? Because it is based on subjectice argumentation. Subjective argumentation is an unethical way to convince others about your views, because it doesn't show, what in reel sense is appropriate or inappropriate about a case, but manipulates with it.
Subjective argumentation contains some of the following elements: innuendoes, distortions, generalizations, over-/understatements, sarcasm, satire, irony, postulates, emotional affections, coloured choice of words, choices and exclusions, subjective style.
Each and every time you, in this way, feel anger, then remember the virtues of philosophy: objective thinking, critique and argumentation. Avoid subjective thinking, critique and argumentation, because you in that case would be a hypocrite (see my book A Dictionary of Thought Distortions and use it as a manual).
If you in your anger all the time remember objectivity, you will discover, that you have to withdraw from, or avoid being involved in, many confrontations.
And a last advice. Always take a night´s sleep before you give expression for your anger.
The first noble truth of Buddhism is that “all life is suffering,” something Metallica has been painfully aware of from its earlier days. “Life in the fast lane is just how it seems / hard and it is heavy / dirty and mean.” The second noble truth, that desire (or craving) is the cause of suffering, is something Metallica were dimly – but not fully – aware of early on. Certainly, there was the anti-materialist mentality of doing things on their own terms. They would not bow to MTV or commercial radio to make a buck. They stood against “halls of justice painted green / money talking.” But they sadly did eventually become rock stars with fast cars, Lear jets, and expensive houses and divorces. Although Hetfield had once sung “do you want what I want? / Desire not a thing,” desire had in fact become the master of puppets. On Load the connection between suffering and desire began to dawn, and it became an issue of real concern on St. Anger, where there is more recognition of the need to detach from the self and from desire (see my article Suffering as an Entrance to the Source).
Compassion, ego deflation, and acceptance can potentially bring freedom from suffering. These Buddhist virtues are also the virtues of recovery, as Hetfield has learned. Ego deflation and acceptance begin to manifest in the lyrics of St. Anger. Consider the “Frantic” mention of “karmas burning” and the realization that “My lifestyle determines my deathstyle.” This wisdom was gained through painful experience (see my article The Deathprocess in my book Dream Yoga). Hetfield is aware of his unhealthy tendency to play the tripartite role of judge, jury, and executioner (too) in “Dirty Window,” a song that also displays an awareness of suffering from a false self-image – surely an occupational hazard. “All Within My Hands” presents a self-mocking look at Hetfield´s need to control people and situations: “Love is control / I´ll die if I let go…All within my hands / Squeeze it in, crush it down / All within my hands / Hold it dear, hold it suffocate.” “I will only let you breathe / My air that you receive / Then we´ll see if I let you love me.”
If he is wise and fortunate, Irwin says, the warrior turned Buddhist learns that life is not a war (not even metaphorically) and paradoxically you must surrender to win. You can´t swim against the current of the universe without being pulled under.
We´ve seen wisdom and freedom from suffering develop on St. Anger, but compassion and kindness are clearly undeveloped. Such virtues involve more than just renouncing the “no remorse” approach to life. They involve actively reaching out to alleviate the suffering of others. In his personal life since St. Anger Hetfield shows signs of developing in compassion and kindness, and in Irwin´s words, moving towards the Buddhist ideal, the Boddhisattva, who, having eliminated his own suffering, seeks to ease and eliminate the suffering of others. While Hetfield, like all of us, is far from perfect and surely no mother Theresa, his work with other recovering alcoholics and addicts displays admirable compassion. On May 12, 2006 Hetfield received the Stevie Ray Vaughn Award for his “dedication and support of the MusiCares MAP Fund and his devotion to helping other addicts with recovery process.” It´s tough to imagine the warrior Hetfield of Kill ‘Em All being honoured for his service to others. But the Hetfield of today has moved from causing the suffering of others – most clearly his family – to alleviating the suffering of others.
So, according to Irwin, St. Anger begins to display some of the Buddhist virtues, and if Hetfield sticks with his recovery, future albums will likely display other Buddhist virtues as well.
While the journey from Christian, to warrior, to Buddhist makes sense, there is nothing inevitable about it. One set of virtues does not necessarily lead to the next. Irwin emphasizes that he doesn´t suggest that Hetfield fits neatly into the categories. But this progression is one way of interpreting his journey, and Metallica´s, and one that is common to all of us. Ultimately, Irwin confesses, Christian-Warrior-Buddhist is his own story too, a life-cycle he has lived and am living, a search that goes on.
As mentioned in the beginning: Joseph Campbell's concept of monomyth (one myth – the Hero´s Journey) refers to the theory that sees all mythic narratives as variations of a single great story. The theory is based on the observation that a common pattern exists beneath the narrative elements of most great myths, regardless of their origin or time of creation.
Also I can recognize myself in this myth. My own journey also started with Christian to Warrior, but didn´t end with Buddhism (though a lot of inspiration come from there) but with my own teaching Meditation as an Art of Life. I see alcoholism, and other substance abuse, as a spiritual crisis. In my case mixed with the awakening of kundalini. I have explained this different places, for example in the article The Spiritual Crisis in my book Dream Yoga, and in my article Spiritual Crises as the Cause of Paranormal Phenomena. I have made a autobiographic account of it in my article The Hermeneutics of Suspicion (the Thought Police of the Self-help Industry) and Why I am an Apostle of Loafing – especially in the last part Why I am an Apostle of Loafing.
In my own recovery I discovered my fate community with Karen Blixen. In my book Lucifer Morningstar – a Philosophical Love Story, I´m using popular culture to shed light on my own pain-body and the dark ancient powers I have struggled with for over two decades. In this way the book is an anologistic portrait of the experiential background for my teaching Meditation as an Art of Life.
In these two pictures you can see a before and after development. Many might think that it should be a reverse order (except for the apparent difference in age), but this is precisely not the case.
..after - faded to black.
The Pop Culture Files