Monday, March 7, 2011
Tales from a Red Universe | Part Four of Four: Cardboard Residence
"Tales from a Red Universe" is a four-part exploration in which Thomas takes you behind the scenes of the lyrics and concepts of URIZEN's "Universe:Red." Slip on a spacesuit and join us for the ride, won't you?
(Haven't read Part Three yet? No problemo, look here!)
From my box I can see everything. Life and all the joy that it can bring. No I don't want to live beyond my frame. 'Cause in here the weather's always better, and life's a winning game! I find the scum outside to be a source of loneliness, but in my fear fortress the box has sown my redemption. Outside it's wet and cold... a violent sight I shan't perceive but through my filters and protection. I am a box man! What? I've never heard such ridiculous buffoonary! Why would I want to join you out there? Just look at my life compared to yours. I've got all the things a boy could ever want. Friends by the thousands, the very world at my fingertips! I'll never join you! Never! That's ludicrous... absurd! Outside again... could I resume that life? To know... I'd finally found a way I can feel safe outside....to know... to know! I'm fine to dull sensations of pain and agony, but to hide from danger I have hidden everything. An even keel... my life is plain and dull, but at last I have realized. Into the world I go! (Lyrics: Thomas Drinnen)
This song was inspired by the internet and the burgeoning internet culture that frustrates me daily, despite a clear inability on my part to simply "avoid" it. I still can't seem to escape its grasp. I would have to say that this song is a criticism of people who experience the world primarily through the filters of media, opting only for scant interaction with the "real world"... though, really, I am currently living the life of a Boxman myself... so... yeah... I should heed my own advice!
As far as its relation to the Kobo Abe novel, The Box Man, really there is only conceptual similarities. Abe's book followed a man who traded in his normal life to live in a cardboard box attached to himself and filled with all of the necessities he needed to survive. The book itself goes far beyond this simple concept, but, as it relates to the song, I thought that this idea sounded very similar to the lives that we are all now living. (The book, and in fact the author, comes highly recommended, by the way!)
The problem (and thereby the point) in living on the receiving end of a computer screen is the extra degree of separation and the "safety" that it affords. Just as our personal bravery multiplies ten-fold when we are giving the finger and glaring at others behind the safety glass of an automobile, so too does our bravery multiply a million-fold behind the safety glass of a computer screen. Here we live up to our worst potential as islands of humanity: constantly judging and assessing things and people that necessarily suffer extreme ambiguity at the hands of an ever widening degree of separation.
The more filters you view something through, the less "real" your image of it invariably becomes. In an attempt to maximize physical time alive and the safety of consistency (and therefore predictability), humans are, ironically, minimizing the actual reasons one would even have to live a long life in the first place. That's how I see it anyway.
In regards to the overall concept of the album, this is just the universe-incarnate's next stop towards unavoidable oblivion.
The Lonely Resident
I wandered through this splendid world observing this and that, but thunderstorms, and winter cold, made me wish I had a hat. I tried to find, by light of day, when all my clothes had dried, a single friend to laugh and play, but everyone had died. They died! Now, all I can seem to find are the roaming ghosts of humanity wrapped up in the clothes of humans they once had claimed to be! And I feel so misled. They said the more I knew the more I'd have to gain and, well then, what had I to lose? But here I am... again. A stranger now estranged, somehow, by those who steered me wrong. They led me on and now I'm all alone. (Lyrics: Thomas Drinnen)
The final track of the album. Although I had not read the book at the time I wrote the lyrics, the main character has a striking similarity to the wolf of the steppes in Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf (itself a comment on Neitsche's superman). "The Lonely Resident" is about a man who traveled the path of knowledge that was expected of him, only to find that in doing so he has ostracized himself from those who urged him on.
In returning "home" with his newly transformed and "superior" mind, he finds that he can no longer relate to people, to such an extreme degree that despite being surrounded by humanity, he feels as though he is living among the ghosts of those he remembered from his youth (as they have not advanced or improved at all). To quote Randy Newman: "It's lonely at the top."
From the human perspective, the song represents extreme regret in the face of the "path taken" but, from the universe-incarnate's perspective, it represents the final moments of a journey back towards singularity. In having finally become successfully isolated, by way of intellect, the only thing left to do is to plunge headlong into oblivion. At long last: a return to nothingness. Again, a more positive spin is endowed depending on the perspective you chose to view it in.
In regards to Universe:Red as a whole, I feel that the album becomes very circular (and even symmetrical in a way) if we keep the nature of the universe in mind: from nothingness into spectacular "somethingness;" to a growing, multifarious, and frustrated consciousness transformed into a singular, frustrated, and very human consciousness; an aging and deteriorating human life gives way to indignation, fear, and isolation before finally returning to nothingness.
Conceptually, the final three tracks of the album represent, for me, a hidden optimism. Somewhere deep within me, there is a vague hope that we, as humans, must one day return to the void of nothingness in order to fulfill some universal desire or longing for non-existence. Whether that means a brief glimpse of understanding at the moment of impact (death) or a sudden clarification as the threshold from life into death is finally crossed, only time will tell!
You have just read the final chapter of "Tales from a Red Universe," in which Thomas discussed the lyrics and concepts of URIZEN's Universe:Red. Like what you've read and heard? Stop by the URIZEN Online Superstore to get your own copy of Universe:Red today!
We hope you have enjoyed these Tales... from a Red Universe!