Monday, January 15, 2024

God-haunted music: Model Engine/ The World is a Beautiful Place, and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die

 I don't know how I ever missed these two bands:

1)Model Engine

See this from Rhett Smith:

“In 1995 I was standing in the cleared out sanctuary of a church waiting for the headlining Christian band to come up and play. Christian music, at least in the small band, alternative format, was in its prime, and there didn’t seem to be one weekend that went by where there weren’t Christian alternative bands playing in my hometown of Phoenix, AZ. But this night was different. Everyone came out to see the opening band, a local favorite, and between their set and the headlining act, almost everyone went home. Hundreds of kids left, and there were only a handful of us in the room. And I mean, probably 50-60 people.

We were waiting for this band that we had never heard of before, and we figured, well, we might as well stay around. Three guys walk up to the stage, and as they began to play, we knew that we had never heard anything like them before…from the music…and especially to iframe style="border: 0; width: 350px; height: 786px;" src="" seamless>The Lean Years Tradition by Model Engine
the lyrics. It was a transformative show. And who was this band?” Black Eyed Sceva, who went on to become Model Engine" . link

t wasn’t so much a departure in sound but rather an upgrade in sound production, songwriting, and that full band sound complete with different instrumentation and backing features. With the sound of this record there was absolutely no reason this couldn’t have been the biggest release of the late 90’s. I’ve praised this album a lot over the years and I count myself as a big fan of the band. Switchfoot were just starting to take off around this time and I could have seen the two bands touring together in the years that followed but unfortunately that didn’t happen. Although I do remember seeing both bands at some mini-fest in the abandoned department store of an old mall near us that was getting remodeled. I don’t know the whole story regarding the end of the band and one day I will interview Jeremy Post about it but it was always a sad part of our scene to lose a group of guys that were intensely talented and passionate about what they did. They were in terms of lyrics, lightyears ahead of many other bands at that time (except for their label mates FIF who always seemed to pull out an endless supply of witty and thought-provoking words). So, long story short, the fantastic 1997 album by Model Engine is now finally available on all digital networks for the first time. Head over to Spotify and Apple Music right now and check out Model Engine “The Lean Years Tradition”. The band members themselves are responsible for the re-release and all support goes to them. The album has been remixed/Remastered as well. Enjoy! link

    Interview with frontman:

Linda - You never liked religion much.

Jeremy - (laughs) No, but I think traveling has been the best thing for me. It's nice to see how other Christians serve the Lord. God uses people in so many different areas and walks of life. If I just sit out in my house in California and that's all I see, I get a pretty limited view. So it's nice to go across the states, or go to Europe and see how Christians adapt to their environment, finding the different ways people serve. 

Linda - Your new material has more graphic language. "Reeberbahn," for example, is about your encounter with a prostitute before going on stage in Hamburg, Germany. Why do you choose such harsh subject matter?

Jeremy - That's not something we've tried to do. I've been writing songs for a long time, and a lot of people considered the songs that ended up on our albums abrasive because of the things they talked about. What I thought was pretty nice and mellow, people thought was on the edge of being too graphic. As I've matured, I've come to think that life is graphic and abrasive a lot of times. If you're going to be writing songs about that, you have to bring those elements in or you're not being honest. That's why I appreciate Vigilantes of Love so much because Bill Mallonee writes so poetically about real struggles. 

We definitely are in the Christian market. We end up playing with bands, though, whose thing is writing songs that are more at home in a church--talking about Jesus, praising the Lord with terms that are easy for the Christian community to swallow--whereas I would hope that our music praises God in a way that is real. I see life, I see the down side of it, and I go, "Wow! God's doing a work here?" If I can convey the way that I see God glorified, I think that will glorify God all the more, but it's not going  to be cheerleading other people to praise the Lord. Our job, our calling is to say, "This is my life. This is my experience, and here's how God worked through this experience to change me." Hopefully, that will be reflected in our music. Link

Lyrics to "Reeperbahn":

on a curb with hamburg's dust under my shoe
 things for sale as black as hell in pyrite's golden hue
 there's a ten-foot high window display for something bittersweet
 a book shop sets my backdrop on a busy port town street 

there's a cigarette stuck in the mouth of an overpainted..

on a curb in hamburg watching the junkies 
zigzag breathing something mysterious
 into an otherwise empty bag outside the shops that never close
 on a moonless, starless night across from where the harlots pose
 beneath a block-wide neon light 
there's a cigarette stuck in the mouth of an overpainted whore
 and she comes so close i can smell the smoke and she makes a quote for the price of her wares


2)The World is a Beautiful Place, and I Am No Longer  Afraid To Die

Start with the closing song/suite on "Illusory Walls": "Fewer Afraid". 

Excerpt from Spotify:
Sometimes, the best place to begin is at the end. If you really want to dig deep into Illusory Walls, the fourth album by The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, it definitely helps to do that. That’s because epic closer “Fewer Afraid”—all 19 minutes, 44 seconds of it—doesn’t just revisit the themes and ideas on the ten songs that precede it, but also offers a self-aware summary of the Connecticut band’s entire history. It’s the conclusion of all the stories within the record as well as a nod to all the lives that helped make them—little glimpses of everything that’s come before, on both a micro, immediate level, and a more universal one.
“That song is a higher level look at my whole life and the whole world,” explains vocalist/guitarist David F. Bello, “as well as the album, our band, and our discography. It places the band in the context of the rest of the world as if we’re listening to everything that came before. It touches on all the themes of the previous songs, but there are also callbacks to songs from earlier in our career. But in this song, they’re the object, not the subject—I’m talking about a world in which these things happen, not talking about these things happening.” -Spotify

This post-rock direction carries forth what is nearly another LP in it of itself—two towering tracks that together total nearly 40 minutes, “Infinite Josh” and “Fewer Afraid”. Both tracks pay compliment to the band’s increasing and expanded fidelity and instrumentation, with compositions that go between serene, delicate and gentle, to spaced out and utterly triumphant, a sense of light amid the dark. At their weakest, these longer explorations can proceed with a certain languor before reaching their zenith. But at that apotheosis is the purpose, and the intent of it to begin with. Between the more traditional songwriting and the exploratory spaces, there’s a consciousness of the material and immaterial, concrete while remaining keenly experimental. It feels like it’s going to break, like it’s going to push into the ether, and that catharsis is resolute throughout the album. 

Illusory Walls is an exploration of darkness, adding definition to the creeping and stalking fears that rattle our ribs and cause us to lose sleep. The anxieties of hearts well worn, sometimes from each other, sometimes from the crushing weight of what feels like a dying planet. In it though, there is a solidarity, a hope, a sense of community that we’re all going through together, as we approach new fears, we put aside old ones to see what’s left. Illusory Walls is a stunning effort of lyrical revelation and sonic rawness in equal measure. While it may chronicle an age of despair in meticulous fashion, it speaks volumes about the potential of who we are, and what we can be. link

Album Review: The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – ‘Illusory Walls’


Sunday, September 17, 2023

giving away $10,000

 Shane Claiborne , in Practicing Jubilee, pp.36-38 in Schools for Conversion, edited by The Rutba House :

“A couple of years ago we had two things happen. First, we won a lawsuit for police misconduct in New York City. The police had been arresting homeless people for sleeping in public, and charging them with disorderly conduct. I was arrested one night as I slept out in protest. Through a long legal process, I was found not guilty and filed a civil suit of wrongful arrest, wrongful prosecution, and police misconduct. And we won, in addition to a legal precedent, around $10,000. We knew it did not belong to me or to The Simple Way, but to the homeless in New York for all they endure. It was their victory. The second thing that happened was that after our study of biblical economics, we had an anonymous gift of $10,000 which had been invested in the Stock Market and now was being returned to the poor. A bunch of us started conspiring, and before long we said: It is time for a celebration of God's Jubilee.’ And where else should we have it but on Wall Street, in the face of the world's economy? This was not a one-time celebration, but an ancient celebration going back to Leviticus 25 and an eternal celebration of the New Jerusalem. We decided to send 100 dollars to 100 different communities that incarnate the spirit of Jubilee and the economics of love. Each $100 bill had ‘love’ written on it. And we invited everyone to Wall Street for the Jubilee.
After months of laughter and dreaming, it really happened.
About 40 people had all the change they could carry over 30,000 coins in bags, coffee mugs, briefcases, backpacks. Another 50 people would be meeting us on Wall Street. A dozen ‘secret stashers’ ran ahead, hiding hundreds of two-dollar bills all over lower Manhattan in parks, napkin holders, and phone booths. At 8:15 we started trickling into the public square in front of the main entrance to the New York Stock Exchange. Word of the redistribution had spread throughout New York, and nearly 100 folks from the alleys and projects were gathered. We had choreographed the celebration like a play production, making Wall Street the stage of our theatrics of counter-terror. At 8:20, Sister Margaret and I stepped forward to proclaim the Jubilee:
‘Some of us have worked on Wall Street and some of us have slept on Wall Street. We are a community of struggle.
Some of us are rich people trying to escape our loneliness.
Some of us are poor folks trying to escape the cold. Some of us are addicted to drugs and others are addicted to money.
We are a broken people who need each other and God, for we have come to recognize the mess that we have created of our world and how deeply we suffer from that mess.
Now we are working together to give birth to a new society within the shell of the old. Another world is possible. Another world is necessary. Another world is already here The money for this Jubilee Celebration was formerly invested in the Stock Market. Over $10,000 has been set free, poured out to be shared with our sisters and brothers in need. This money belongs to the poor, the workers, the refugees, the homeless... to all those who have suffered most from the wreckage of the current system. May we return it with joy, with our heads bowed in repentance, and with our hearts lifted in Jubilee.’
Then Sister Margaret blew the ram's horn (like our Jewish ancestors used to), and we announced: ‘Let the celebration begin!’ Ten people stationed on balconies above the crowd threw hundreds of dollars in paper money, covering the sky. Then they dropped banners which read,
The streets turned silver. Our ‘pedestrians,’ ‘tourists,’ ‘homeless’ and ‘business people ’began pouring out their change. We decorated the place with sidewalk chalk and filled the air with bubbles. Joy was contagious. Someone bought bagels and started giving them out. People started sharing their winter clothes. One of the street-sweepers winked at us as he flashed a dustpan full of money. Another guy hugged someone and said, ‘Now I can get my prescription filled.’
It worked. We had no idea what would happen. We knew it was dangerous, intentionally bringing God and Mammon face to face. But this is precisely what we have committed our lives to. It is risky, and yet we are people of faith, believing that giving is more contagious than hoarding, that love can convert hatred, light can overcome darkness, and grass can pierce concrete.,,even on Wall Street."

Saturday, September 16, 2023

many mansions in heaven?


Craig Keener:

Peter wants to follow Jesus wherever He goes, but Jesus tells him that if he wants to follow Jesus where He is going, he must follow Him to the death (John 13:31-38).  Nevertheless, Peter and the other disciples should not be afraid; they should trust in Jesus the same way they trusted in the Father (14:1).  He would prepare a dwelling-place for them in His Father’s house, and would come back afterwards to receive them to Himself (14:2-3).  “You know where I’m going and how I will get there,” He told them (14:4).  Perhaps like us, the disciples were confused, and Thomas spoke for all of them: “Lord, we don’t even know where You’re going; how can we know the way you’re getting there?” (14:5)  So Jesus clarifies His point: Where He is going to the Father (14:6), and He is going there by dying on the Cross but would return afterward to give them the Spirit (14:18-19; 16:18-22).  How would they get to the Father?  By coming through Jesus, who is the way (14:6).

We often cite John 14:2-3 as a proof-text for Jesus’ future coming; conversely, we cite John 14:6 as a proof-text for salvation.  But if we follow the flow of conversation, we have to be wrong about one of them.  14:2-3 declares that Jesus will bring them where He is going, but 14:6 tells us where He’s going and how we His followers will get there: He is going to the Father, and we come to the Father when we get saved through Jesus (14:6).  Do we come to the Father through Jesus only when He returns in the future, or have we come to Him already through faith?  The entire context makes this point clear.  We enter the Father’s house when we become followers of Jesus Christ!

In the context of John’s entire Gospel, there is no reason to assume that the “Father’s house” refers to heaven, though it might be an allusion to the Temple (John 2:16) or to the Father’s household (John 8:35; and we are His new temple and His household).  More helpfully, Jesus goes on to explain the “dwelling-places” (NIV: “rooms”) explicitly in the following context.  The Greek word for “dwelling-place” used in 14:2 occurs in only one other verse in the New Testament—in this very context, in 14:23, part of Jesus’ continuing explanation of 14:2-4.  “The one who loves Me will obey Me, and My Father will love that one and we will come make our ‘dwelling-place’ with that person” (14:23).  The related verb appears throughout John 15:1-10: “Dwell [abide]” in Christ, and let Christ “dwell” in you.  We all know that Jesus will return someday in the future, but if we read the rest of John we learn that Jesus also returned to them from the Father after His resurrection, when He gave the disciples the Spirit, peace and joy (20:19-23), just as He had promised (14:16-17, 26-27; 16:20-22).  This is in fact the only coming the context addresses (14:18 in the context of 14:15-27; 16:12-24).

What is the real point of John 14:2-3?  It is not that Jesus will return and we will be with Him someday—true as that teaching is from other texts.  It is that Jesus returned after His resurrection so Christians could have life with Him (14:18-19), that He has already brought us into His presence and that we can experience the reality of His presence this very moment and at all times.  This means that the same Jesus who washed his disciples feet in the preceding chapter, who taught and healed and suffered for us, is with us at this very moment.  He invites us to trust His presence with us. -link

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Henri Nouwen in the restaurant

Henri Nouwen had an unfinished manuscript at the time of his death in 1996 about what he had learned (the intimacy and spirituality of interconnected teamwork etc) through watching and befriending a traveling trapeze troupe . The book just came out this year with the help of a friend .  The book is very different than his 40 books on the spiritual life .

Here is the section I had in mind. Prepare yourself!

And it is absolutely nowhere online .. until now 😎

I’ll post it without comment .. and duck !  I’ll chime in after some of you do .

“As Henri became more at home in his body , he raised with several editors the possibility of writing a book that would directly explore the questions of sexuality . By the next summer, he mused to a journalist , ‘Every human lives a sexual life , whether you’re celibate [as Nouwen was as a priest/pastor] or whatever . Sexual life is life . That sexual life has to be lived as a life that deepens the communion with God and with our fellow human beings . And if it doesn’t , it can become very harmful . I haven’t found the language for   It yet and hope I will someday .’

Gradually , Henri began to feel a little  more free, even playful. Early in 1996, he amused some of his New York editors over an elegant lunch at the Barbetta restaurant by blurting out happily , ‘Don’t think that I don’t want to have sex with everyone in this restaurant! I have fantasies just like everyone else !’  His editors stared in astonishment, looked speculatively around the restaurant, and then they all burst out laughing together with Henri.”

-p.203,”Flying, Falling, Catching: an unlikely story of finding freedom “ by Henri Nouwen and Carolyn Whitney-Brown .

Friday, February 12, 2021

the covenant post-Holocaust: "Only a wounded faith is worthy of a silent God"


"Children were sometimes burned alive at Auschwitz ..After describing this scene, Rabbi  Greenburg put forward the following proposition: 'No statement,  theological or otherwise, should be made that would not be credible in the presence of burning children.". -Gushee. p. 70, After Evangelicalism

Highly recommended:  read page 76 (and ideally the whole section of pp. 74-81)  of Gushee's  After Evangelicalism (read here) ,where he covers Greenburg's suggestion that  post-Holocaust, for the Jews,  the covenant is no longer in a "commanded stage," but is now voluntary.

"Israel's relation with God has been severely wounded.  Wiesel: ' Only a wounded faith can exist after these events.  Only a wounded faith is worthy of a silent God.'...God no longer has the right to demand covenant loyalty from his people."  -Gushee. p. 76, After Evangelicalism

Friday, June 26, 2020

Top Ten Godhaunted songs #1: "Wish You Were Here"

This is my first original blog post in YEARS, and inspired by a video my amazing friend  St. Stacy posted a video of a neighbor
Stacy and I celebrating our students graduating.

of hers singing Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" on his porch, as (I assume)  a kind of gift to the neighborhood during this eerie "shelter in place."

Many of us are on our codvid quarantine porches wishing

                                                 was "here";

Even if it's Chris Cornell-style, almost not caring who picks up the distress signal of a  wishful wistful, atheistic theistic,  prayerful unprayer.:

On a cobweb afternoon in a room full of emptiness
By a freeway, I confess I was lost in the pages

Of a book full of death, reading how we'll die alone
Of a book full of death, reading how we'll die alone
Of a book full of death, reading how we'll die alone
And if we're good, we'll lay to rest anywhere we want to go

In your house, I long to beRoom by room, patientlyI'll wait for you there, like a stoneI'll wait for you there, alone

          And on my deathbed, I will pray to the gods and the angels

Like a pagan to anyone who will take me to heavenTo a place I recall, I was there so long agoThe sky was bruised, the wine was bled, and there you led me on
But that's another song.
Or is it?

Chris Cornell  and Roger Waters may be praying to the same You that they wish were here, and that they hope they meet there.

Roger's skies in "Wish" were pain-blue, and Chris' in the song above were bruised
But the song...and the Canopy Maker..remain the same.
Even the Good Book darkness-skies are God's canopy.
And the Floyd all of them.. is dark.

But the  canopy is there...even if appearing bruised.

I challenged Stacy to post  a few reasons...any reason ..why she likes this song.
I can't wait to hear.  She many even know things about the song I don't..and I have been tracking it for 45 years or so,  I bet she even knows about the often-unnoticed  (and much-debated ) throat-clearing cough  towards the beginning that I always hears as a guy waking up and turning on the radio to hear this song, and  eventually play along to it.

 And that man has been me ever since.

To cough is to pray.

My reasons for liking the song are  many.
And some were formed  before Stacy was born.
But I don't even know if I can use the word "like."

  • Or love.
  • Or "hate"
  • Or  "love."
  • Or love/hate.

Though they all work.

Maybe the word I need  is "need."

I mean, we all need help putting words to our prayers at times.
Even, especially when the prayer written...doesn't seem to be getting through..

And this song was an integral part of the prevenient-grace mixtape that led me to Jesus (tied with this  24-minute hymn from the Book Of Genesis--I mean, Band of Genesis ),  and part of the strange and heteroclite canon/cannon  of laments  and imprecations that keep me tethered to this Jesus.

Stacy, I might not know you..or Jesus..without this song!
(Do I love or know Jesus?)

And  this blog post is also serving a  public challenge to Stacy to write more; even blog.  Her social media posts can be stunningly moving.  My post today may only be so to me, but I dedicate it to her.

This song.
Where to start?
If by some tragic circumstance you have never encountered this song, may I counterintuitively (Why  not go the unobvious route?) suggest you sample this version filmed in my favorite city, as the song is sensitively interpreted performed by two Jewish men.  If I had been there, and stumbled upon this scene, I would've probably been so transfixed that I'd be transfigured..or still there.  To me, another Jewish Man is always active in the  music of streets of That City.

See you after the break.

Original version. 

When this song came out, and my friends and I first heard it cranked loud on Dan's huge JBL speakers: 

no words.

But let me try several.

I mean, if I can't at least occasionally articulate  the  "inarticulate speech of the heart" about one of my top ten  "Godhaunted songs" (Hi Happy Lee, your song is next)

As most Floydfans know, the album this is found on, and this song, is partly/largely about/addressed to  former  band member Syd Barrett,

As is much (all?) of their material.

Barrett had left the band/been forced out due to his  drug-induced mental ilness, The band tells this chilling story

Syd Barrett's tortured spirit was already hovering over Pink Floyd's ninth studio album, even before he unexpectedly crashed the sessions for Wish You Were Here on June 5, 1975.
Both the emotive title track and shimmering, psychedelic epic "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" were inspired by Barrett, the band's former frontman, with chief writer Roger Waters meditating on themes of isolation and inward escape. So, when the long-absent musician – portly, with distant gaze, shaved head and eyebrows – randomly arrived during a mixing session for "Diamond," the coincidence reduced the band to a mixture of shock and depression.

It's not as if Barrett, Floyd's co-founder and the driving creative force behind their debut LP, 1967's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, left the band on good terms. His mental instability, erratic stage behavior and addiction to LSD made him a liability, and guitarist-singer David Gilmour was brought in as a replacement.

....Pink Floyd were confused by his presence, assuming he had to be a crew member. But when Gilmour eventually identified their former bandmate, Waters broke down in tears. That June day also happened to be Gilmour's wedding day, so Barrett wandered into the guitarist's wedding reception at EMI. He left without telling anyone, disappearing as strangely as he'd arrived. The experience had a profound impact on the band, particularly Waters, who even incorporated a lyrical reference to the early Barrett-penned single "See Emily Play" on Wish You Were Here.
"I'm very sad about Syd, [though] I wasn't for years," Waters said in 1975. "For years, I suppose he was a threat because of all that bollocks written about him and us. Of course, he was very important and the band would never have f_____ started without him, because he was writing all the material. It couldn't have happened without him, but on the other hand, it couldn't have gone on with him. He may or may not be important in rock 'n' roll anthology terms, but he's certainly not nearly as important as people say in terms of Pink Floyd. So, I think I was threatened by him."
Gilmour, who co-wrote the music to both the title track and "Shine On," has trouble separating these classic songs from his memories of the former Floyd icon. "Although 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' is specifically about Syd and 'Wish You Were Here' has a broader remit," Gilmour said in the 2012 documentary Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here, "I can't sing it without thinking about Syd."
Finally,  now you are primed to read the lyrics, and weigh who they addressed/redressed to?  Who is your Syd?

You can "never again sing it without thinking about" your "randomly arrived" Syd.


So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
Did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
What have we  found?
The same old fears
Wish you were here....

From Song Facts:
  • This song is about the detached feeling most people go through life with. It is a commentary on how people cope with the world by withdrawing physically, mentally, or emotionally. In the commentary of The Wall, Roger Waters states that the inspiration was Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett and his ordeal with schizophrenia.
  • Roger Waters has said this song was based on a poem he wrote about Syd Barrett's fall from reality. It was said that Syd's friends would lace his coffee with LSD, which eventually lead to his mental breakdown. >>
  • This was a rare case of the Pink Floyd primary songwriters Roger Waters and David Gilmour mutually collaborating on a song - they rarely wrote together. Gilmour had the opening riff written and was playing it in the studio at a fast pace when Roger Waters heard it and asked him to play it slower. The song built from there, with the pair writing the music for the chorus and verses together, and Waters adding the lyrics.
  • The song reflected the feeling of the band while they were recording the album. Waters felt they were not putting a full effort into the recording sessions.
  • When this song starts, it sounds like it is coming from an AM radio somewhere in the distance. It represents the distance between the listener and the music.

Perhaps the most important part and punch of the lyric is the ellipsis; hemistiche, at the end..
Will the wished-for  "you/"You" ever be here?

Who or what is "you"?

Roger Waters has left this open to interpretation, but in various interviews over the years has seen it as

  • Syd
  • a lover or friend
  • his bandmates

and a fascinating and compelling candidate that only hit him later in life;


The Cure can relate.
And so can you.
And Sudzi.

And Soren:

"It is essentially owing to her, to my melancholy and to my money that I became an author.
Now with God's help, I shall be myself.
I believe that Christ will help me to be victorious
over my melancholy" -Soren Kierkegaard ,Journal, 4/19/1848

 I  also dare to believe, even if Waters doesn't believe or admit it..

The You is also
partially God.

Of course at some points in the lyric that You doesn't make sense  (God a  fearful lost soul..

The You is also

Every You in every song  eventually is.
Every wish  ultimately is for the  hereness and nearness of One who doesn't seem here.

Why can't the onmipresence be manifest?

As I once preached from Psalm 22:
"The Lord Be With You...Even When He's Not

But knowing Floyd, if it is a prayer..

atheism, cynicism and nihilism often win..

"There is no dark side of the moon really.  As a matter of fact it's all dark," 

"Is there anybody out there?"  they once prayed.

                     The expected  answer is no.

Same with the chilling  first set of questions in "Wish".

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from hell?
Blue skies from pain?
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

They are not essay answers.
One senses they are multiple choice
  B"Hell, no."

B being "right".

But I'm opting for a C: " Both A and B .

Sometimes fuzzy sets are the only
way to pray.

Apophatic is cataphatic.

It's often more classically encouraging to hear U2's  Bono  (Who gives us permission and a decoder to "Turn each song into a prayer")  ask the biblical question "How long?'' since we know the question has a deadline, and is not a dead end.

Maybe Pink Floyd is asking the same question, but from the dark side of the faith.

Such is the hardwon faith that does not bypass lament.

 U2's Dead Man might even Wake Up.
Floyd's  deity might remain dead.

But thank God  that God is bigger than authorial intent.
(And bigger than the Boogie Man and the devil, for that matter.)

Waters also may well have meant this as not just about TO or ABOUT Syd, but
 FROM Syd, how HE felt towards
the band (or himself..or God)

I was not yet a committed Christian when I first heard this song; I don't know what you would have called me when the pictured  guys (I'm the one in the T shirt,  And obviously, there is one non-guy with us, but she wasn't part of our gang) in this Upstate New York circle of friends  first experienced it.

I felt it/heard it as my lonely  being awakened,
 It was addressed to myself
                          to my friends 
                                            to Syd
                                                 to a partner I hadn't met yet
and to an unknown God that I somehow knew.

I am intrigued that Waters tended to picture the "two lost souls in a fishbowl" as
two fish, but each in a  separate bowl (this is  perhaps authenticated by cover art on a later single version).

I hadn't felt it that way.

Being two lost souls in the same bowl was lonely enough.  
But at least the two were in it together.
Terrifying to be trapped in a bowl alone, able to see your soulmate in an adjacent bowl.
Year after year.

Covid quarantine, indeed

But until we admit we often live this hellonearth in our "there"  ("Can you tell heaven from hell?."...
We may never experience God as here.

Wish you were here,

  • Syd
  • friends
  • enemies
  • Dave
  • God
It's all in how you read it,

PS Maybe just watch this guy in video. He's crazy, but he may weel say most of what I just tried to sat better than I just did!: --
Other Pink Floyd posts here.
See related ed "labels" (keyword "topix ) below