Chapter 4 - My Songs of Strength & Inspiration

Lesson: Be conscious of those things that you like because they reveal a lot about what makes you and the world around you tick.

The idea for this book had its genesis in an exercise I decided to undertake for the purpose of leaving a short list of my favorite songs for my kids and others who might appreciate knowing. The title I came up with for my list was “My Songs of Strength and Inspiration.” I thought to myself, “that’s a cool title.” It’s such a cool title, I thought, “If it’s the only thing that I leave behind when I depart this earth, my kids might actually appreciate having it.” Then came the task of choosing my songs of strength and inspiration. Wow! What a journey!

I had no idea what I would find as I started unlocking the doors to the past. It turns out that unlocking those doors is somewhat of a dangerous proposition, especially from an emotional standpoint. When I started writing this book I didn’t know I faced “emotional challenges,” and I jumped in, facing some serious and emotionally charged memories with none of the tools that the average person might possess for dealing with those emotions, notwithstanding my nearly 50 years of age. The exercise was supposed to be fun, not challenging.

It’s really not surprising that the songs that gave me strength and inspiration would be tied to events that required strength and inspiration to overcome. Since my emotional connection was with the songs and not the events, I really could not fathom the unintended consequences of “going there.” Unbeknownst to me, the process of musical self-reflection on which I was embarking served to unlock some difficult emotions that my brain had stored away in an emotional and, to this point, nearly impenetrable vault. Luckily, the music was not only a trigger of this emotional response but also a powerful tool in managing the emotions themselves.

When I was going through the process of picking my songs of strength and inspiration, I was thinking back to my high school years and college years. Like many teens, I felt inadequate and insecure during these years, but I think I kept the anger and frustration that comes with having these feelings pretty well hidden. Especially at Stanford, everyone seemed so happy to be there. I took that to mean that I should be happy too. So, I tried to play the part. And even though friends can see through that, the thing about guys is that we tend to accept each other with all of our flaws intact (we don’t call each other out on our sh%t). There is no “let’s talk about this problem or disagreement” so that we can learn from it and grow, at least not among the Mexican-American metal heads at Stanford. Maybe people from other backgrounds or from newer generations approach these matters differently, but we were not good at it. At the very least, I was not good at it.

Several friends tried to reach out to try to better understand what was happening with me since they could probably sense the feelings of sadness and isolation that were emanating from me. These attempts were mostly rejected, and I cannot tell these caring souls how sorry I am about my response.

In reflecting on these years, I still can’t recall much of my own feelings past a general sense of sadness or fear. I remember having moments of great fun, but I don’t recall experiencing happiness. Having had a chance to reflect on my interactions with friends, I can now relate to the emotions they were likely feeling with respect to my relationship with them better than I can relate to my own emotions about those relationships. I have this heavy sense in my heart of having failed them as a friend, by not letting them fully be part of my life. I have the same feeling about nearly all of my friends. I also feel a similar sense of failure when it comes to my relationships with my wife, kids, parents, and siblings. There was/is very little emotional intimacy in these relationships. How do you make up for failing to show intimacy to your loved ones, especially after all of these years? This process of discovery will be part of my journey going forward.

In my college years especially, I couldn’t understand why someone would want to know how I was feeling. I had a “these are my feelings not yours” attitude. It is tough enough to deal with your own feelings. Why would you WANT to bring other people’s feelings into the picture? It can only make life more complicated. Clearly, this is not a healthy approach to relationships in any way, shape, or form. Thank goodness our schools place a much greater emphasis on social and emotional learning today, especially in the primary years. If you develop the skills to manage difficult social and emotional situations before you hit adolescence, then you have a fighting chance to succeed on so many different levels.

But honestly, it turns out that during my adolescence and the vast majority of my life, I have not been feeling emotions in what one might consider to be a typical way. I don’t feel emotions in the moment. The emotion, when experienced in real time, is muted. I have an android-like response to situations that should cause a significant emotional response. This has provided me with a new insight into my fascination towards my favorite movies and TV series that include android-like characters [Spock in the original Star Trek series, Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Agent Cooper in the T.V. series Twin Peaks, the androids in Blade Runner, the androids in the Alien movie series, September in the T. V. series Fringe, the super soldiers in action movies like Bourne Identity (who don’t feel but just respond to situations based how they are trained to react), the survivors in zombie movies (because they grow to feel nothing when it comes to killing human–like zombies as well as other humans), the guards who carry out the mobster boss’ every twisted command, the terminators in the Terminator series and the Jedi Masters in Star Wars because they always kept their cool (and kicked a$$)]. Basically, I was attracted to situations where humans would behave in inhuman, super-human, or, as Blue Oyster Cult might put it, “subhuman” ways.

In recent years, I‘ve learned to recognize that my brain is doing something when an emotional reaction is occurring. I still don’t feel the emotion but I am able to sense that my brain is doing multiple things at once. I am, most certainly, paying attention to the experience at hand but my brain also seems to be filing the emotional response in an inaccessible place so that it doesn’t interfere with what I need to get done. There is more than one set of wheels turning in my head, and they are turning in different ways and at different rates than the wheels in the typical human brain.

The interesting thing about my brain’s handling of emotions is that the psychological and physiological response is also atypical. I don’t feel the emotion when an emotion-producing event with a friend or family member occurs. I feel the emotion ONLY after reflecting on the emotion-producing exchange. But if I never reflect on a situation, then I don’t even realize what I was supposed to be feeling. When I reflect on a situation, I experienced the emotion in tape-delay, but it is no longer a single emotion but a combination of emotions. The emotion, once recognized, is now typically accompanied by a sense of inadequacy for not only mishandling a situation but also for failing to recognize the miscue, failing to admit fault (if applicable), and failing to take appropriate action to repair the emotional damage done to the other individuals involved.

An interesting aspect of the process of muting or masking emotions is that it leaves more room for logic to operate. So, instead of processing the emotion, I am looking for a solution for the situation that has caused the emotional response. I have therefore developed a keen ability to solve problems and to get things done. Thus, I am a good person to have as part of a problem-solving team because I can figure out what needs to get done, how to get it done, and I am willing to work to get it done. As an elected official, this allowed me to develop a good track record for action and results. As a public employee for Austin ISD, it gave me the ability to juggle many complex projects and have a good record of success. As the Executive Director of a research and planning organization (the Community Advancement Network), well … it makes me good at research and planning.

I want to share one final note about how I think, feel and perceive the world. As I will discuss more in the next chapter, I struggled mightily with my academic work at Stanford. During my first two years, I was mostly getting C’s in my classes and something had to change. Thus I started enrolling for only four classes instead of five to see if that might help. And it did. I started getting A’s and B’s. With a little more time to process what I was experiencing, I went to an office at Stanford where they test for dyslexia just to see if that might be a reason. I was assessed and the resulting score was basically right at the borderline for diagnosing someone as dyslexic. At my age, I had already developed coping mechanisms for that learning challenge so who knows what these tests would have shown if I was younger. I was not formally diagnosed as having dyslexia and all they could really do is encourage me to take a lighter course load, something that I was already doing.

I say this not to introduce a compounding effect in terms of my personal challenges, but to paint a picture of me as a complete person. The challenges I have faced allowed me to develop mental processing abilities that others do not have because there was no reason for them to have developed them. The authors Brock Eide and Fernette Eide refer to people with dyslexia as having “The Dyslexic Advantage’. They state people who are dyslexic excel in ways of thinking that non-dyslexic people do not, especially in the areas of MIND - Material reasoning, Interconnected Reasoning, Narrative Reasoning and Dynamic reasoning. The following personal strengths that they include in their MIND framework describe with incredible accuracy that kinds of abilities that I have used to navigate work and life in general:

  • M-Strengths are abilities that help us reason about the physical or material world (The Dyslexic Advantage, page 49);
  • I-Strengths are: the ability to see how phenomena are related to each other by “likeness” or “togetherness; the ability to see phenomenon from multiple perspectives; and the ability to unite all kinds of information about a particular object of thought into a single global or big picture (The Dyslexic Advantage,pages 83-84).
  • N-Strengths are the ability to construct a connected series of “mental scenes” from fragments of past personal experience (The Dyslexic Advantage,page 114).
  • D-Strengths create the ability to accurately predict past or future states using episodic simulation (The Dyslexic Advantage, page 143).

Music’s Emotional Connection

I’ve come to experience emotion more frequently since Theresa and I had children. This has led to an experience of love in many of its different dimensions. It is a great gift to have an opportunity to love in this way. However, when the “door” of emotions was opened, all OTHER emotions became accessible to me as well. I did not (and still to a great extent do not) possess the ability to handle feelings of anger and frustration. When I actually feel such emotions, it is because I’ve reached a breaking point. I’m already at a point where raised voices, profanity, and/or accusations are involved. This is usually followed by extreme and tearful remorse and apologies to those affected.

To explain how music can create powerful memories, I will use examples of experiences that I will never forget because they involve songs that my children like and/or songs that I can otherwise relate to them. Being a parent is hard. You are responsible for another life. What greater responsibility is there, and what greater privilege? You only have a short time with your children and so you worry about the kind of job you are doing and what the future holds for them. These feelings come to mind when certain songs come on the radio. Contemplating the uncertainty of your children’s future can be difficult to bear. For instance, I can’t help but cry when I hear John Mayer’s song, “Daughters,” or the Coldplay song, “Paradise.”

There she was just a girl.
She expected the world.
Then it flew away from her reach,
and she ran away in her sleep.

(Paradise - Coldplay)

At times, the kids sing songs that are playing on the car radio and you know that they don’t grasp the meaning. You just can’t bring yourself to get into an explanation, and you hope that they don’t pick this time to ask for an explanation. A couple of prime examples are when I heard them sing along with the following songs:

Don’t get too close.
It’s dark inside.
It’s where my demons hide.

(“Demons” - Imagine Dragons)

Take that money,
watch it burn,
sink in the river
the lesson I’ve learned.

(“Counting Stars” - One Republic)

Although all is not sad in the world, we do tend to worry more about what the future holds instead of cherishing the here and now. So I want to also share a few of the fun memories involving music and my kids that I will always recall vividly:

  • Sofie’s cheer team performance to the Calvin Harris song, “Feel So Close to You,” at the Frank Erwin Center and her performance with a dance troupe at a Del Valle High School football game to “It’s Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus.
  • Hearing Joseph sing the song “Dynamite” in the playground at his childcare center, Escuelita del Alma, on the P.A.: “I put my hands up in the air sometimes, singing aye-oh, baby let’s go!”
  • Listening to Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade” on the car radio and when Zack De La Rocha says “They rally ‘round the family, with a pocket full of shells,” Joseph said, “Hey, dad, I have a pocket full of shells.” When I began trying to explain that in this case “shells” referred to bullets and that he’s talking about hypocrisy with regard to the politics of gun control (yadda, yadda, yadda), he extended his hand to show me a hand full of shells that he had in his pocket and had found in the school playground. Sofie and I laughed so hard all the way home! And Joseph was like, “What’s so funny?”
  • Me asking Sofia in the car while the Taylor Swift song said “Say you’ll remember me, standing on an ice chest, looking at the sun set.” And with her, being the huge Taylor Swift fan that she is, responding with an expression of outrage and the explanation: it says “standing in a nice dress” not “standing on an ice chest.” Oh boy!
  • Me, Joseph, and my niece, Kayla, were Pokemon Go hunting to the Joy Division compilation, Substance (1977-1980). It was amazing that the dark/brooding songs and the songs of extreme agitation all seemed to fit the occasion, as did the Joy Division songs that are full of irony (as was this particular situation).
  • During a helicopter ride into the Grand Canyon, the song “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2 started playing on the Muzak they had playing on the headphone literally as we entered the canyon itself. Quite unforgettable!

Without a doubt, music has the power to forever etch the memory of significant life experiences into our brains. I contend that these memories are lasting because the situation, music, and lyric simultaneously activate multiple regions in our brain. It creates a much different brain pattern than is created when you are just an observer of what is happening around you.

Background on Creation of Songs of Strength and Inspirtation #1

One of the key limitations for the list was that the songs would be from my three favorite rock groups, Iron Maiden, Rush and U2. In this way, I could convey several things at once to mi’jo and mi’ja (these terms are short for “mi hijo”/my son and “mi hija”/my daughter): my favorite musical genre, my favorite groups within the genre, and my favorite songs of those groups. The songs themselves would serve the added purpose of outlining the criteria I personally use to establish musical and lyrical greatness. All in all, you can come to know quite a bit about someone if you know these things.

One of the family roles I had assumed since Theresa and I became parents was that of being responsible for the morning drop-off. Theresa was responsible for the afternoon pick-up, a much more demanding role since it involves the subsequent transitions to after school activities. During the morning commute to school, we were starting to move from playing kid’s music in the car to acquiescing to my daughter’s desire to put the radio on the pop station. Apparently the pop station was already getting air play in mama’s car, and the kids were starting to develop favorite songs. Pop music had not been my music since middle school, and I was not very happy about having to listen to the pop station and seeing my kids begin to exclusively like dance music and hip-hop. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not strictly anti-pop and anti-hip-hop, but I felt that my kids should learn to appreciate a range of genres that included rock music as well as traditional Latino music.

I believe I can pin point the actual instant where the idea of creating this list of favorites entered my head. I was flipping the radio and happened to land on KLBJ, Austin’s classic rock station. “Spirit of Radio” by the group Rush was playing, and I told my kids, “Hey kids, listen to the drummer on this song. He is the greatest drummer of all time.” There was no real response from them, although I could tell they were actually listening to the song. When the song finished, I asked them, “Wasn’t that awesome?” My daughter said nothing but my son, who happened to own a tiny “American Idol” drum set, said, “Yeah.” I learned a lot from this exchange. My son has a particular interest in drumming, much like his father (although the only drumming I do is air drumming). I thought that it was totally cool that my son had connected with Neal Peart, Rush and such a classic song.

The other thing that entered my mind was not so cool. I got the sense that I was failing as a father and as a so called fan of hard rock because I had not taught my kids one important fact of life— that Neal Peart is the greatest drummer who ever lived. But how could they know this if they had never even heard a song from that genre up until that very moment? Whose fault was that? Nobody’s fault but mine.

Unexpectedly, this made me realize that I was not asserting myself enough as a husband and father in a number of areas. On a very basic level, I was just not communicating my likes and dislikes to my family very effectively (or really at all), and so we were not doing the things that I liked to do (i.e., music, movies, TV shows, food, games, etc.). I really didn’t have a problem with it until I realized that my kids did not really know some very important things about their father. If I were to leave this earth unexpectedly, I don’t think my kids would have had much to attribute or associate with me. I am a person who has very few childhood memories. I really didn’t want that to be the case with my kids when it came to their dad or their childhood.

My kids were developing their musical preferences by listening to Theresa’s preferred musical styles and artists. This is not bad in and of itself. She has very good taste, for the most part. It’s the sexually explicit popular music that is marketed to youth that I find most problematic. That having been said, among her favorite artists are Prince, Michael Jackson, the Beastie Boys, Outkast, Blondie, the Beatles, Johnny Cash and, of course, a variety of artists who perform in Latino genres such as cumbia, merengue, banda and Tejano. Several times, on long road trips, she actually would bring along Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and The Beatle’s Abbey Road which led me to develop a much deeper appreciation for these albums and my wife’s musical tastes. Without a doubt, this is an impressive variety.

It was the fact that I was not contributing to this musical variety that was not sitting well. My nature is that if I find that something is not right or to be out of balance, then I just can’t ignore it. Thus, something had to be done. So that I could sleep at night, I created my “songs of strength and inspiration” list and put it in the fireproof case (with all the important documents like birth certificates, passports, life insurance policies, car titles, property deeds, etc.). Fortunately or unfortunately, that was not the end of the story.

The power of reflecting on one’s past is that, if done in a productive way, one can learn and grow through the process. This book and most of the conclusions about life that I am sharing came out of this simple process. While my life has not been a walk in the park while writing this book, I have been able to achieve greater levels of peace (as well as greater levels of grief and frustration). The feelings have tended to balance each other out, but it’s so very different from experiencing the state of “not feeling” which was my reality for all of the years prior to writing this book.

Although I felt/feel comfortable in my steady state of “not feeling,” for my wife and kids who experience highs and lows, it can come off as me being emotionally insensitive during a time that they are feeling crappy. Although the years I have spent writing this book have been a roller coaster ride, I suppose I am beginning to understand that this is how most people experience life. It is scary and beautiful to me at the same time. I have a long way to go, but I am thankful for having been given a chance to experience life in this way.

The Messages Behind the Songs

If you know the tunes included in the song list for this chapter, then little case must be made for their selection. I will focus on the emotional impact and overarching themes of the songs to see how it compares with the “code of rock-n-roll” outlined in Chapter 2. The selections can be grouped into four categories that appear to mirror how I approach living life.

Perseverance Will Pay Off in the End

U2’s “It’s a Beautiful Day,” “Stuck in a Moment,” and “In a Little While” and Rush’s “Far Cry” speak to the need to persevere when you don’t get/have what you want or when you hit hard times. Life has its ups and downs (“…sometimes I feel like I’m on top of the world and the next day its falling in on me” – “Far Cry,” Rush). That’s just the way it is. So, if you are on a high, enjoy it and BE GRATEFUL for it. When you give thanks for what you have, you show that you value the gifts you have been given by the Creator, including life itself. I believe to my very core that when you are grateful, good things are made possible in the future. While I think the converse (not being grateful) can lead to bad things in the future, it is not something that is irreversible if somewhere along the way you learn to be grateful. U2 suggests to us that when we get home “the hurt will hurt no more” which I feel is true when you get to return to your earthly home and ultimately your home beyond this physical realm.

Live a Life Defined by Love and Respect

All three groups have songs that speak to the second principle that I’ve used to explain my songs of strength and inspiration. I think most people would acknowledge the importance of love and respect as values, but do we really live our lives in accordance with these values? Our focus on material things and personal pleasure absolutely sends a message that it is these things that are of greatest value to us at the expense of love and respect. If we loved and respected our neighbors, would inequities exist to the extent that they do in our country, state, city and neighborhood? Would there be homelessness or hunger in our society if we really loved and respected every human life? If we do not change what we value personally, we cannot expect for society to change. But our actions have to be aligned with our beliefs. We can’t think that love and respect are important and act like they are secondary to the material things or pleasures we desire.

Love has a power that is unmatched in this world as proclaimed in U2’s “Magnificent”: “Only love…can leave such a mark” and “heal such a scar.” Experiencing love leaves an imprint on us and makes us feel that we matter in this world. Hopefully, it compels us to pass along the love to others. Additionally, the power of love includes the ability to heal scars that might emerge from bad experiences in life. Even when we are in the worst of places, experiencing love can transform that situation into something beautiful and special, something you could have never predicted. It is a miracle cure of sorts or as Rush puts it: “oh sweet miracle, life’s sweet miracle of love.” (“Sweet Miracle,” Rush)

People often use love as a measure of personal character. How we live life and how we treat people shows what we value. Unfortunately, self-love and our selfish desires, more often than not, get the better of us. In “The Garden,” Rush suggests that love and respect are “the measure of a life.” How would we fare if someone were to assess the level of love and respect we currently demonstrate? I think many of us would get a failing grade. If we loved our neighbor like ourselves, there would be no suffering. No one would want for food, clothing and shelter, but yet the number of individuals and families that need assistance with these basic needs rises every year. We all can and must do more. Make an effort to tip your own personal scale of love and respect in the right direction.

I’ll close this section on love and respect with a few themes from Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” which of course is based on the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The tale suggests that because God loves all, love is a sentiment to be emulated as a way of showing respect and gratitude to the Creator. When the mariner fails to show love and respect for one of God’s creatures (an albatross) by killing it, then all manner of misfortunes befall his crew and his ship. In fact, the mariner is the only one that survives, forever having to carry that “albatross around his neck.” All that the mariner has left as a way to show love and respect is to tell this tale to others so that they may not make the same mistake and suffer the same fate as he.

It is important to Dream. The future depends on it.

The song “Caravan” by Rush conveys in just one sentence the fact conveyed in my entire chapter on dreams—that dreaming is important to human beings: “In a world where I feel so small, I can’t stop thinking big.”

Here “thinking big” actually refers to having big dreams. When we are young, many things inspire us and so we are more prone to dream. As adults, when something/someone inspires us we marvel at the human capacity to improve and innovate. Unfortunately, we may marvel at the feats of others but we don’t dream big dreams for ourselves. We have the power to realize our dreams and to help others realize theirs, but we often choose to stand by and let those dreams evaporate into thin air. The answer: make sure you always dream big, no matter what stage in life you find yourself.

Cherish Your Freedom, Cherish Your Rights as a Human Being & Don’t Be Afraid to Fight for Them

This is another criteria to which all three bands contribute at least one tune. I’ll start with Iron Maiden. I think it is interesting that the songs from this band that I selected for my list are all inspired by either history (“Paschendale”), literature (“Brave New World” & “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”), a movie (“Where Eagles Dare”) and a TV show (“The Prisoner”). Although this is not exactly the approach I’ve taken in this book, it is pretty darn close. I cite many books and share about my favorite TV shows and movies. I delve into social equity and spirituality later in this book. To make sense of these topics one must have some grasp of their historical context. It is an interesting parallel demonstrating that we are all constantly interacting with our environment, whether we realize it or not. It is affecting us and we are affecting it.

There are four songs in this particular category that make a strong case for maintaining your personal freedom: “Brave New World,” “Where the Wind Blows,” “Paschendale” and “Breathe.” In the book, Brave New World, learning is highly controlled and critical thinking is discouraged. A caste system is in place and human reproduction is done through artificial means (not by way of human contact). The book/song serve as a warning from allowing this kind of world to come to fruition. Similarly, the implicit messages in the songs “Paschendale” and “Where the Wind Blows” are that we cannot allow the war-mongers and religious extremists to guide our future. Unfortunately, the conditions that all three of these songs warn against seem to be coming to pass.

The song, “Breathe,” by U2 reminds us that we get to decide for ourselves. These intense forces that we feel are like the traveling salesman in the song who is trying to sell us something we don’t need. We don’t need the uniformity of thought and action from Brave New World. We don’t need to give in to the view that there is always an enemy with whom we should be at war and that war is for our own good. Finally, we get to choose as individuals what to believe in terms of spirituality. And if we get to choose for ourselves, then why would it be necessary for us to impose what we believe on others who have their own individual right to believe what they will. Unfortunately, we are on a path where war, religious extremism, and uniformity of thought/action are not only common but appear to be the norm. To flip the script on a line from Star Trek – The Next Generation, “…resistance IS NOT futile.” We can change how we respond to the forces at work in our lives, what we choose to believe, and how we choose to live/act. Your future and the future of those you love depend on it.

The last two songs from my song list, overall, suggest to us that we shouldn’t take things lying down. When you are wronged or see a person or group of people that have been wronged, don’t just take it. Fight against it. Fight for what’s right. In “Where Eagles Dare” by Iron Maiden we are told that the pilots and paratroopers who were on a secret mission against the Nazi’s fought to “save the day” by choosing to fly “where eagles dare.”

The struggle for the lead character in “The Prisoner” is more individualized. The prisoner in this British sci-fi series of the same title is a secret agent who is not allowed to resign from his service to the crown. He has been taken to an isolated island where people aren’t allowed to use names, only their assigned number, and are not allowed to leave. There are twenty episodes worth of attempts to escape. Even in the final episode when it appears he finally has achieved his freedom, we find out he’s still in “the village.” Even though the series ends on this dubious note, we know that No. 6 will not give up trying to escape. As we should not give up our efforts to create a world based on love and respect. “I’m not a prisoner… I'm a free man…and my blood is my own now. Don't care where the past was…I know where I'm going.” (“The Prisoner” - Iron Maiden).

Reflections on My Songs of Strength and Inspiration

An interesting fact about the 15 songs on this list is that all but three were written after I graduated from college. So, I selected the groups based on the fact that they became my favorite groups during my college years (or earlier), but I mostly did not select songs from that time period. I selected songs that didn’t exist when I chose these groups to be among my most favorite groups.

I was very happy with the list. I really felt that the collection of songs accurately represented who I was. If my kids ever wanted to know what their dad was about, then they wouldn’t have to guess. The emotional and intellectual power of the music and the themes of the songs say much more than I could by answering the question, “Who are you?” and “Why are you the way you are?” But there was a lingering question: did these songs paint a picture that was sufficiently complete?

Certainly, these songs are among my favorite songs. But part of the reason they are special to me is because of the relationship I have with the artists. The songs of these powerhouse bands have guided me for the better part of my life. The overall catalog of the bands matters. The albums, from which they were pulled, matter. The consistency in the message that they have conveyed over the years matters. So, honestly, if asked the question, “What are your favorite songs” I’m not sure how many of these songs would actually make the list.

The question of songs that were impactful for me but that were not by these three groups kept nagging at me. Isn’t that, also, an important thing for my kids to know? Isn’t that an important thing for ME to know? Thus, I embarked on a second musical journey, to answer the question, “What songs strengthen and inspire me that are not by my three favorite groups.” Rowdy rockers beware here. Not all of the songs to be discussed next fall into the category of classic rock, hard rock, alternative rock or heavy metal.

I came up with two criteria for selecting my second list of songs that strengthen and inspire. The first criteria seemed to be that the song had to say something about the real world, either something universal or something that was part of my own personal experience. The second criteria was: does the song create an emotional response that stands the test of time? By “stand the test of time,” I mean that the emotional response to the song should be as strong now as it was when I first heard it. I have had a type of fleeting reaction to songs on the radio. I connect to the emotion the song is conveying, but when I hear it a year or two (or more) later, the emotional reaction is no longer there. This just makes you wonder, what did I connect with and where did that connection go? If the song has not changed, then I am the one who must have changed.

Picking my favorite songs, regardless of the artist, has led me to realize that I connect with songs that evoke specific kinds of emotions, most of which are not very pleasant emotions. In some instances, the very songs that evoke the challenging emotions offer comfort or relief, through lyrical or musical means. This dynamic is what has led me to my claim that “I saved my soul through rock and roll.” The skills for dealing with emotions that I had not developed through relationships with family/friends or educational/professional experiences, I acquired through the life process of identifying and connecting with my favorite songs and artists. The emotions behind the songs on these two lists gives you more insight into what is going on inside my head and heart than any explanation I could possibly give. If you did not read this book but listened to the 20+ songs mentioned in this chapter over and over again for a week or so, I feel you’d gain a pretty good insight into what it is like to be me.

Songs of Strength and Inspiration #2

I landed on including this second song list because they are songs that pack a punch, especially in an emotional sense, and emotion has turned out to be such a critical in part of the story. These songs always grabbed my attention. But I never had thought much about why. There is something about them that makes them rockin’ songs even though they might not themselves be rock songs.

While writing this book, I played these songs on a loop for weeks at a time and the emotional intensity did not weaken. Many, many tears were shed. As the cadence of emotions becomes familiar because of the order of the songs on the playlist, the emotional reaction became even stronger and not weaker. The mind anticipates what’s around the corner musically and emotionally. It’s like a rollercoaster ride and you’re enjoying the vertical ascent but simultaneously preparing yourself for the exhilarating plunge that is coming your way. While the emotional rollercoaster effect created by the collection of songs is important, it is equally important to note that the range of emotions touched upon in these songs are a vital part of my story. These are the very emotions I was dealing with during my adolescence, particularly during my college years. While the emotions in these songs may come across as negative or dark, it appears that I chose to interpret the music as not only conveying the emotion but also being in defiance of it. Because the songs acknowledge the presence of the emotion, they give the listener (and artist I presume) some measure of power or control over it. Thus is revealed how a therapeutic pathway for addressing such strong and precarious emotions could be built upon a medium such as rock-n-roll.

The last thing that I will note before I go to the messages in the songs is that each song seems to get at a critical or essential element of rock-n-roll while at the same time providing a warning or a hint about dangers that are inherent when confronting such emotions and topics. It is almost as if including an element of danger or a warning of some kind was a criteria I had used in selecting the songs, which was not the case in actuality. The combination of songs and artists is eclectic and surprising, but it is this particular commonality in the songs that surprised me the most. These nine songs have helped me to understand myself and heavily influenced what I am supposed to write in at least three other chapters of this book. These songs may not move everyone in the same way, but hopefully people like me, who by choice or out of necessity have had to develop this sort of relationship with the music, will be able to relate to and learn from my perspective.

The song list starts with an up beat, defiant and cautionary tale by Cypress Hill. Cypress Hill is a West Coast multi-ethnic hip-hop group with no-nonsense lyrics and topics. Cypress Hill along with Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions (KRS-One), Ice Cube and Ice T were the hip-hop acts that allowed me to appreciate the art form that is hip-hop. I learned the importance of telling it like it is, in your own words and with no apologies. These artists were proud of their history, culture, and identity, and these elements were an integral part of their compositions.

I remember the first time I heard “Rock Superstar.” I knew it was a great song from that very first moment. I don’t get that feeling about very many songs, but I went out immediately and bought the CD. I was in graduate school at this time and was not listening to hip-hop and rock but was at the time immersed in traditional Latino styles of music. My purchase was thus atypical for this period of my life.

Lenny Kravitz’ song, “Fly Away,” is the song that takes us into the stratosphere, not just because great songs have the ability to do this, but also because as we proceed down this musical journey we need to be way up high so that when we plunge back down there’s enough time to release the parachute and hope for a controlled landing. The song itself is a jam and touches on a subject that is not foreign to rock enthusiasts. The idea of “flying” is so critical to rock-n-roll that Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, and The Foo Fighters have songs that very specifically deal with topic of “learning to fly.”

The need to get high or, more accurately, reach new heights is of real importance to us as human beings. The problem is that things that make us feel high create feelings of euphoria that dampen our ability to want to return down to earth. So, the danger here is that we won’t want to leave these high places, as evidenced by the classic Rolling Stones tune, “Get Off of My Cloud.”

“I Don’t Want to Be” by Gavin DeCraw is also a song that I immediately liked but could not figure out who the artist was. I felt sure the singer was Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes. But I could not find it anywhere in the Black Crowes catalog. It took me about a month to find the song looking through playlists of alternative rock stations and, ultimately, doing different searches on iTunes for the lyrics that I could remember since I didn’t know the name of the song. This is the first song that I chose that not only touches upon life’s challenges and frustrations but also provides an avenue for overcoming and dealing with such challenges and frustrations. It starts with an acknowledgement and statement of pride in his own background being the son of a prison guard and a “specialist,” which I assume is some kind of administrative title. I myself am proud of what my parents, a secretary and foreman, were able to provide for their three kids, all of whom are first generation college graduates. My parents are still struggling through life, my mom retired from the school district after 40 years, and my dad, who retired from his four decades of work in the agricultural industry, now runs a feed store (an endeavor that is done more for fun that for profit). Their three kids, with our degrees and elevated incomes, deal with struggles that are miniscule by comparison. But yet, I suppose we feel that we don’t have enough money and time to connect with our parents in a meaningful way, a terrible illusion that we allow ourselves to believe.

“I Don’t Wanna Be” gives two avenues for success in life, the first that we’ve addressed already is that knowing who you are and where you came from are important in determining where you want to go in life. We are ill advised to ignore the past because it is what has led to our present situation and has set the parameters for what will happen in our future. Our future success can only be helped by understanding how the past has influenced our present day circumstances.

This presents a natural segue to Metallica’s “And Nothing Else Matters.” I almost didn’t include this song in this list because I’ll be referencing Metallica’s Black album in the next chapter. An experience at work sealed the deal for including this song. One of my co-workers was married before I got to writing this chapter. When she returned to work from her wedding and honeymoon, she was showing us pictures and she showed me the groom’s cake which had a line from this song inscribed upon it. The wedding took place in 2013, more than 20 years after the release of Metallica’s Black album, and this song left such an impression for the groom that he felt it necessary to share these words of wisdom with people at his wedding.

What I feel is unique about “And Nothing Else Matters” (besides the fact that it is ostensibly a love song and one of maybe two love songs recorded by Metallica) is that while it focuses on the importance of individuality, it also opens the door to the possibility of other people playing a role in expressing that individuality. “It’s me against the world” becomes “it’s us against the world” with the assumption that your partner will allow you to continue to express your own individuality in an authentic manner and that you will support your significant other in authentically expressing themselves as well. It becomes o.k. to let other people in and to allow your hopes and dreams for the future to include helping others achieve their hopes and dreams.

This is an interesting twist to principle #4 in “the code of rock-n-roll” which says that loyalty is critical when it comes to rock-n-roll and “nothing else matters.” So, maybe rock-n-roll isn’t an end of itself. Maybe the meaning of rock-n-roll is to serve the needs of the people that it serves, rock-n-roll fans. This doesn’t mean that rock-n-roll can’t be what people typically think about it (sex, drugs and rock-n-roll). The music can be about whatever its fans respond to. Everybody has their own unique set of problems and circumstances and, as a result, has a different set of needs corresponding to their situation. Rock-n-roll can be used as a means to escape, but sometimes escape isn’t the best answer. Sometimes escaping from the problem isn’t possible. So, what then? Let’s see how and if rock-n-roll responds to its fans for whom there is no escape.

We move to the heart wrenching part of the list. None of the next five songs existed when I was in high school and college, but these songs have helped me to understand what I was going through back then and how I actually made it through those challenging times. Again, it boggles the mind that two of the groups, Jane’s Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers, whose music I grew to appreciate in the late 80’s, wrote songs in the late 2000’s that helped me understand the me of the mid-2010’s.

There are a couple of ways to view this. You might attribute it to the fact that the musicians/songwriters and I have evolved in parallel fashion during these years. I find this hard to believe—that I, a former elected official, community organizer, public employee and director of a non-profit organization, would have many common experiences over a 20+ year period with a couple of rock super groups. My preferred way of viewing this is that the very reason that the bands became two of my favorite groups in my college years was so that their later work could have the effect that it is currently having on me. My relationship with these artists (and others highlighted in this book) represents a cosmic entanglement from which good things must sprout. This is a relationship that exists and that must benefit both parties if cosmic justice is to be served. Usually the artist/aficionado relationship is one sided. I feel this cannot and should not be the case. Thus, I have ventured down the path of writing this book, a daunting task for someone like myself.

Two songs that accurately depict how I feel right now about my life are “Soul to Squeeze” and “Twisted Tales.” The songs speak to me not just through the lyrics but through the music as well. The lyrics elicit an emotional reaction that includes empathy for what the artists may have experienced but also one which pertains to my own life experience, regardless of how different that experience actually was. As I have been working to understand my emotional and personal connection to the lyrics, I discovered that the music itself was also, in a highly unusual way, helping me to deal with emotions I was encountering.

I recommend that you listen to these songs with headphones or in your car cranked up to your ears’ highest tolerance. There is a lot more going on, musically speaking, than you think. Please keep in mind that “Killin’ in the Name” contains the F work (repeatedly) along with a strategically placed use of the word “Mutha F” at the end of the barrage of F-U’s. If that is a concern to you, then you might just end that song one minute early. Let’s begin with a look at “Soul to Squeeze.”

I’ve got a bad disease. Up from my brain is where I bleed.
Insanity it seems has got me by my soul to squeeze (well) all the love from me.
With all the dying trees I scream.

(“Soul to Squeeze” - Red Hot Chili Peppers)

“Soul to Squeeze” appears to lay out a struggle with addiction that the storyteller is having or has had. The topic is not peculiar. It is my attraction to a song about this topic that is peculiar. While I went through a brief struggle with alcohol abuse while in college, I’ve had no other issues with substance abuse (thankfully). So, why did this song move me, emotionally speaking? Clearly, I could identify with the idea of “bleeding” from the brain. There’s a virtual wound in the brain that was caused by drugs (for the songwriter) or by childhood trauma (for me). It feels like bleeding because it appears that something is oozing out of your brain and trying to get you to do something (or in my case, feel something) you don’t want to. And you try to will your brain to stop. You have to grimace and clench your teeth and start taking long hard breaths until it subsides (or until it wins). When it won, I could find myself crying uncontrollably for a few hours and then I would be fine. For someone with a drug addiction, the consequences could be much more dire.

The emotional battle that I describe is not a walk in the park, and it’s not something I wanted people to know I was feeling. It literally felt like I was wrestling with demons. So then I’d isolate myself and go “scream with the dying trees” and hope that it really was true that no one can hear a tree that falls when no one is around. When I screamed my lungs out or cried my heart out, I’d tire out my brain and body. This would leave me feeling shell shocked or exhausted. All I’d want to do is sleep.

What makes this song great is that the music replicates this emotional struggle. At 2 min 33 seconds, a subdued slide guitar solo creates a calmness that we seek to maintain in life. However, the notes are massaging a sensitive spot of the soul and suddenly, the squeeze is on. Twenty seconds later the wailing guitar turns the massaging into a vice grip. With our heads and hands outstretched to the heavens, we plead for relief from above, for an end to the madness. But every time we try to depart to the next world, the bass line holds us down. It talks us down from the ledge. It tells us to “calm down, brother, you ain’t going nowhere, there's another way.”

The song contains an apology from the singer to those who may have wondered at one time or another “what is wrong with that guy.” The experience described in the lyric and in the notes is so intense, we don’t want to share it. And so we keep our distance and hope that one day we’ll have it under control and that we’ll be able to make it up to everyone by showing them a “good time.” As the chorus explains, there is hope that “peace of mind” will be found:

Where I go, I just don’t know. I’ve got to… gotta… gotta take it slow. When I find my peace of mind. I’m gonna give you some of my good time.

Moving on to…Eminem. Perhaps an unexpected choice, but the reason that “I’m Not Afraid” or a song like it must be the next in the progression is self-explanatory.

I’m not afraid to take a stand. Everybody, come take my hand. We’ll walk this world together. Through the storm. Whatever weather. Go to war. Send the message: You’re not alone. Holla if you feel like you’ve been down the same road.

For a long time, I wasn’t sure whether to include the song, but it became clear to me that it had to be. This song, and songs like it, have played a critical role in my life. It is a song about NOT letting people and life bring us down and about committing to get back up no matter how many times people and life knock us down. In the song, it doesn’t seem like he knows if he’s committing to “break out of this cage” for himself or for someone else, but he has committed to fight. The reason for deciding to fight is not important. Once the commitment to fight has been made, anything is possible.

Even if I had decided to include a rap section in this book, Eminem, the artist, was an unlikely choice. I’m more into old school rap, so he probably wouldn’t make the top ten in terms of my favorite rappers. For “I’m Not Afraid,” I had the same type of reaction that I did for Cypress Hill’s “Rock Superstar.” I knew right away this was a great song. I heard it a few times on the radio (and with the exception of the first time I heard it when it first peaked my interest), the song would bring out the tears. The reaction revealed to me that one of my own struggles has been with fear and that many of the songs that I gravitate to serve the purpose of helping me grapple with fear. For the majority of my life, I viewed this type of song as being about strength and not weakness. If there was one ounce of positivity, that alone would cancel all of the negativity in the song.

My first huge fear that I recall is the fear of not succeeding at Stanford. This wasn’t a fear when I stepped foot on the campus because I’d never really failed at anything that was important to me. After my first semester at Stanford, I went from being a Straight A student in high school to a Straight C student in college. Talk about a blow to the ego. That kind of outcome made me question everything: did I make the right choice by coming here, am I really smart at all, do I really belong here, and what would my family and friends think of me if they were to know my grades? I feared that if I failed at Stanford and had to return home or transfer to another school that I would somehow be dishonoring my family, even though my family would have supported me no matter what.

The reason I believe Eminem’s “I’m Not Afraid” resonated is that the fear of failure stayed with me. I learned to battle that particular fear by just hoping/believing that I would ultimately overcome the challenge even though I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do this. “Keeping hope alive,” as the Rev. Jesse Jackson might say, was my strategy for success. This “strategy of hope” has really only failed me once, when I lost my only political election for the position of Travis County Commissioner. However, the failure was not in having failed to “keep hope alive,” but in assuming that I would win or, worse, that I deserved to win. That political loss happened the year before I started writing this book. It turns out that the outcome of that election really did constitute a “win” for me. I lost the election but I earned the right to be on a path that led me to better understand myself and to write this book.

Before moving-on to “Killing in the Name,” I think it is also important to share that I have been able to categorize the songs that have helped me to overcome challenging moments in my life into the following categories: (i) songs that confirm life’s frustration and/or challenges; (ii) songs of perseverance; (iii) songs of defiance; and (iv) songs of understanding. It is a progression of sorts. The four-song stretch from “Soul to Squeeze” to “Twisted Tales” seems to follow this progression. While “Soul to Squeeze” could arguably be in category (iv), when I picked it for this chapter, it definitely fell into category (i). “I’m Not Afraid” naturally fell into the “songs of perseverance” category. The next two songs will cover the next two steps.

“Songs of defiance,” is the step that I used to crush the feelings of anger and frustration that I felt throughout my life, especially during adolescence. “Killing in the Name” is one of the most hard-hitting songs mentioned in this entire book and most definitely fits the bill as a “song of defiance.” The entire first album by Rage Against the Machine (self-titled) is just incredible. My response to the musical intensity that they exhibit in their first album I can only liken to the first time I heard Metallica’s Ride the Lighting, Rush 2112, Led Zeppelin IV or anything by Jimi Hendrix. Theirs is a not rage that comes from a place of powerlessness but one that comes from a place of power, the power of consciousness, the power to effect change (in our lives and in society) and the power to be in control of your own destiny.

Although “Killing in the Name” certainly contains a strong message of defiance, I actually prefer to focus on the role that this and similar songs served in helping me to handle difficult emotions and not so much on the content of the song. The defiance that is inherent in “Killing in the Name” does not merely allow me to thumb my nose at the powers that are trying to control me, it helps me to negate the ability of these individuals or institutions to have any power at all over my emotional well-being. This is the effect that “songs of defiance” had on me.

For the vast majority of my life, I’ve only felt an emotion if it reached an extreme level. I’d usually only allow this to happen when no one was around because it involved being curled up in the fetal position, a lot of crying, fist pounding, etc. These emotional outbreaks would give me some measure of control since I could release the emotional pressure that would build up when it became too much to bear.

To put it another way, my brain instantly sends all of my emotions into a room behind a door that is shut tight. My brain never allows the emotional reaction to manifest physically or psychologically. Every once in a while, the emotional capacity is reached and the door is flung open. This is where my ability to only feel extreme emotions derives. When the door swings open, crazy amounts of emotion run amok in my brain and body.

When I listen to a song of defiance, it helps to push the door shut once again. There’s a progression I’ve gone through by this point: I’ve felt rage, questioned my worthiness to do or be any number of things, and have made a conscious decision to rise above these base emotions by being hopeful that everything will work itself out. The problem is that through songs of defiance, I was not defying a person or institution, I was defying the way my brain was processing emotion. I basically was getting pissed off at my brain (i.e., myself), telling it to stop letting the emotional door swing open, and trying to punish it for letting it happen.

Here is an explanation that provides more of a visual image of what I feel was happening in some way at a neural level. “Killing in the Name” ends with Zack De la Rocha saying “F-you! I won’t do what you tell me!” 16 times in a row with the actual volume of his voice and emotional volume in his voice increasing with every utterance. Imagine that you are staring at a door that you hope never opens again because of the demons that reside behind it. And while you are staring at it, you start saying De la Rocha’s mantra “F-you I won’t do what you tell me.” Louder and louder and louder. And while you are saying this mantra louder and louder, you are adding lock after lock after lock on this door to ensure it never opens again. Thanks to Zack, I’m up to 16 locks. It’s a level of intensity I couldn’t put in words, but this song exemplifies how rock music and the electric guitar helped me lock away my emotions. This is certainly one way to deal with your emotions, but not a very healthy way of handling them. I can’t believe I was able to do this without me or someone I care about getting seriously hurt.

My way of handling emotions hasn’t changed much to date. The doctors say it will take years of weekly therapy to reach a point where I can approximate typical emotional responses. For someone who really hates to share personal information, that’s a whole hell of a lot of sharing. I’ll start that voyage when this book is done. Writing this book (and monthly not weekly therapy) will have to serve as therapy enough for now. It has certainly allowed the release of a great deal of pent up emotional energy.

Before I started writing this book, I may not have been able to recognize that there was a fourth step in the progression. I didn’t even own the Jane’s Addiction album, The Great Escape Artist, that has the final song that is featured in my second list of songs of strength and inspiration, “Twisted Tales.”

What a song! I can’t believe this song even exists. Writing this book was a blessing if for no other reason than that I was able to discover this song. The song not only ends the musical/emotional progression that I outlined above, but it contains this very progression within its musical structure. It is actually the musical structure of the song, not the lyrical content, that revealed the progression to me.

The song tells the story of a person who has been “nailed” by life in a variety of ways. Ironically, or not, the very trials that life has presented to the protagonist are what have led to the most meaningful experiences of his/her life.

I had no mother. I felt no trust. No family structure. Yes, I’ve been busted. I laid my head out, on my back seat. Under the stars is where I would sleep.

(“Twisted Tales” - Jane’s Addiction)

The upside of the song is that the main character has found the woman of his dreams. His life has been a roller coaster ride but he found love with a woman that was “way over his head.”, He’s had a hard childhood and lived the rock-n-roll lifestyle. How are all of these experiences reconciled when he finds the woman of his dreams? Surely, she wants to know everything about him? But what can he or should he really share? Will she let him get away with saying “I’ve done a lot of crazy sh@t!” When he makes this statement, she is likely to say “like what kind of crazy sh@t?” The song says:

I told you white lies. I use white magic. I need you to know. I’m not a reject. I’ve been committed, but not for a long time. I am a lad, you can believe in. Oooh, sometimes I got lucky. I got nailed good. Real good. She was way over my head. Couldn’t help myself. Hid my past from you. To fit in. To fit it, and, yes, to get in bed with you. I had to find a way of telling tales somewhat twisted.

(“Twisted Tales” - Jane’s Addiction)

The main character has decided that this woman is a keeper. He has maybe even had this feeling on more than one occasion. How do you plead to that special someone that you are trustworthy when you have done untrustworthy things? That you won’t hurt them when you’ve hurt others? How do you tell someone that you are “challenged” in variety of ways without the revelation of the challenges scaring the person off? Is it o.k. to tell white lies? Afternoon talk shows would lead you to believe that you can hold nothing back. I can picture an audience member saying “If he can’t be completely honest, then he doesn’t really love you,” followed by a round of applause. I might clap, too, thinking this is the ideal. But, if we believe in redemption, then shouldn’t it be possible for all to be forgiven? My thinking is, “Give the guy a break! The past is in the past. Look to the future.” I suppose a lot depends on whether or not the character is a changed man. How do you really know something like that?.

The musical/emotional progression I’ve described in four songs unfolds musically within this one song. The song up to this point represents Step (i) in the progression, the problem/challenge. At 2 min. 55 seconds, the song simultaneously initiates Steps (ii) and (iii). The decision has been made to “fight” (i.e. persevere) and the fight is exemplified brilliantly by all instruments in a hard-driving musical passage that ends 20 seconds later with a flurry on the drums. For these 20 seconds, picture a boxer giving it all he has. Punch after punch after punch and at the end of the drum flurry, he is knocked senseless. The image that comes to mind is the super slow motion sequence in the movie “Snatch” where the Brad Pitt character throws the fight and gets pummeled with an uppercut. We watch in super “slow mo” as his momentarily lifeless body hits the boxing ring with such a force that it feels like he’s fallen deep into a pool of water from which it appears he cannot swim out of. But…spoiler alert…he does come up from it. In the song (not the movie), an eight second interlude with just bass and drums buys the fighter enough time to make it to his corner. Then, the trainer starts talking to the fighter (ignore Perry Farrell singing the chorus). For the next 19 seconds, imagine instead the trainer saying “Come on champ. You’re all right. You get back out there. You can take this guy. You can do it.” When the electric guitar kicks back in, the boxer is tapping his boxing gloves together, going out for the next round, ready to throw the first punch. The beat (of the song) goes on and you resume the fight until the songs end 37 seconds later.

Even the end of the song is a thing of beauty. The song does not end on a high note. The final note leaves a question mark lingering which represents Step (iv) in the progression which is the step of understanding. The song ends in a question mark punctuated by the last strum of the guitar. Are we “full of sh@t” for thinking we can start anew given what we’ve done to ourselves and others? Are we simply trying to have our cake and eat it, too? For a person like myself, with my emotional challenges, I plead for clemency for not realizing until age 47 the nature of my condition. Should I feel differently toward someone suffering from addiction in any of its forms? Addiction relates to certain pathways that have been created in the brain to enhance pleasure. The pathways my brain created were intended to mask pain but they also masked pleasure (and everything in between) in the process. Either way, the pathway to recovery involves creating new neural pathways that lead to better outcomes than the neural pathways that currently exist. This is easier said than done, but by understanding that this is what we’re faced with and having the right attitude and support structures these challenges can be overcome.

For the entire time that I was writing this book, Twisted Tales, was the final song of this second list of "songs of strength and inspiration." When I re-read the chapter, I couldn't help but dwell on that final note of the song, the note that made me question my feelings about my life. The note didn't quite have the defiant tone that I would imagine the final song on this list to have. It took me about a year to develop this song list, but it took only a day or two to find the song that was meant to the final entry, "We're in this Together" by Nine Inch Nails. You don't need any more explanation than the lyrics themselves:

You and me. We're in this together now. None of them can stop us know. We will make it through somehow.

(“We're in this Together” - Nine Inch Nails)

Am I a typical “rocker”?

Now that you know my favorite songs of my favorite groups and the singles that strengthen and inspire me, we can draw a comparison between my criteria for great rock songs and the “code of rock and roll” that I outlined in Chapter 2. Here is a side by side:

Alvarez Criteria for Identifying the Great Rock-n-Roll Songs (from this chapter) The Code of Rock-n-Roll (from Chapter 2)
Rock-n-roll is a Powerful Force
Rock-n-roll is an Attitude (fearless, free and carefree)
Rock-n-roll is about Pleasure (Go wild, Party, Have fun and Get it on)
Rock-n-roll Demands Loyalty
Dreaming is significant. Thus, if we dream then we too are significant. Rock-n-roll Wants You to Pursue your Dreams and Passions (with passion)
Cherish your freedom, cherish your rights as a human being & don’t be afraid to fight for them Rock-n-roll Despises All Things That Are Fake (so be true to yourself and don’t succumb to the lies).
Rock-n-roll Despises War
Don’t let life’s frustration and/or challenges get the better of you. Rock-n-roll is about Pain (Life/love/drugs will kick your A$$. Be wary and don’t take it personally.)
Be defiant of the things that hold you back. Rock-n-roll Gives You Courage to kick some A$$ and Do What Needs to Be Done.
Strive to understand yourself and life. Persevere. It will pay off in the end. Rock-n-roll Can Show You the Way (to redemption, to hope, to inspiration, to healing, to your true self)
Live a life defined by love and respect

Clearly not all of the characteristics of the “code of rock-n-roll” made my list. The songs that I have gravitated towards are the ones that resonate with me and that help me survive the struggle of life. And because my needs are different from the needs of other rock enthusiasts, then the all-inclusive list of qualities encompassing rock-n-roll must necessarily be longer than our own personal lists. In giving you what you need when you need it, rock-n-roll is playing the role of a friend who is tending to a friend in need. As the title of this book suggests, it is this friend called rock-n-roll that helped to save me from the desperation that was setting in. It helped me to not only acknowledge my weaknesses but also recognize that I had strengths that far outweighed those weaknesses. Those strengths reside in us all, but most of the time we need someone to help us realize that fact. Since I didn’t allow a person to play this role for me, I turned to rock-n-roll, and rock-n-roll came through for me! God bless rock-n-roll!

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