Chapter 9, Part 1 - U2, RUSH, AND MY THEORY OF HOPE

Lesson: Live to create hope.

I have never heard the bands U2 & Rush mentioned in the same sentence. This is odd to me because both have had extensive musical careers and have produced some of their best work in recent years. I semi-forced myself to become intimately familiar with each of their three most recent albums so that no one could argue that my analysis of their work was less than comprehensive. Surprisingly, the result of this musical examination was the development of my “theory of hope,” a theory which not only bridged the works of these two rock giants but that made life suddenly make sense for me.

A light began to shine ever so brightly due the unlikeliest of circumstances. I venture to say that if these bands had to go on a retreat to discuss philosophy and religion, they would likely end up having to agree to disagree on the meaning of life and the purpose of man’s existence. I wasn’t trying to develop my own “theory of everything.” I wasn’t trying to reconcile the work of these two bands. I was trying to pay homage to two bands that I hold in the highest regard.

This is still the spirit in which I present this chapter. I’m not trying to pit the two bands against each other or to argue that one is right or one is wrong. I love them both. Both helped me immensely through the toughest times in my life. The theory of hope that I will present in this chapter is just one of the conclusions that I arrived at after reflecting on life via rock ‘n roll music. This may very well just turn out to be an entry in the “diary of a madman,” but if you can’t be honest in telling your own story, then what is the use of telling the tale?

A peculiar similarity of these two rock giants is that they both went through that “middle period” during which they incorporated electronic elements into their repertoire (when their most pop-sounding records were produced). And as confused or perturbed as fans may have been by that period, without the respective eras for the two bands, the six albums featured in this chapter could not have achieved the level of greatness that they did. They could not have been written (thematically) and performed (musically) in the way that they have been.

As I discussed briefly in Chapter 4, my examination of these albums led to my being blown away because of the high quality of the music and songwriting. I felt like I had betrayed two of my favorite bands because I had so easily abandoned their early material. I, personally, have never felt that there was a conflict between the music of these two bands. When you consider that one is overtly Christian/spiritual and the other, to a great degree, conveys a feeling that we should have faith and hope in ourselves (i.e., in man’s abilities) and not in God/religion, then a chasm might be implied. Yet I never felt turned off by how either chose to encourage our perseverance. It could just be that, at the time in my life when I grew to like these groups, I would accept encouragement from wherever I could get it.

In Chapter 4, I provided some overarching themes that apply to the songs selected as my songs of strength and inspiration. Two-thirds of those songs were from Rush and U2, so here are those categories again so that we don’t have to recreate that analysis:

- Perseverance Will Pay Off in the End
- Live a Life Defined by Love and Respect
- It is important to dream. The future depends on it.
- Cherish Your Freedom, Cherish Your Rights as a Human Being & Don’t Be Afraid to Fight for Them

As you can tell from these broad themes, the two bands are thoughtful in the subject matter they choose to tackle in their music. The thought-provoking nature of their work is what leads to a loyal following. The musicians and song writers are real people and they choose to write about the broad array of feelings and experiences that real people encounter. They don’t just focus on the myriad ways one can find/lose love or achieve pleasure. We are complex individuals living in a complex world, and we get tired of being treated by the media and the market place like our needs and desires are uniform and one dimensional. It is refreshing when a band tackles the difficult, confusing and, sometimes, controversial emotions and experiences that human beings will encounter through the process of living life. The views expressed by musicians and other artists most certainly inform our own views. They help us to navigate life, and they become very real actors in the actual drama of our lives.

As you can tell from these broad themes, the two bands are thoughtful in the subject matter they choose to tackle in their music. The thought-provoking nature of their work is what leads to a loyal following. The musicians and song writers are real people and they choose to write about the broad array of feelings and experiences that real people encounter. They don’t just focus on the myriad ways one can find/lose love or achieve pleasure. We are complex individuals living in a complex world, and we get tired of being treated by the media and the market place like our needs and desires are uniform and one dimensional. It is refreshing when a band tackles the difficult, confusing and, sometimes, controversial emotions and experiences that human beings will encounter through the process of living life. The views expressed by musicians and other artists most certainly inform our own views. They help us to navigate life, and they become very real actors in the actual drama of our lives.

The Pursuit of Perfection

On one hand, I believe both bands stress, from their own perspective, the importance of living life with strong character. It’s not a clear cut definition by any means, but a collection of do’s and don’ts that constitute part of a whole. Once enough parts are described, then you can start making out the form that is implicit in the overall philosophy. I believe this section is what I perceive to be the form that has begun to materialize based on my interpretation and bias regarding song selection.

I also feel that the bands pursue song writing in a similar vein. Great thought is put into the selected theme and written lyric and great effort is put into ensuring that the music does justice to theme and lyric. Rush always seems to push things to the limit both musically and lyrically. In three instances, I maintain that they achieved perfection. I would say the album, Moving Pictures, is a perfect album. Every song is great on its own merits and the album is great when the musical and thematic breadth and depth are considered. I have a peculiar way of examining good albums and songs. I play them in a loop, sometimes more than 10 times in a row. In my years of studying great songs, Moving Pictures is the only album where I’ve played the entire album in a loop in this way AND each individual song in a loop in this way. Using that criteria, I offer it up as the perfect album.

Chapter 9 Songs & Albums

Rush - Albums

Vapor Trails

Snakes and Arrows

Clockwork Angels

U2 - Albums

All That You Can’t Leave Behind

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

No Line on the Horizon

Rush - Songs (not from above albums)

“Fear - Part 3: Witchhunt” (Moving Pictures)

“Fear - Part 2: The Weapon” (Signals)

“Fear - Part 1: The Enemy Within” (Grace Under Pressure)

U2 - Songs (not from above albums)

“Bad” (The Unforgettable Fire)

“One” (Achtung Baby)

“Pride” (The Unforgettable Fire)

“Raised by Wolves” (Songs of Innocence)

Songs of Heartbreak (Play List on Spotify)

“I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry” – Hank Williams

“Crying” – Roy Orbison

“I'd Rather Go Blind” – Etta James

“Here Come the Tears” – Judas Priest

“Say It Ain’t So” – Weezer

“Doo Doo Doo Doo” – The Rolling Stones

“Heartbreaker” – Led Zeppelin

“You Just Don’t Care” – Santana

“Hey Joe” – Jimi Hendrix

Songs of Home and Homecoming (Play List on Spotify)

“Sweet Home Chicago” – Robert Johnson

“Cedars of Lebanon" – U2

“Homeward Bound” – Simon & Garfunkel

“Home Again” – Elton John

“Home” – Machine Gun Kelly, X Ambassadors, Bebe Rexha

“Can’t Find My Way Home” – Blind Faith

“The Two of Us” – The Beatles

“Hometown” – Bruce Springsteen

The two other instances where I feel Rush achieved perfection is with the songs, “Anthem” (1975) and “Sweet Miracle” (2002). These are the only two perfect songs I’ve encountered during my 40 years as a fan of rock ‘n roll. They are perfect in that the lyrics are beyond compare and the music is uniquely suited to the individual artists involved in the execution of these songs. The songs are of modest length, three and half minutes for “Sweet Miracle” and four and half minutes for “Anthem.” The songs start strong and both end on just the perfect note. Any musician would be challenged to sit in with the band to try to play and do justice to the song, particularly the vocals which are completely and totally unique to Getty Lee. The intensity of the subject matter in each song is unmatched and is captured in the musical arrangement. These are definitely two songs that I’ve played in a loop for much more than 10 repetitions at a time.

The songs of U2 that I would rank as nearly perfect would be “Breathe,” “Pride,” and “Magnificent.” The three songs I listed are quite different from each other, except for the fact that each expresses a powerful sentiment. Thus, each meets the thematic power test. I would say that each song has a unique style and structure, but “Pride” has the most unique sound. There is no other rock song that sounds even remotely like “Pride,” and I can’t think of another example of a rock song whose sole purpose is to pay homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I think that what U2 does so well in these songs and so many others is convey a powerful emotion that is commensurate with the significance of the topic being tackled. It is the interplay of the powerful vocal performance, the well-conceived musical arrangement, and the ability of all band members to feel and accurately convey the sought-after emotion in their performances that make this effect possible. The song, “Pride,” and other songs by U2 like “One,” “Desire,” and “It’s a Beautiful Day,” take you on an emotional journey which I would think other bands would find challenging to replicate.

Faithful or Faithless? Part 1 - McCartney vs. Lennon

On a basic level, I see the difference in U2 & Rush as the difference between Paul McCartney’s “Let It Be” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” I always considered “Let It Be” to be a song about faith because of the line, “Mother Mary comes to me.” Whether or not it was intended to about the Blessed Mother or McCartney’s biological mother is a separate question. The spiritual aspect of the song is that an answer to the madness of the world will materialize. This hopeful element of the song is epitomized in the following lyrics:

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Paul McCartney

We hope that people will come together and acknowledge the problem. It is the acknowledgment of the problem that makes possible the identification of a solution. The hope of this song is in the possibility that an answer may be found, but the faith of the song is that identifying the problem is enough because somehow the answer will come to pass, presumably through the assistance of the Most High.

“Imagine” adopts a more pragmatic view of our “hope/dreams.”

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you-whoooo
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

John Lennon

The hope here is that people will play an active role in making the dream of peace a reality. But, it is “people living life in peace” that is the answer. So, Lennon has almost directly challenged the premise of “Let it Be,” which is to say, “We know what the answer is already, so why are we not playing an active role in its realization?” Although the line about “no religion” alludes to a separation from the Creator, in my opinion it does not necessarily require that. One can be spiritual without being tied to a specific religious tradition. I think the reference to religion in this song is to the role institutions play in terms of thwarting the conversion of our world into a community of mutual respect, understanding, and compassion. The fact that this verse starts with the statement, “Imagine there’s no countries,” supports this claim.

I believe what Lennon is stating here is that the institutions that exist will not accept or embrace “the answer” that is sought in the song, “Let It Be.” In fact, he suggests that those institutions will be a hindrance, and that it is we who have the power to effectuate “the answer.” If people put their minds to it, then the dream of global unity and peace is truly possible. Lennon’s dream is most certainly NOT possible if people don’t believe it to be possible.

In a similar vein as the songs by Lennon and McCartney, we can juxtapose the intent of U2 and Rush as promoting inspiration that comes from within (Rush) to inspiration that comes from without (U2). Although as I did in my analysis of Lennon and McCartney, I would argue that when we rely on ourselves (i.e., look within ourselves for inspiration) it is not truly a reliance on oneself because one’s self does not exist in a vacuum. Whatever is within us that inspires us to persevere was shaped by external factors (i.e., our physical and social environment or, to put it another way… Creation). It is important to note that it is inspiration that is the common thread between the philosophies of the two bands. But, inspiration to do what? I’ve already hinted at the answer which is that we should have the inspiration to persevere in life, even when things are not going our way and we don’t see a way out of challenging situations. For me, that common message here is, “Don’t despair,” and “Be hopeful.” Things are more likely to get better if you think they can get better than if you think the contrary. And we know from Chapter 3, that what you believe (i.e., what you hope for) has a very real impact on what comes to pass.

Faithful or Faithless? Part 2: Rush vs. U2

If you are a fan of either of these two bands, you know how to assign the two labels. You probably would immediately associate U2 with “the faithful” because of their overt spirituality and may be alarmed that I may be applying the “faithless’ label to Rush. If you analyze the themes in U2’s songs in the three featured albums of this chapter, you might more accurately apply the label “the doubting ones” to them and not “the faithful ones,” with the point here being that one can have doubts and difficulties with one’s faith without being “faithless.”

I’ll start with Rush since we can go to two songs that directly address this topic, “Hope” and “Faithless” from the album Vapor Trails. The song, “Hope,” is an instrumental composed and performed on acoustic guitar by Alex Lifeson. The only thing you can glean from this song is the mood, and it would be safe to characterize it as hopeful. The emotion conveyed in the song washes over you just as a hopeful feeling may wash over you. On the album, the song “Hope” is immediately followed by the song “Faithless.” One might infer that they have purposefully pit hope against faith with hope being, undeniably, the victorious virtue. In fact, with the following lines, they have specifically endeavored to sever faith from the three cardinal virtues of Christianity: faith, hope, and love.

I don’t believe in faith
I don’t believe in belief
You can call me faithless
But I still cling to hope
And I believe in love
And that’s good enough for me

“Faithless” - Rush

It is difficult to consider that U2 may outdo this sentiment. Indeed, their messages about spirituality are not overt in the three albums I am using as the basis for my theory of hope. To back up my claim about U2 being “the doubting ones” and not “the faithful ones,” I have to get a bit deeper into the analysis than just a couple of songs. I, personally, feel that it is normal to have doubts about things we don’t understand and that are not tangible. Because of the complex forces at work in the world (i.e., in God’s Creation), there is much we don’t understand about why things are screwed up in the world. Our faith may thus be translated as trusting that things will get better or, more specifically, that the Creator will make things right. This requires us to be hopeful even when things are difficult or challenging. I probably took it too far when I called U2 “the doubting ones.” The more appropriate label may be “those who don’t understand or don’t claim to understand but yet seek to understand.”

So that I don’t ask you to take my claim on faith, let’s get to the evidence of doubt or lack of understanding in the songs of U2. I found that about one-third of the songs in the three featured albums of this chapter contained some instance of doubt, frustration, or confusion. This will sound like a lot to some and a little to others. If I felt that my faith was 2/3 complete and 1/3 incomplete (due to my doubts, frustrations and confusion), then I’d feel pretty good about that.

I’m not sure how U2 would feel by being characterized as having a faith that is only 2/3 complete, but I will note that the songs that express these sentiments often have a silver lining to them. Likewise, it is not uncommon for a U2 song expressing strong faith or hope to have a line or two that expresses doubt, confusion, or frustration. The difficult to explain tragedies that some people experience and others do not are confounding since each and everyone one of us is a child of God. If that is the case, then why do some people have it good while others don’t?

In the song, “Cedars of Lebanon,” U2 describe several scenarios that highlight the mundane aspects of life as well as the imperfections that characterize the human race. In my opinion, these scenarios serve as a plea to the Creator for understanding: why must things be this way? It is a rhetorical question. Actually, it’s not even rhetorical. It is a question that goes unsaid because, if uttered, someone might hear and question our faith. In the last verse of the song, the main character in the song is looking up at the sky sitting at a café in Lebanon. Presumably, as they look up into the sky they also see the tops of the Cedar trees which, in that part of the world, are supposed to be incredibly tall. So, they are looking up towards the sky and asking the Creator: “where are you in the Cedars of Lebanon?” If we are not careful with our thought patterns, then the question might inadvertently become something entirely different if we don’t hear an answer: are you actually up there?

I will come back to “Cedars of Lebanon” shortly but want to make an additional point drawing from the song, “Moment of Surrender,” also from the U2 album, No Line on the Horizon. In this song, U2 is exposing the hypocrisy when it comes to “loving our neighbor like ourselves.” There are people in need all around, and the only thing we choose to focus on are those things we desire (not even the things we actually need). One of the things we desire is some kind of affirmation from God that we are a good person. As we sit, stand or kneel in that moment of surrender to the Lord, we fail to notice (and help) the people around us who have great need. The song states: “I did not notice the passersby and they did not notice me.” We are blind to the need that is all around us but then are dismayed that a sign of approval from the Lord does not come.

Why must things be this way? is a question with an easy answer. Things need NOT be this way! It is within our power to change these patterns of behavior. If one person goes against the grain of societal practices that are problematic or troubling, then that one person has proven that things do NOT have to be “this way.” Humanity’s situation remains the way it is because WE allow the situation to remain unchanged. We can be that one person that demonstrates that things don’t have to be “this way.” No divine intervention is forthcoming because none is required. We have the freewill that is needed to make the choices that demonstrate that the human race is benevolent and compassionate and not self-serving and uncaring. In the song, “Cedars of Lebanon,” U2 make the claim that “this sh@tty world sometimes produces a rose.” This may be the only positive sentiment in the entire song and offers us hope. No matter how subtle and no matter how unlikely, that is the sentiment to which we must surrender!

I will begin this final analysis of “Cedar of Lebanon” by restating one of the key lines of this song: “Where are you in the cedars of Lebanon?” This is the expression of confusion or frustration to which I referred earlier in this genre of songs by U2. I also mentioned that U2 often offers suggestions for dealing with these difficult emotions. The suggestion in this song, comes from the chorus: “return the call to home.” I assume the chorus is sung in a very high falsetto (presumably by The Edge) and in very stark contrast to the lines sung by Bono because the words are spoken by a different character in the story. The words are thus piercing in their sound if not in their meaning since the meaning, at face value, seems somewhat reassuring. “Return the call to home.” If home is calling then that is a good thing. If there is a “home” for us to call, then that is good as well.

As I considered the purpose of this line in the song, I began to find layers and layers of meaning hidden beneath the words, particularly when considering the overall message of the song. When you are lost or can’t make sense of things, then you long for the comfort and security of home. It is not usually a viable option to run home, but we find comfort in the thought that going home is an option if worse came to worst. Yet, not all people have a home to which they can return. These people have more reason to be confused and frustrated than people who can lay claim to a home. Would not U2 also seek to give comfort to these individuals? I am convinced that the answer to that questions is “yes.”

The call to return home comes from a different voice, a different character. My interpretation is that the message comes from an angelic voice that has planted the idea, the seed for hope in the main character. To which home might this divine messenger be referring? I believe that this divine messenger beckons not only the main character to come home but also the human race more generally. The message being delivered might be “you have been lost long enough. It is time to return home.”

The scenarios in “Cedars of Lebanon” speak to societal priorities that are out of whack and global interventions that do nothing to address how we get along as a human race. The balance must be restored. We must return to the time where we lived in harmony with the Earth, each other, and the Creator. Human beings will continue to spin their wheels from an evolutionary standpoint until the balance is restored. It existed before with the indigenous peoples of this world, so this way of being is attainable.

On Purpose and Balance: The Pride of U2 and the Malignant Narcissism of Rush

One can’t think of U2 and not think of the song, “Pride,” honoring the late, great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (hereafter “MLK”). The ironic part of the use of this particular term (if pride is considered to be akin to vanity) is that it is one of the seven deadly sins, but this is a song describing one of the greatest civil rights leaders in the history of the United State of America. How is it possible that one of the seven deadly sins might be used to describe such a figure? Because we don’t question that attributing pride to MLK is a positive thing, then there must be instances where it is clearly o.k. to be prideful.

I believe that the concepts of purpose and balance are helpful in terms of understanding the dynamic at play here. When thinking about how pride may have driven MLK to play the leadership role that he did in his life, then one would be pretty safe in suggesting that he had pride in his racial and cultural heritage and in the maintenance of that heritage. The accomplishments of the civil rights movement may be another source of pride for Dr. King. One aspect of pride that relates to racial and cultural heritage is the posture of “perseverance and hope” adopted by African slaves and the descendants of African slaves who have persevered in the face of the extreme cruelty and injustice. So, “prideful” becomes “hopeful.” The chorus of the song, “Pride,” suggests that MLK did what he did “in the name of love.” The pride to which U2 refers is thus one based on the spirituality of African Americans which, if one assumes a Christian form of spirituality, includes an emphasis on the virtues of faith, hope, and love.

The song by U2 makes an implicit argument that, even though pride is a deadly sin (i.e., vanity), it is o.k. to have some of it. I would even argue that it may be o.k. to have a great deal of pride, as one might argue that MLK exhibited. The direction or beneficiary of that pride is what is paramount. In other words, the quality of pride that makes it an acceptable or advantageous kind of pride is that: (i) it is focused on one’s community and that community’s advancement (i.e., it is NOT self-serving in nature); and (ii) the basis for this pride is a positive virtue (e.g., love). Thus, the type of pride that is beneficial is pretty limited as it also would be for any of the other six deadly sins (e.g., gluttony, lust, greed, despair, wrath, and sloth). I address all seven deadly sins more directly in Chapter 10 so I won’t go into an analysis of how each may be used to a beneficial end. The issue of narcissism that I will discuss next will be difficult enough to tackle.

As with the “faithless” label I ascribed to Rush in the previous section, the band goes straight to the heart of the issue of this section with its choice of song title, “Malignant Narcissism.” The fact that the song is an instrumental suggests that the band thinks the title says all that needs to be said about the topic. The adjective “malignant” tells us that the song seeks to communicate something about narcissism that is bad for you. Implicitly, they are also conveying that they believe that there may be a type of narcissism that is benign, benevolent, or agreeable. They don’t set upon the task of describing that form of narcissism. Since that is not within the subject of the song title, this should not be expected, but the mind is left to its own devices.

We might start by applying the same criteria that makes pride acceptable to the idea of narcissism, which we could also equate with the deadly sin of vanity. Is it possible for narcissism to: (i) NOT be self-serving in nature; and/or (ii) to be based on a positive virtue (e.g., love)? This is a tall order indeed! I would argue that while narcissism may be self-focused, it does not have to be self-serving. As in the instance of pride, if one is focused on the well-being of one’s community, narcissism may be both self-less and self-serving at the same time since one is a part of one’s own community and the advancement of one’s community would be beneficial to oneself or one’s children/family. The combination of narcissism with “love” (a positive virtue) may be what allows for the transformation of this deadly sin into a positive virtue. This is proof, yet again, that the power of love is difficult to comprehend.

To expound on the concept of “benevolent narcissism” a bit, I’ll offer an example of a person who owns and manages a business that makes a lot of money. The business owner is proud of the business venture he/she has created and the financial success it has achieved. The business owner continues to operate the business with an eye for maximizing profits and works long and hard to ensure the future financial success of the company. So far, this sounds very self-serving and self-centered. What if part of the business owner’s model includes setting aside time in every business week to help others start and succeed in their own business ventures and also invests half of his/her profits into a foundation that funds educational and economic programs for low-income families? This is the person’s way of paying it forward. While he/she is still principally focused on their own success, they are having an impact for others, and if other business owners follow this example then there would be a lot of good being derived from what on the surface might look like self-centered and self-serving behavior.

On Choices: The Game of Life and the Game of Thrones

“When you play the game of thrones, you play to win or you die.”

These words were spoken by Queen Cersei in Episode 4 of Season 1 of Game of Thrones. The Queen is somewhat of a reviled figured due to her ruthless approach to ruling and her preference in sexual partners. I just can’t bring myself to hate Queen Cersei for a couple of reasons. The actress, Leah Heady, plays the Spartan Queen in the two 300 movies. Because Spartan women were strong and this character is a strong female character, I can’t help but feel that it is good for women to be portrayed as strong. She is as ruthless as any other character in the show, but I just can’t vilify her.

The words from Queen Cersei that opened this section were aimed at Ned Stark, the Ward of the North and now the “hand of the king.” Basically the “hand” is the closest advisor of the king. The “hand” makes decisions on the king’s behalf when the king is otherwise occupied with matters typically not associated with ruling (i.e., leisure, entertainment, sport, etc.). Stark is one of the most beloved figures in the show because he possesses a strong moral character which is in short supply in the multitude of stories that unfold. In the conversation that was taking place leading up to the above statement from the Queen, Cersei suggests that Ned could have positioned himself to be the king and asked why he had not pursued that path. Stark says that it was not his desire to sit on the “iron throne,” that he was happy being the ward of the Northern lands which are his family’s ancestral lands.

The statement from Queen Cersei comes immediately after Stark makes this selfless proclamation. The statement is made in a matter of fact tone and not a threatening or menacing tone, which is a bit odd because the promise of death was included in the message. But the suggestion of death was not a threat from Cersei to Stark specifically. She was basically telling Stark that this is the main rule for the game that he is playing. Choosing to ignore the rule(s) of the game is a decision with grave consequences. The statement turned out to be prophetic since Stark did not live long enough to make it to Season 2 and Queen Cersei herself sat on the iron throne on the last episode of Season 6 and through all of Season 7. Stark is not unaware of the cutthroat nature of the game, but he serves in the roles that have been thrust upon him out of a sense of duty to his king (Cersei’s husband). So, she is basically telling him that if he keeps doing what her husband tells him, he is going to get himself killed. Indeed, not long after this conversation, Stark’s head ends up on a spike. This was not due to any action by Cersei who was actually advocating for a more merciful sentence for Stark than death.

Given the Queen’s ultimate rise to the throne, it appears that this one line tells us a lot about what the writers are trying to convey with the series: “Play to win because it is the only way to stay in the game.” The people who are “playing to win” (i.e., doing everything that they can to reach the throne), have stayed in the game the longest. Those who play to survive or to defend honor, like the Stark family, are decimated in this tale. Tyrian, the other character who plays to “survive” and not “win” the game for a variety of reasons, escapes death several times because he has attached himself to people who are playing to win (i.e., people who seek the throne or seek to maintain the throne).

In order to bring rock ‘n roll back into focus, I’ll explain how I came to the decision to include a section on Game of Thrones in this book. In reviewing the latest albums that I owned of Rush and U2, I kept thinking of characters in Game of Thrones. The song, “White as Snow” by U2 made me think of the “Men of the Night’s Watch” who abandon their homelands to guard the frozen northern territories. The song “Caravan” by Rush made me think of Podrick, a squire who went to King’s Landing searching for adventure (and found it). He ends up being a squire to Tyrian and later to Briene of Tarth. As a small town boy, I could relate to venturing out into the world seeking adventure but also feeling very much alone after the realization that the world is cold and cruel. I was not dealing with the cold literally, except when trying to swim in the frigid waters of Northern California, but when we don’t or can’t connect with others then it can feel awfully “cold” out there.

On a lighter note, the songs, “Raised by Wolves” by U2 and “Seven Cities of Gold” by Rush bring back to the conversation the exciting and adventurous aspects of life set in a Game of Thrones sort of backdrop. “Raised by Wolves” calls to mind the Stark family who have the wolf as their family emblem and who in an early episode of the series adopt six wolf cubs whose mother was killed and could no longer care for them. The wolf cubs become protectors of each of the six Stark siblings. Jon Snow shows compassion for the wolf cubs and appeals to Ned Stark to offer the cubs as a gift to each of his children.

The compassion demonstrated by Jon Snow is an attribute that is quite uncommon in Game of Thrones and is virtually exclusive to the Stark family, driving home that fact that Snow truly is a Stark, even though he is a bastard son. Like Ned Stark, Jon Snow does not wish to play the Game of Thrones but he throws his hat in the ring out of sense of duty and honor. Unlike Ned, who didn’t make it past Season 1, the bastard son, Jon Snow, has survived through Season 7. He is actually left alone because the other people playing the game do not consider him a player because of his “bastard” status. Now that we know how the HBO series ends, I must say that I would have written the final season differently based on my understanding about what the author was trying to communicate about playing the game of thrones. I guess once the next book is out, we’ll know for sure what the author, George R.R. Martin, thinks about all of this.

From Rush, we have the song, “Seven Cities of Gold,” to draw from in our examination of Game of Thrones. While this title is a reference to mythical golden cities of the American Southwest (not Northern Europe) from the era of the conquistadores, it reminds us of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros in Game of Thrones. While the cities themselves are not golden, gold/wealth most certainly affect the moves that are made in the game. But for those with unending supplies of gold, it is not gold that is the end but the great power that can be wrought with great wealth. In the song by Rush, the stories of the seven cities fired the imagination of the storyteller. One can only presume that it is the imagination of the common folk that is fired by the possibility of attaining riches. However, in the Game of Thrones, imagination is in short supply. The desire to maintain one’s grip on power (or more aptly, the fear of losing one’s grip on power) is what dictates almost every course of action. Fear is a motivator, but not one that breeds loyalty or that ultimately leads to lasting power. To have sustained power, one must achieve a lasting peace. From a previous discussion, we know that the responses to fear (fight, flee, or freeze) will not serve to usher in an era of peace and prosperity. One should not rely on fear when it comes to the business of building a kingdom that will last.

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