Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Eddie Vedder is living proof that someone can have a magnificent voice and be a lousy singer. He, as Dorothy Parker famously said of Katherine Hepburn, runs the gamut of emotions from A to B, he cannot enunciate to save his life, he is incapable of singing anything requiring any suppleness and he manages to make everything sound the same.

And yet he has a magnificent and powerful voice.

He also thinks Christians are selfish. He expresses this thought at the opening, ironically enough, of a song called "I am mine".

Before we read the lyric, let's look at a dictionary definition of "selfish": concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure at the expense of consideration for others. That's from the Oxford Concise Dictionary.  Note the two elements that it takes to make selfish: 1) you have to be chiefly concerned with your own pleasure and profit and 2) you have to be so at the expense of a concern for others.

So let's look at the opening stanza:
The selfish, they're all standing in line
Faithing and hoping to buy themselves time
Me, I figure as each breath goes by
I only own my mind
The song was reportedly written in response to an accident where nine men who were crowd-surfing during one of the band's shows were crushed and suffocated to death by the crowd.  That in itself is interesting. Here is how Wikipedia describes it:
"I Am Mine" was written by vocalist Eddie Vedder in a hotel room near Virginia Beach, Virginia before the band's first show after the Roskilde tragedy in 2000. Vedder said that he wrote the song to "reassure myself that this is going to be all right."
Well, you can understand the sentiment. A horrible thing happened the last time the band performed and Vedder needs to think about what happened and morally analyze it before he can go out and give another show. He's not the most eloquent man in the world with his remark that he wanted to "reassure myself" but I think he deserves some slack here.

Where he doesn't deserve any is the opening couplet. How does he go from facing this emotionaly and morally charged situation to slagging others who had nothing to do with it?
The selfish, they're all standing in line
Faithing and hoping to buy themselves time
 It's not hard to see how he got there. He's confronted with nine senseless deaths and the the possibility that he may be at least partially responsible for them. So he's thinking about these things and Christianity comes up because it has a lot to say about what death is and why and what morality has to do with death. But then he lashes out and calls these people selfish? Where the hell does that come from?

And note the stolen bases. Vedder goes from the fact that Christians pray because they are concerned with their own fate after death (store up treasure in heaven) to concluding that they are selfish. Looking after yourself is not selfish. Looking after yourself to the exclusion of any concern for others is. No doubt some Christians do that but it's not as if there are aren't enough Christian acts of charity for it to be plainly obvious that one hell of a lot of Christians aren't selfish.

So why is it so important for him to slag Christians?  Because there is a part of him that worries that we're right. And that makes him feel guilty.

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