I am a child of the 80’s. The nineteen eighties, to be clear. America’s grunge music movement came of age about the same time I did. Bands like Weezer, Jane’s Addiction, Smashing Pumpkins, and Nirvana pounded through new “alternative” radio stations. I remember sitting in my peachy floral bedroom with puffed curtains and twice draped side tables listening to Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit with the volume so low only I could hear. Music like that was forbidden in my house. Of course it was. I am not sure how you could listen to alternative music with your parents’ consent and it remain what it was. On this side of things, considering how loud kids are, I am not surprised that my mother would ban angry, loud, riotous music. For those of you unfamiliar with Cobain’s garbled teen anthem, it was everything that a teenager, whose skin suddenly doesn’t fit, wanted: angst, head banging, and a probable hidden meaning.
With the lights out, it’s less dangerous.
Here we are now, entertain us.
There we were, a whole generation of odorous teenagers sitting in the dark waiting for something to make life worth living. We sat glued to the images of the blonde warrior fighting our fight in a high school gym while we read the lyrics on Say What? There was some serious stuff there, or was there? There must have been. Was it me, or did that basketball goal look an awful lot like a gibbet? And the cheerleader, so blonde and popular, the feminine, so recently liberated, plastered with a scarlet A. There must have been subtext there. There must have been meaning. If we could have understood the words, the pieces would have dropped into place. There must be meaning.
That niggling worry over meaning would fade. Like high school. Like arch rivals. Never mind. It wasn’t important. Our music was grungy and angry. We were lost. We needed for life to matter. Kurt Cobain needed for life to matter. He was terrified that there was no meaning. Life was just a vapid extension of high school.
But surely, faith gives life meaning. Surely the fight for the greater good remains. Surely we can rouse ourselves to care. The church of my adolescence tried. They made godstuff more entertaining. They made t-shirts and W.W.J.D? bracelets. They made our music cooler and turned the lights down. We raised our hands and smelled like Holy Spirit. But when they turned the lights off, we could no longer see well enough to pass the plate and the cup. We became faceless spectators. Things got lost in the dark. Doubts crept in. The God of eons and mystery was reduced to sound bytes and hyped emotions.
I feel stupid and contagious.
Here we are now, entertain us.
And Christianity of the ‘90’s became a contagious childhood virus. A rite of passage that was, once gotten over, no longer a threat. Like chicken pox.
I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce, and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry, and Porcelaine. John Adams in a letter to Abigail Adams, May 12, 1780
Our ancestors fought, bled, and died; planted, studied, and philosophized; painted, wrote, and created, and we gaze, amazed and pacified at the works of their hands hemmed in by our 2.64 by 5.44 inch worlds, searching for meaning in: a mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido.
Lost and bored by freedom.