Winter Communion

One of the top Christian bands, if not THE top, is Twenty One Pilots led by two talented artists, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun. By ‘top’ I refer to the intertwining of intelligibility and Christianity, for their work invites its listeners to critically think, as all modern music ought to do. In this sense the band strives to be intelligent in its creativity. Additionally, its songs revolve around Christianity, or at least the Christian lens as it were on the world at hand. This element resides in the practicing Christian that Joseph is and Christianity’s influence upon him and his work.

One particular song that I will examine is ‘Oh Ms. Believer,’ the title of which is a paronomasia pun between the meanings ‘misbeliever’ and ‘a woman with beliefs.’ The song addresses misconstrued belief and its resurrection. The former meaning provides the premise upon which the rest of the song builds, while the latter meaning provides an element of love within the song that lends to the manner in which Christ mitigates the misbeliever of misconstrued belief, that is through communion. How does the song revolve around misbelief? What is significant of communion?

I would like to begin with the phrase “the dead of winter.” This phrase resides in the fourth line of the song, however, with the words ‘winter’ (1.4) and ‘dead’ (1.4) switched around in order to make an internal rhyme at the end of verse 1. This internal rhyme lends itself to the deeper meaning of the phrase “the dead of winter” in that the writer(s) not only refers to the time of winter but of winter the symbol of death, for the lyric states “the winter of dead” (1.4).

The composer(s) of the song explicates how the misbeliever finds herself colder than the environment in which she resides, the winter of dead. Her ‘shaking shoulders’ (1.3) signify that her ‘twisted mind’ (1.2) is more dead to belief than the death that results of winter. I wonder if Joseph purposely alliterated ‘shaking shoulders’ to impress the listener’s mind with this reality of the misbeliever? Whatever the case, the rhetor of the poem finds himself with a Christian tension when his ‘pretty sleeper’ (1.1) muffs her ears, as any misbeliever might do because of the cold environment, thereby preventing any mitigation of misconstrued belief from the Christian who not only desires to be mitigated but to do the mitigating of the woman of her ignorance.

The singer of the song attempts to mitigate the misbeliever through sympathy and ultimately love. The singer proclaims he loves her (the misbeliever), and through his love he judges her. I wonder how many would find Christian judgment radical and foolish? But indeed, he first judges her to be a ‘sleeper’ (1.1), and than he judges that her muffs distill her fears. Of what fears we know not but only that she has them. The significance of verse 1 is that the rhetor travels with her through the cold environment despite her ignorance. In this sense, he is Christ-like. Moreover, the composer pleads for the struggling believer to “take his hand” (4.3) as Christ invites all to take His.

The rhetor of the song gives hope to the misbeliever by emphasizing the element of community in traveling through the “foreign land” (2.3) and repeating the line “together we go” (pre-chorus, 2.5, 6) four times. The composer purports in verses 3 and 5 how traveling might get deadlier as the years go on, but together they will learn to walk slower despite the cold and any fears that may arise. The singer acknowledges the manner of mitigation here in that through communion he and his lover will grow stronger in belief.

I appreciate the work of Twenty One Pilots, and I hope they continue to invite their followers and listeners to ponder their lyrics.

Works Cited:

Joseph, Tyler. “Oh Ms Believer.” Twenty One Pilots, 2009, www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKU91Zjf2uQ.

Donald Glover’s Microcosm of America

I recently watched Donald Glover’s musical video “This is America” which seems to be a ‘microcosm’ of the situation of violent crimes in America. Many on social media purport its various references and creativity, and there is one particular element, hereby of a friend noting it to me, that I would like to articulate in this blog.

If we were to say that Donald Glover represents that which draws and attunes the attention of Americans from recognizing pressing needs to indulging in our wants, say for instance the watching of our favorite t.v. show as opposed to healing of our crimes, then one creative element of the video resides in the aftermaths of the shooting scenes because our attention, just as it is beyond the boundaries of the video, is attuned to seeking the next pleasurable thing as juxtaposed in this case to violent crimes. What do I mean by this statement?

There is a sense in which Donald Glover represents the reality of our entertainment industries, namely our propensity to turn to entertainment as something pleasing to mitigate ourselves of the horrifying part of violence. This sense resides in the celebrity that Donald Glover is, thereby pointing to the part of a celebrity that mitigates his/her fans, followers, etc. of anything, particularly unpleasant events. Indeed, the word ‘celebrity’ denotes a pleasurable spectacle or person to watch, hear, or see. This mitigation thereby becomes a want. Donald Glover in the sense of being a celebrity represents how Americans indulge in their wants. How does this representation pan out?

Donald Glover depicts in his video two horrifying shootings, both of which are microcosmic of the violence of America according to most of the reactions to the video. Notice how your attention is immediately reverted back to Donald Glover after the shootings. After all, he is a celebrity is he not? Your attention is drawn back to the pleasing presence of Donald Glover, and although the images of the violent shootings stay in your head, your mind  wanders to the next pleasurable scene. This subtle wandering in the video is representative of the situation of America in that Americans presently have the tendency to move on to the next pleasurable thing as juxtaposed from the harsh reality of violence in America.

Of course, this part of the reality of America does not mean that our wants are bad but merely that we ought to know our true needs (as opposed to our wants) and then hold dearer in our souls our needs over our wants. This part of the reality of America does not also mean that being a celebrity is bad, for Donald Glover proves otherwise by making this video. Indeed, Donald Glover’s video is highly creative in its poetry and representative of America in its situation of violent crime and entertainment, and thus it is worth posting below:

Works Cited:

Glover, Donald, Hiro Murai, director, Jason Cole, producer. “This is America,” YouTube, uploaded by Donald Glover, 5 May 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYOjWnS4cMY.

Shakespeare’s Marian Figure

I recently took a Shakespearean course in which we read The Merchant of Venice and other Shakespearean plays. When asked to judge of which play was my favorite, I picked The Merchant of Venice because of the moral aspect to the play. However, I was unaware of the depth of the moral aspect until I read Joseph Pearce’s book about the Catholic presence in the major Shakespearean plays. Here I would like to examine my favorite moral element of The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare’s Marian figure.

Her name is Portia, and she mirrors the Ultimate Feminist herself not only in her actions but her value judgments. Additionally, the other characters denote her Marian status through their actions. What are these actions? What are Portia’s value judgments? I will briefly answer both questions. Bassanio’s actions reflect a reverence towards Portia in that he, according to himself, ought to be on his best behavior around Portia, meaning that at the least “modesty is becoming in her presence” (30). Moreover, Jessica emanates these words when she too raises Portia’s virtue to that of heaven’s (3.5). Here Shakespeare reveals Portia as a Marian figure. Even her home means “mountain of Beauty” (32). And too, the play may be vastly misunderstood if not read from her perspective. Portia is the central character in the play.

Portia’s value judgments are fundamental to the work. Those value judgments have consequences and pertain to problems which also have consequences. I won’t go through all the problems nor their consequences but only wish to focus on Portia’s value judgments. She recognizes the value of prudence and temperance in choosing a husband. She judges they are necessary in doing so (1.2). However, though it would seem her father’s test of a good husband overrides Portia’s choice in the matter, Portia admits that the test prevents her emotional bias which is like a shadow hovering over her potential prudent and tempered actions. The test is crafted to objectively choose a good husband for Portia, but Portia must admirably overcome her emotional bias by subjecting herself to the objective test (36-37). Some post-modern feminists (and others) find this subjugation a foolish act, but a true feminist desiring to imitate Mary finds this subjugation noble. Portia prudently trusts in her father’s test and two significant consequences follow.

One consequence is that Portia recognizes Shylock’s flaw in that he deliberately chooses not to give up that which prevents his focus on heaven, his greed of wealth. The second significant consequence is that Portia recognizes Bassanio’s flaw in that he deliberately chooses to give up that which does not necessarily prevent his focus on heaven, the marriage ring. You may notice the heavy emphasis on choice reminding me of the choice Mary had in subjecting her will to God’s. This is a small example of the Catholic presence in the major Shakespearean plays and is one of the many reasons why I enjoy The Merchant of Venice.

Works Cited:

Pearce, Joseph. Through Shakespeare’s Eyes: Seeing the Catholic Presence in the Plays, Ignatius Press, 2010. Print.

Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice, FOLGER Shakespeare Library, 1993. Print.