ON TOP of the radio charts today is “Who am I?“, a gospel song performed by a Christian rock band named Casting Crowns.
The other weekend when I had to stay in the office to help my students polish their degree papers, I listened to the song 43 times (yes, I tallied!) in two days, not exactly by choice, I assure you, as all radio stations were playing it incessantly. To the vulnerable, it would seem a perfectly inspirational song. For me, however, it brings much discomfort. The song insults humanity. It insults me… and you.
The musical piece sets off on a nice note though. It poses the most important and meaningful of man’s questions.
Who am I?
“The unexamined life is not worth living”, posits Socrates. All inquiries must be rooted in the self, and so I honestly like the first line.
But then the insult begins…
That the Lord of all the earth,
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt.
Who am I?
Christianity would usually denigrate man’s existence to emphasize God’s supreme nature. In Filipino movies, this is the “Langit ka, Lupa ako” plot. Nora Aunor and Judy Ann Santos have starred in a lot of movies with such story line, and I don’t exactly like Ate Guy and Juday.
That the bright and morning star,
Would choose to light the way,
For my ever wandering heart.
Did the star choose to light the way or was it man who chose to look at the star? Was it the only bright star? In the first place, was the road really dark? And what’s wrong with wandering? If at all, it spices up a person’s life, and leads one to conquer new ground.
Not because of who I am,
But because of what you’ve done.
Not because of what I’ve done,
But because of who you are.
These lines contend that man’s search for meaning does not matter because everything is not about him, but Him. Man is a puppet with pull strings that extend up to the high heavens.
Alas, the song’s demeaning of humanity intensifies…
I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow,
But doesn’t Christianity believe in the immortality of the soul? I am confused. We are not the body, are we?
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
And now the messianic effect…
Still you hear me when I’m calling,
Lord, you catch me when I’m falling,
Ahhh, so there. Faced with enormous difficulties, man’s tendency is to seek out the supernatural.
Friedrich Nietzsche must be rolling violently in his grave. The German philosopher posited that strength is man’s primary virtue. We humans do not have fangs like snakes, we do not have claws like wild cats, and we are not as huge as dinosaurs, but we have survived as a species because of our strength, not physically, but of our will. Every human being has the distinct chance to spouse will to power.
It is precisely in times of crisis that man is given the opportunity to unleash his potentials. Pushed to edge, he flies and soars. That is why Nietzsche considered problems as important ingredients in man’s empowerment.
But the song, instead of promoting will to power, invites man to wave the white flag instead, to embrace slave morality. Then again, total surrender is an important tenet of Christianity.
Note that Nietzsche was not exactly an atheist, i.e. he never said that God did not exist. In fact, he favored some oriental and pagan religions, so long as they promoted man’s strength. Among those life-affirming religions are Buddhism and Hinduism.
When you are pray as a Christian, you imagine the heavens opening up and pouring you all the blessings. To put it more graphically, it is as if there is a ray of spotlight coming from up above and illuminating your being. Buddhism and Hinduism, on the other hand, believe that strength has been embedded in the person and all that one has to do is unravel them through meditation. That happens when you do yoga, an exercise which harnesses one’s inner powers.
And you’ve told me who I am.
Alas, man’s identity has been dictated to him…
I am yours.
I am yours.
I thought we were God’s children? Do parents own their children? Are sons and daughters properties? Last time I heard, it was when slavery was still legal that one could own human beings.
I suspect that God, if indeed he exists, is also unhappy with this song. He had a high regard for humanity that he created men and women in his own image and likeness. This same love led him to send his own son to die and offer redemption to our world. God is the number one fan of man, the most valiant vanguard of human dignity.
He must be as hurt listening to the song as I am.