There’s a rash of articles that say letting go of the past is crucial for happiness, health, success and a positive outlook. I agree. Clinging to the past invites stagnation. However, drawing new understanding from the familiar can be incredibly enriching.
I was an awful baby. I screamed all the time. My parents brought me in to a high school class as an example of how babies are not always cute. “She’s not crying. There are no tears. She’s angry. She doesn’t like you,” my dad said.
When I was a toddler, I used to listen to a tape called Transitions in order to fall asleep. The recording was like listening to your mother sing while you were in the womb, with her heartbeat carrying the rhythm. As I learned to walk, talk and read, I kept looking for that combination of melody, heartbeat-rhythm enveloped by distortion — leading to a passion for industrial music.
In elementary school, I couldn’t fall asleep without listening to Nine Inch Nails‘ album, Pretty Hate Machine. In 1995, the Mortal Kombat movie came out and with it a hard-hitting soundtrack that included Rammstein’s single, Engel [Angel]. I was little, full of rage and completely hooked.
That brings us to today. I’ve been doing nothing but listening to Rammstein and reading/watching their interviews for the last three weeks. It’s the first time I’ve taken any interest in what their songs mean, much less the artistic process behind it. I was astounded by what I’d found.
As a kid, I only heard heavy, angry, epic anthems; but now I see the philosophy, curiosity and willingness to investigate the emotional complexity that makes up human paradigms. The music asks not only what is darkness, or heartbreak, or joy — but what is it to be the perpetrator of these things? What is it like to be a cannibal, an old man at the end of his days, a child-molester, a lost soul, or an angel? Rammstein doesn’t only sing about controversial topics, they take the extra step of investigating what it’s like to be complicit in these horrors. As fathers themselves, it’s a scary step to take. It’s not just anger and darkness in those chords — it’s vulnerability and love. It’s using creativity to cope — some playfulness in there, too. Their songs are chock-full of double meanings. Guys need a break sometime.
The music resonated with me long before I knew what it was about. Now that I’m older, and obsessed with coming to grips with my own darkness — the path of self-awareness that permeates their music resonates with me on the deepest levels. It’s possible that they shaped me into this. It’s possible that dark, angry music made me interested in darkness; but again… they weren’t singing words I could understand. I was angry before I had words.
When you re-watch childhood favorites like The Last Unicorn and The Dark Crystal — or re-read Roald Dahl’s works as an adult, it’s an entirely new experience. Words that meant nothing to your child-self make your adult-self weep. The understanding is completely different. You’re finally ready to receive the message — and it was there all along.
I think that’s ample reason to let kids watch and listen to music that’s “too adult” for them.
What have you revisited lately?
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Søren Kierkegaard
“How many things have to happen to you before something occurs to you?”
― Robert Frost