I often like to sing (badly) while I’m bathing, especially when no one else seems to be in the suite. And after the usual run-through of Starkid and Next to Normal, I usually go back to classics from one of my favourite bands, Relient K. I’ve been listening to Relient K since Secondary school, after discovering it in a Power Ranger fanvideo featuring Dustin from Ninja Storm. It was set to ‘High of 75’, and it fitted him perfectly.
So Anna returns to the suite as I’m mid-tune, and goes into her room; her room is just next to the bathroom, and I’m just humming away now in my shower cubicle because unlike a few other of my suitemates, I sound like a tone-deaf toad who tries very hard but fails. But anyway, I digress — after showering, I come back into my room, and Anna comments that it’s always very strange to hear me humming Relient K songs because Relient K is a Christian band, and a lot of their lyrics have another level of meaning on the religions plane. And she was wondering how I connected to these songs, given that they were written with another religious set of ideas and beliefs than mine.
Which was rather interesting, because I never thought of it that way. I mean, I always knew that Relient K is a Christian band. It’s very strange how in St Nicks, a lot of the bands that I constantly listened to were Christian bands: Superchic[k], Three Days Grace, Skillet; and I always found it very ironic that I really liked their music because I was so anti-religion/Christ at that time (although to be fair, it was probably less of me actually disagreeing with the Catholic/Christian faith, and more of just me attempting to be a teenage rebel, and going against all the religious elements of St Nicks — okay I know I just lumped the two faiths together, and I know they’re separate but that honestly didn’t matter to me in Secondary school).
And I thought: huh, that’s actually quite true in a certain way; but at the same time, not that valid either. It never really bothered me that these songs were about Christianity — or were supposed to be about Christianity — because it never seemed that way. To be fair, apart from a few songs (such as Deathbed), Relient K doesn’t have a lot of songs with explicitly religious lyrics; and half the time, it just feels like they’re singing about life. And I believe in the universality of experiences, that ultimately, we can connect to each other on some experiential plane, where some form of understanding and empathy can occur between individuals from very different backgrounds and viewpoints. It’s rather naiive, I know.
One of my favourite songs from Relient K is ‘Be My Escape’; and I really didn’t realise that the Christian undertones to it until quite recently, when I was singing to myself (again) in the shower half a year ago. And it was like OH, so that’s what this song’s about. But it didn’t take away anything from the connection that I felt with the lyrics, nor did it take away from the beauty of the words. It just felt nice that there was this other layer of meaning that could be interpreted based on these words that have helped me — and were helping me — through a difficult period.
I guess the implicit question that Anna was posing was whether I was missing out on anything by not recognising the Christian beliefs that were embedded in the lyrics. As she mentioned, that there was another much deeper layer that she understood to these songs because of her relationship with Christ. She wasn’t trying to be derogatory about it, nor was she being patronising. But I just never saw it that way.
I suppose I understand religion and faith in a very fluid and ignorant way. I think I blogged about this before, but talking to Anna about how I felt about religion and listening to her side of it, and being too brain-tired to find the right words to express what I feel verbally sort of prompted me to think through things again through words. For me, religion is something that gives you comfort and strength; that guides you through difficult times and is something that you place faith in, in knowing that there is a higher being watching and caring, that creates the wonders of the world but pushes you to overcome obstacles, that helps. Like I said to Anna just now, I can’t seem to place it down right — although maybe that’s just because I don’t have that relationship, and hence, cannot properly encapsulate it.
And so, for me, religion is unimportant in the way that it’s a personal relationship that an individual has with their own idea of a higher power. Anna mentioned that she feels that Christianity shouldn’t be called a religion because religions consist of structured institutions and rules; whereas Christianity, for her, should be more of just your relationship with God and your own personal faith. And in that sense, that it’s your own makes your faith unique to yourself; and non-generalisable. I guess, that’s what I mean by religion is unimportant, because while it appears similar in name/label to others around you who share that name/label, it’s still profoundly personal in how you understand God and your connection with him. But then again, I wouldn’t know, right? Although I’m genuinely curious about this, and if I had more brain power, I would have chatted with Anna more about this but I was just so zonked out from finding words in the first place because I just wanted to sing my song (haha).
I mentioned to Anna that I feel that religion packages the way we see things, but it doesn’t detract from the universality of human experiences. So while we may connect to the song through different means, there is still a common emotion that we are feeling and that’s something that is shared, and untouched by my religious beliefs or hers. She quickly rejected this though. Maybe I didn’t phrase what I meant properly; and I know there’s no such thing as a universal emotion or experience and all that — how I understand and experience sadness will be different from hers. But the idea of sadness perhaps? Oh, I’m talking myself into a cesspool of logic confusion — 12.50am definitely isn’t the best time for posts like these.
It is though, I acknowledge, offensive to just dismiss the influence of her religion like that. Because I know how personal it is for her (and for many others). I wasn’t trying to downplay the strength of her faith or anything like that. I think what I was trying to suggest was that we understand the same ideas of emotions from it, and the commonality of the idea of needing salvation (however you understand that word) allows us to draw strength and comfort from the song — and hence, that is why it doesn’t matter whether I’m Christian or not while listening to Relient K. And while her strength comes from drawing upon God, mine comes from drawing upon myself; it’s a different sort of source but the same sort of need, I suppose?
But then again, the more I write, the more I’m finding problems with what I’m saying. It’s true after all, that Be My Escape will be incredibly different to Anna than it will to me. So many lyrics reference Christian ideas and values, things that will be insignificant to me but entirely significant to her. I’m reading the lyrics of it now and I’m just like: yea I think I know what you’re trying to say but then again not really; but does it really matter that I don’t have the history of religion to understand these lyrics?
So I don’t know. Now I’ve talked myself into a corner but I needed to get this think-tank in my head going because my dad’s talk of Buddhism every weekend and Rui’s often diatribes about religion (in which I ironically have to defend religion in) have been making me wonder about how I really understand the idea of faith; and if I even need one in the first place.
The answer, as of right now, is no. Although, I do think I believe in a higher power, I just don’t subscribe to any religious strain of thought because I don’t see the need to. And honestly, while that’s usually enough for me, I’ve been questioning if that’s really true. I’ve said prayers before, but I don’t address any specific God (unless the universe counts?), and I guess to a large extent I believe in Karma or the universe balancing itself out when it comes to goodwill (whether in reincarnation or going to Heaven — although I do recall hearing that you need to believe in God to do that). Presently, I may be leaning more towards Buddhism; though not as a religion but more of as a way of life because they do have very beautiful axioms to live by, and that I’ve already somewhat been living by. So I don’t know! And really: does it matter that I don’t know, so long as I find solace in what I believe in? I guess that’s why I said that religion is insignificant in the first place; it probably springs up from my half-apathetic, half-confused musings.
Or maybe what prompted this was just the thought: Just because I’m not Christian doesn’t mean I can’t like Relient K nor appreciate their lyrics; and it doesn’t mean that my understanding of their songs are any lesser — because let’s face it, Relient K really does have very good music!