was I made just to be broken?
It's November 2018. One of my friends from work and I had just driven a few hours to go see one of our favorite bands, Silent Planet. The venue is only half full, but everyone is having a good time, throwing down in the mosh pit and generally causing a ruckus.
This tour was neat because all four of the bands on the roster go hard. Greyhaven opens the show, and they were sweet. Very chaotic, but they sounded almost exactly like they do on the album. They finish their set and Kublai Khan takes the stage, and I'm not sure what to expect.
You see, I had only listened to one or two songs by them, so I *vaguely* knew what was coming, but the frontman walks out in a white tank top, jeans, and COWBOY BOOTS of all things. I'm thinking "there's no way this is the same dude" and just wait for them to start.
This dude is HARD. CORE.
He's jumping around the stage, stomping all over the place, and screaming his lungs out. Everything is heavy and loud and I love it. My friend is flabbergasted at how intense this guy is. I was so impressed.
The cool thing about Kublai Khan is that their frontman is very upfront about how he believes and the hard life he's had, and his passion shines (or screams, if that's not too over the top in a wordplay sense) through their music. Anyway.
Kublai Khan ends their set, and Stray From The Path gets up on stage and they're just having a ball. They're like a hardcore mixture of the Beastie Boys and Sum 41. Super political, which was fine by me, but fun to watch.
Now it's Silent Planet's turn, and I'm extremely stoked. I saw these guys almost exactly a year before with Veil of Maya and The Devil Wears Prada, so I know the show is gonna be good. I'm also excited because they're selling their new album When The End Began before it actually comes out, and all of the singles I've heard are the best music they've ever written.
My friend and I move up to the front, get in the pit, and get crazy. Everything sounds fantastic, I'm up close to the front of the stage, and I'm on the edge of the mosh pit. Then they play the song "Visible Unseen" and I get goosebumps.
"Am I only flawed when I am alive?
Only your child if I live denied?
I ask of you, Benevolence, was I made just to be broken?"
This song has so many good things going for it, but I'd like to take a minute and explain a bit about Silent Planet and why I love them for more than their music.
The first song I heard by Silent Planet was "Native Blood", which is about how throughout history, indigenous peoples are often killed or driven from the lands that their peoples have called home for hundreds or thousands of years. It has one of my all-time favorite lines in it right before the breakdown, but the song as a whole is worth listening to.
"We were dressed in potential; now we're draped in sorrow."
Every song written by these guys tells a story. Every song has something specific that the song is written around, and oftentimes these ideas or themes come from current events or experiences of people that Garrett Russell (the frontman/screamer) worked with during his time as a counselor.
The best part out of all this lyrical and musical goodness is that footnotes are included for almost every song, which is almost like voluntary homework. These footnotes range from references to popular movies, books, and music (like Death Cab For Cutie or the movie Get Out) to statistics from government websites to historical events to religious texts and books. Long story short, these guys do their homework and they care. A lot. Check out the footnotes here if you'd like an example.
One of the reasons I fell in love with "Visible Unseen" (besides the music, which if I'm being honest just blows my mind) is because throughout my life I've known and been friends with a lot of people who have struggled because they are attracted to the same sex, or maybe feel that who they are doesn't match up with the parts they've been given.
As a young dude growing up in a small, conservative Christian town, I didn't fit the mold. I talked (and still talk) like a California surfer dude. I had long hair and dressed like a skater. I hung out with kids who weren't a part of my faith. I felt judged for being who I wanted to be, but even after all of that, I can't imagine what it would be like to grow up and realize that you were different from everyone else cuz you happened to be into the same sex as yourself.
Now I'm not trying to equate my "edgy" behavior and the fact that I was a moderately not great Mormon dude with being attracted to someone that society has told you you shouldn't be attracted to. My struggles were, and are, very small compared to the things my friends have gone through just for being honest and open with themselves and the people they care about most.
As I got older, I made my way to college and finally understood what it means to be understanding and empathetic, and to love people as they are and not how you think you should be based on what gender they like, or what they believe or don't believe, or how they vote, or any of that other stuff we use to define ourselves.
In summary, I grew up. I figured out how to love people for people.
Now I'm gonna be honest, I used to be pretty homophobic, partly because I had never known someone who was gay (at least openly). I had never had my viewpoints challenged or even had exposure to a different point of view. I had never had to think about how LGBTQ+ people are people too, and I had never tried to see the world from their perspective.
Now, as a slightly more experienced person, my view has changed a lot. I've been humbled quite a few times. I've had to learn how to challenge my assumptions. I've had to work through a lot of stuff. I've had to confront a lot of things that I took for granted and find out what I really think and believe.
I've been privileged to work alongside many people who don't fit into the binary gender model. Some of my best friends and family members are gay, lesbian, or trans, and often I struggle with trying to understand how they feel because I have no frame of reference. So when I heard this song for the first time, it spoke to me on a level I have rarely been spoken to before.
This song talks about the LGBTQ+ community and how they have disproportionately high rates of mental health issues, homelessness, and suicide compared to almost any other group of people in the country. This song talks about how intolerance for those different than ourselves causes all kinds of hurt, and how because of those differences, we tend to ignore them or even encourage the hate directed towards them.
This song talks about how we're failing as neighbors, communities, and people because we can't or won't step outside our own heads and try to understand what others' lives are like.
We can't truly know if we dislike someone until we try to understand them. Until we have made the effort to place ourselves in their shoes. And we won't do that until we can set aside our differences and meet them where they are.
If we can all learn to be a little more tolerant, a little more patient, a little more compassionate, a little more understanding, a little more empathetic, a little more loving, maybe we can see past our differences and celebrate the things we have in common.
Thanks for reading,