I liked Tool’s 10,000 Days album very much when it came out in 2006, but, for some reason, I didn’t listen to it much in the past several years. Last week’s concert reminded me of this record (they played Jambi and Vicarious), so, this past weekend, I played it several times and rediscovered the amazing Wings for Marie.
I was kind of glad that I had not listened to it over the years, because I really appreciated the apparent newness of this 2-part piece. Keenan wrote Wings for Marie for his mom, Judith Marie, who was a devout Christian and suffered a brain aneurysm that left her paralyzed for about 27 years (10,000 days). Keenan was still a kid when this happened, so it is really hard to comprehend the crushing weight of his grief and the different emotions he must have gone through over the years.
But listening to this song now, as a parent myself, and having lost my own mother, it really resonates with me on a whole new level.
My mother was also a practicing Christian. Hard-working and humble, always putting herself last. After losing her first child, she devoted herself to raising the three that came after without asking for much for herself. She accepted her arduous path without complaints. It is remarkable, and ironic, that she, who was considerately trying to get others to quit smoking, died from lung cancer after nearly a year-long, painful struggle. But she never lost her faith.
Those are two different stories of two different people but to me, the truth contained in Wings for Marie (Part 2) pulls on something inside that allows some really raw emotions to surface. And it really feels kind of healing.
Coincidentally, I recently started reading Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Having studied myths from all cultures around the world, Campbell concluded that a lot of them share the same key idea, which he describes as the hero’s journey. The journey consists of three acts: departure from home, initiation marked by some difficult challenges, and return home in full glory. Because the basic pattern is the same, regardless of where a myth comes from, it suggests some universal, innate need in all humans to manifest this pattern in our lives.
The first few lines of Part 2 set the stage beautifully, laying out the hero’s journey and asserting that the mother is the true hero that we are only aspiring to become, even pretending to be:
We listen to the tales and romanticize
how we follow the path of the hero
Listen to the tales as we all rationalize
our way into the arms of the savior
Feigning all the trials and the tribulations
None of us have actually been there
Not like you…
When I listen to this song, I see my mother in a completely different light: always duteous, loyal to her family and to her faith, carrying her cross obediently throughout her whole life, yet no longer a submissive, resigned person, but a hero, taking all challenges of her initiation in stride…
This is a powerful image.
Here’s my mother, the heroine coming home after her formidable journey, confidently and boldly claiming her hard-earned award in Heaven:
(…) hold your head up high
shake your fist at the gates saying
I have come home now
fetch me the Spirit, the Son and the Father
tell them their pillar of faith has ascended
It’s time now!
My time now!
Give me my
Give me my
Each time I listened to this part, I broke down at this forceful, gut-wrenching plea.
It is such an awesome song.
I love the frequent changes in tempo and melody, the intertwining of harmonies and dissonances, the mood shifts and the myriad of emotions – from sorrow and longing, to contempt for pretenders and hypocrites, to forgiveness, humility, understanding, and acceptance.
And there is this outpouring of gratitude and the purest love.
So, so beautiful…