Gesthemane

17 Dec

I’m not religious. In fact, I’m probably best described as “vaguely spiritual,” if anything. However, I’m a big fan of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Lately I’ve been particularly obsessed with one song, “Gesthemane.”

For those of you either unfamiliar with the musical or with the story of the New Testament (however unlikely that may be), after the Last Supper, Jesus waits in the Garden of Gesthemane to be arrested. This song is Jesus apostrophizing at God, asking why he should have to take the destiny God has given him, the destiny he has essentially set up for himself by starting his ministry and saying the things he’s said.

What’s brilliant about the song is that it takes something usually put up on a high pedestal and not examined that closely, a story from the Bible, and actually goes through it and breaks it down into the very universal and immediately understandable terms of human emotions.

Throughout the song, Jesus goes through each of the five stages of grief (according to the Kubler-Ross model), although not necessarily in order:

1) Denial – “Take this cup away from me, for I don’t want to taste it’s poison.”

2) Anger – “Surely I’ve exceeded expectations…Could you ask of more from any other man?”

3) Bargaining – “If I die, what would be my reward?”

4) Depression – “Then, I was inspired, but now, I’m sad and tired.”

5) Acceptance – “I will drink your cup of poison. Nail me to your cross and break me!”

This is what makes the song so engaging,  the fact that everyone has felt this way at some point in their life (unless you’re still a baby. I assume it would be kind of hard to have a reason to feel this way when you’re a baby). If you listen to this song, it makes you think of some situation where you’ve felt similar. I feel like I can identify with this song in my current position. I know it feels REALLY arrogant for some middle class white male to compare his relatively insignificant personal struggles to Jesus’s decision to die for the sins of all of mankind (which, regardless of you religious affiliation, you have to admit is a real bro thing to do), but hear me out.

All throughout childhood, you live as an externally defined being. Every decision that shapes you and guides your development comes from outside: parents, teachers, priests, guidance counselors, and other authority figures. No matter the strength of your personality, you emerge from childhood with a significant part of you the product of other people’s efforts. Then, when you reach an age where you attain autonomy and self-determination, you have essentially two choices: set about the path modeled for you by everyone else, or break off and choose something you can say without a doubt is something that’s yours and yours alone.

This is the path that anybody who goes into any kind of creative endeavor takes, because as any kind of artist or performer, you are ultimately saying “This is me, my talents, my images, my products, my creative expression. I am putting this out there to let the audience of the world determine if I am worth anything.” Unfortunately, the way our society is structured, the ultimate worth of anybody who puts themselves out there like that can be measured in money. Have you “made it” yet? Does your face sell tickets? Does your name sell books? That makes failure even that much scarier, because if you do fail to “make it,” it is saying that the path you chose, to define yourself on your own terms, was wrong, and tha you as an individual have no worth enough to make money, thus no independent worth at all.

In the process you may start to develop a deep resentment and anger for any part of your personality that might be a remnant of your externally-defined self. Was I raised with too much privilege to have a drive to succeed? Was I raised without enough privilege to believe I can succeed? Does all the anger I grew up with make me too angry to produce something people want? You contemplate the concept of destiny and wonder if, perhaps, because of everything outside you that has molded you, you are destined for something else, and thus you wish you weren’t who you were. You hope by continuing on your path, you destroy yourself, in a sense, by reforging your image independent of everything that’s come before, until even you yourself forget all about it and it doesn’t haunt you anymore.

Then you also wonder if somehow it’s not just your parents’ fault for making you not good enough, but if the world is somehow spiting you by not recognizing that you’re putting in the work. Surely, you’ve exceeded expectations, right? You’ve destroyed yourself to make yourself better, more palatable, but still it’s not good enough. Is everyone, with their silence, telling you to give up? When is the point where you can be sure you’ve been trying enough and you shouldn’t try anymore?

Then, there is an acceptance. You accept that, at this point, the blame does rest solely upon yourself if you succeed or fail. I doesn’t rest on your parents or your audience, because you are the one who’s chosen that path. You can grapple with destiny and history all you want, but the only thing that will yield any result is doing the things you know you have to do, because, ultimately, what does define who you are and how you will be seen is determined by that choice to do, whether it ends in fortune or ruin.

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4 Responses to “Gesthemane”

  1. Aubrey 12/17/2010 at 2:27 pm #

    Heard you out. Still arrogant.

    This is more… project-y than usual. Like a lot more. You say “you” but I’m hearing “I” because I have never felt anything like what you’ve described.

    “a deep resentment and anger for any part of your personality that might be a remnant of your externally-defined self.”

    This isn’t… this isn’t really a “people” thing so much as it is an “Angel” thing. Also you like to resent things.

    • Stacy 12/17/2010 at 8:29 pm #

      Someone has obviously been sippin’ on some haterade..

      And as much as my inner computer nerd wants to “You are so dumb. You are really dumb, for real” you, I will give you a proper response and will probably only feed your already over-bearing ego.

      I’d like to remind you that this is a blog, where even if you chose to write in a formal esssay/article format, the usage of the “Singular/Second person you” is actually acceptable, because it’s not technically formal writing.

      Seeing as this is also a blog, this is merely Angel’s opinion, and I don’t recall him saying anywhere that EVERYone has felt this but merely alluded to that fact that SOME people have felt that.

      Maybe you are just so stuck on yourself and your own selfish ambitions that you have never thought about what your actions and choices were influenced by nor what influence they have? Because that seems to be all I can get from what you have posted.

      But maybe I’m reading too much into things, as you probably are too.

  2. Stacy 12/17/2010 at 8:16 pm #

    I agree with everyyytthhhiiiinng you said. I’ve felt that personally, especially now as I’m making decisions that will have a big effect on my future.

    I haven’t watched Jesus Christ Superstar even though you recommended it to me numerous times, but I often wondered if, provided Jesus was real and as holy as they say, if he ever wanted to throw in the towel and be like, “wtf god, why me?”. That’s a very human spiral of emotions.

    Good post, it incited some discussion between my brother, sister-in-law and I.

  3. razareil 12/21/2010 at 11:35 pm #

    I never thought this would have to be said, but please, let’s have some civility on this blog. No personal attacks are necessary to make a point in any disagreement.

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