Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The 75th Swan & Likening Scriptures

I'm oddly obsessed with the way that words can be formed in one construction, but be interpreted in so many different ways based upon our different experiences and perceptions.  I often excuse my terrible poetry by saying it meant something to me in the way I formed it, and if it doesn't mean something to you, that's just the failure of words to truly communicate an exact meaning.  (Surely, this poet cannot err!) I also blame this for my inability to understand an incredibly witty friend of mine.  He just communicates on an entirely different wavelength than me, but I know if I was smarter or communicated in a language closer to his perception, I would get it more often.  Derrida's line of thinking is really to blame for this peculiar fascination of mine with the weak-sauce nature of language.  While it can be seen a weakness, though, it's also pretty amazing how much words live and breathe.  

This brings us to this morning's drive to work.  I listened to a song I've listened to probably over 100 times in the past year.  It was 11 months ago that I heard "74 Swans" by Bell X1 for the first time.  At the time, (oh how time flies!) I was feeling pensive about my latest love labors spent in vain on a girl that chose "the other guy."  I cried as I listened to the lyrics of the song.  (Wow, this is the second time I've written about a song making me cry. I promise there are only like 3 songs that in and of themselves caused me to cry.)

Consider the lyrics and see what you think of them, I suppose: (it's not too long... bear with me...)
You counted 74 swans on the canal 
You counted 74 swans on the canal 
And you were glad it was an even number  
Everybody had another 
No-one was facing this cold alone

They were gathered between bridges 

in the steely sunshine 
Bookend by ice on either side 
Here comes a pair on final approach 
Wings like great white bellows 
Gathering inward to land 
and it looks like grace 

You counted 74 swans on the canal

You counted 74 swans on the canal
And you were glad it was an even number 
Everybody had another
No-one was facing this cold alone
I thought you were right there with me, on my left side

Too eager to get where I’m going, 
I left you behind
But you were on the last watch, 
The passing of the torch
You counted 74 swans, now there’s 75

My tear-inducing interpretation was that I was the 75th swan.  I was with that girl, and then I wasn't.  I was facing the bitter cold winter (and it WAS bitter cold) alone.  I wasn't a good enough guy to win her heart.

This was also in the midst of my last sincere effort to be soooo good at church that God would bless me with a woman to make that SSA stuff all just disappear.  I thought she was her.  She wasn't.  I also learned that despite how good I was being... my attraction to men was neither going away nor even fading.  I would have never admitted all of that at the time, but that was the truth.

Today, I found a new meaning for this construction of beautifully written words.  I was going somewhere.  There was a reason the 76th swan was gone.  She was a she!  I was eager to get to the 74 gay swans on the canal.  I kind of laughed as I thought of it, but it also made me really happy.  I've joined a rather small minority of people who have experienced things similar to what I've experienced, and that find themselves as Gay Mormons.  I might be an odd swan (oh... wordplay!)... but I'm happy where I am!

This reinterpretation of a song that had previously had profound emotional meaning that was quite different made me think about the oft-mentioned religious idea of "likening scriptures."  It's a pretty great concept.  You take the words of the scriptures, think about yourself, and you come up with your own interpretation of them.  But be careful, only do so with the guidance of the spirit.  Your interpretation might be wrong.  But it could also be right.  It might guide you to go to a certain school.  You'll think everything in your life will be amazing because you got your answer to your prayers via likened scriptures.  When you discover that that school was a disaster for you... you must have just likened wrong all along.  It just wasn't what you were supposed to get from those words.

So... I guess that was my cynical way of saying that likening scriptures is kind of a catch-all for individual answers.  I know there were times that I was seeking answers through prayer, and interpreting a scripture in some goofy way was my "answer."  Certainly I believe that if there is a god that does communicate with us, then he/she/it could certainly communicate via the living nature that words have.  However, I don't think that any of the times I thought I was communing with God through that form of communication were ever more than me thinking about what I thought the answer should be and finding it through my ability to interpret words in varying ways.

I don't love writing about my doubts.  But this remains my space to do so, I suppose.  I do love reminding myself how much happier I genuinely feel now that I'm out of the closet though.  Whatever you may believe about God, religion, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or anything else... if you're in the closet... I find it highly likely that you, too would benefit from coming out.  Do so in your way, and in the timing that's right for you.  But if you're like me and you just don't do it because you're afraid of the outcome but are pretty sure it would be better... just do it!  (Hey! That same construction of words has been motivating sales of sporting goods and clothing for years!  Now I'm using it to tell closeted Mohos to come out of their wretched wardrobes!)

Dear reader... whomever you may be, I wish you happiness.  It's available to all of us.  Take it from an odd guy that just found himself... found himself so happy he couldn't believe what he'd found could be real.  Take it from a 75th swan that found his home... found a home amongst some of the greatest people he's ever known to exist.  Take it from a man who has found self-confidence and true belief in happiness... found a polar opposite so striking that a desperately alone man who just months ago lay crumpled on the floor of an office, sobbing and considering the ways he might end it all would never dream of thinking it up.  Take it from a man who presently is weeping that he could ever have been so blinded to the happiness he's found that he considered blocking himself from ever having it.  Please look.  You'll find it, too.


  1. Whoa! What's going on that you're not writing here? ;)

    I, too, like the idea of "likening" scripture. Actually, I've been thinking a lot about it lately, the power of a universal cannon or "scripture.' It can mean whatever we want it to mean, but the fact that we are using the same source material to a great degree keeps us on the same "wavelength" and gives us the same language to discuss ideas too deep to discuss perhaps if we had to construct that common language on our own. (Yeah, I think there's a lot to "religion" that a lot of people don't appreciate, and this is one of the major aspects.)

  2. Awesome post. Bell X1 has a couple songs that I really love too.
    There are several songs that have meant a great deal to me that have changed meaning over time too. Just another reason that music is so amazing. :)


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