If Rush Could Wave Their Magic Wand
They'd make everything all light in a time of darkness.
Posted April 29, 2020 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan
The past couple of months have been incredibly trying times. They've been filled with darkness, fear, confusion, panic, illness, uncertainty, and emotional pain. As a philosopher, I've traveled into the deep recesses of my mind, replaying certain insights from influential philosophers I've studied, trying to eke out some inspiration. Long walks in the sunshine with these thoughts have been therapeutic. But long walks in the sunshine while listening to Rush—my favorite philosophical muse—have been freakin' amazing.
I'd like to share with fellow Rush fans (and those not-yet-fans) some insights into Rush I've had recently that I hope lift your mood and give you heart during these dark times because, after all, philosophers must know their part, "to sow a new mentality closer to the heart."
I believe Neil Peart was well acquainted with the idea of seeking the light in dark times, of shaping a brighter reality if only in one's mind, of seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and running full-speed ahead toward it.
First, in "Rivendell," a song that sounds like sunshine falling from the sky in little drops of honeydew, "we feel the coming of a new day, darkness gives way to light a new way."
In “By-Tor and the Snow Dog,” a personal favorite, we meet By-Tor, “knight of darkness,” and we’re witness to a loud and nasty battle between these two enemies against a background rich in light and dark imagery: “lit by flickering torchlight;” “the cavern to the north light;” and “across the River Styx, out of the lamplight.” Finally, when the battle’s over we hear “rejoicing echoes as the dawn is nearing,” symbolizing a new, brighter, and more peaceful beginning.
In “The Necromancer,” another personal favorite, we feel the heavy dread felt by the three weary travelers who, while trying to cross a dark land ruled by the necromancer, get trapped in his dungeon for years until finally “the spell has been broken, the dark lands are bright” and the men are free to go. The musical shift at 9 minutes and 20 seconds on this track brings tears to your eyes and makes your heart swell with inspiration. [What else, Neil, what else?]
In "The Fountain of Lamneth" is described a beautiful mountain scene of light from dark: "The mountain holds the sunrise in the prison of the night, till bursting forth from rocky chains, the valley floods with light."
The light that follows the dark is perhaps most emphatically expressed in “Jacob’s Ladder” where we’re brought into a world of gathering storm clouds “in the dark and brooding silence” which “have the light of day obscured, looming low and ominous.” The musical interlude fills the mind with images of dark, scary, and thunderously loud times that make you want to run for shelter. But then, as Rush pulls off like none other, a miracle! “All at once, the clouds are parted, light streams down in bright, unbroken beams,” the image of which is so beautiful and heavenly and inspiring, you begin to believe anything is possible.
The conclusion to this song is one of my favorites from many, many that Rush perfected: “Follow men’s eyes as they look to the skies. The shifting shafts of shining weave the fabric of their dreams.” Wow. I’m not even sure if I know what it means, but still, wow.
As you find ways to survive physically and emotionally during these dark times, I encourage you to get outside in nature somewhere, walking or not, and listen to this “magic music that makes your morning mood.” We’ll get through this. “So we just keep smilin’, move onward every day.” The recent darkness has tested us: our physical health, our emotional well-being, and our mettle as human beings. The light is coming. “Fantastic dreams come true.” Someday our living with this global pandemic will be a distant memory, but “though it’s just a memory, some memories last forever.” So, amidst the darkness, find some sources of light, and make some good memories. Fill your heart.
Neil Peart wrote, “If I could wave my magic wand, I’d make everything all right.” You did, Neil, you did.