We looked backward and said goodbye

In this edition: Long time since I posted. Blue O (with an umlaut) yster Cult. Losing a friend. The mystery that lies beyond.  The conservatives I get and the ones who run (ruin) our government.

(Don’t Fear) The Reaper

All our times have come
Here but now they’re gone
Seasons don’t fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain
We can be like they are.

Come on baby… Don’t fear the Reaper
Baby take my hand… Don’t fear the Reaper
We’ll be able to fly… Don’t fear the Reaper
Baby I’m your man…

Valentine is done
Here but now they’re gone
Romeo and Juliet
Are together in eternity…
Romeo and Juliet

40,000 men and women everyday… Like Romeo and Juliet
40,000 men and women everyday… Redefine happiness
Another 40,000 coming everyday…We can be like they are

Come on baby… Don’t fear the Reaper
Baby take my hand… Don’t fear the Reaper
We’ll be able to fly… Don’t fear the Reaper
Baby I’m your man…

Love of two is one
Here but now they’re gone
Came the last night of sadness
And it was clear we couldn’t go on
The door was open and the wind appeared
The candles blew and then disappeared
The curtains flew and then he appeared
Saying don’t be afraid

Come on baby… And we had no fear
And she ran to him… Then they started to fly
We looked backward and said goodbye
We had become like they are
She had taken his hand
We had become like they are

Come on baby…don’t fear the reaper

–Written by Buck Dharma, Recorded by Blue Öyster Cult (1976)

Perhaps strangely, I have a playlist called Death Songs. “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” is one of them. My favorite is Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You into the Dark.” I love its simplicity, the wordplay, and writer/singer Ben Gibbard’s phrasing. The chorus is:

If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the No’s on their vacancy signs
If there’s no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I’ll follow you into the dark

However, as the Death Cab for Cutie song is from 2006 it doesn’t fit my self-imposed restriction of songs that boomers knew ages ago (when we were all so sad about the recent deaths of the dinosaurs). Both songs come from the same impulse. A 29-year old imagines loss from death and explores the feelings in song lyrics. Buck Dharma (stage name of Donald Roeser) was musing on the possible impact of his death and played off the theme of eternal love. Gibbard’s message is exactly in parallel to that.

Many have thought “(Don’t fear) the Reaper” song was pro-suicide but the writer has denied that vehemently. It’s more about accepting the inevitability of death, not romanticizing it. Dharma explained, “I felt that I had just achieved some kind of resonance with the psychology of people when I came up with that, I was actually kind of appalled when I first realized that some people were seeing it as an advertisement for suicide or something that was not my intention at all. It is, like, not to be afraid of it (as opposed to actively bring it about). It’s basically a love song where the love transcends the actual physical existence of the partners.”

Blue Öyster Cult was kind of a Long Island response to Black Sabbath. (Buck Dharma being Tony Iommi with fingers intact.) The name is from a poem written by their manager, Sandy Pearlman, with umlaut added to invoke a Wagnerian vibe. This was picked up by later metal groups. They were an early adopter of a band logo, in BOC’s case a hook and cross symbol. Their sound was catchy riffs, slicing metal solos, but gentle-sounding lyrics. In case you are wondering, “40,000 men and women everyday” is the number of people who die that Dharma pulled out of the air. The real number is closer to 150,000.

The song also features a cowbell. In the song, it’s a discreet addition to the beat. The cowbell was immortalized in a skit featuring Christopher Walken on Saturday Night Live. You can watch it here. And you should know, Bruce Dickenson did not produce the song.

Searching around, I also found the following item of interest. Blond twins, with harps, and some kind of green screen background thing happening.


Soul-searching on the topic of dying is not uncommon. Many have beliefs. My own father, with cancer overtaking his body, and who never stepped foot in a church except for weddings and funerals, spoke of meeting up with my mother on the other side. Others are equally convinced of the nothingness that follows. I take a middle ground approach. The principle concept is Mystery. We do not know, cannot know, what happens next. It can be nothing, it can be heaven- or hell-like, or it can be a return to the source with or without our individual personality intact.

I heard the American spiritual leader Ram Dass speaks of his friend, a channeled entity named Emmanuel. Ram Dass : “I once said to him, ‘Emmanuel, I often deal with the fear of death in this culture. What should I tell people about dying?’ And Emmanuel said, ‘Tell them it’s absolutely SAFE!’ He said, ‘It’s like taking off a tight shoe.'” These are comforting thoughts. Too comforting for me to put too much belief in. And besides, CHANNELED FRIEND???

So this I know. It’s a mystery. At worst, my death means I will not have a care in the world. At best, I will be bathed in peace and love and free from the worries of the material world. It is not me who will suffer from death, it will be those who knew me, loved me, or just tolerated me affectionately. And my death is certain to cause them to consider their own mortality.



One reason I’m thinking about death and death songs is that I lost a friend in September. Mark Mistrata died of a heart attack at the age of 55. He was a man’s man, competent in most things. He kept his politics mostly to himself, but Mark was an “O’Reilly conservative”. For example, he might have been against the Medicaid expansion in the ACA not because he didn’t want people to get healthcare, but because his common sense told him that if you give people something for free then they don’t try to change their lives to get it themselves. Foodstamps might be a similar proposition. If you make life too easy then there is no incentive to do the hard work that it takes to turn a nothing life into a productive one.

I won’t argue the opposing side here. (It wouldn’t feel right.) But I wish that the conservatives in the House of Representatives would take a similar tack. Instead of lying about the Affordable Care Act and the terrible disaster they claim it is, they should deal honestly with the issues at hand. Insurers were overpaying their CEOs from the profits gained by cherry-picking and lemon-dropping (using pre-existing conditions and outrageous pricing to avoid insuring actual sick people) while consolidating into single vendor territories where there’d be little competition to keep pricing down.  Instead of talking about death panels for Medicare enrollees, they should talk about how 10,000 people each day are turning 65 and will be doing so through 2030 at which point 18% of Americans will be on Medicare. And today people live longer spending extraordinary amounts of money in their final days. What is the answer to that? I can think of a number of answers including some that are not even part of today’s model. Killing the people off is not one of those options. (After all, I will someday be one of them.)

Instead of talking about Obama as the “foodstamp president” they should address what would enhance the economy in the U.S. and what moves people into economic circumstances where food assistance is needed. But they really can’t do that because they believe ideologically that what’s good for business is good for the U.S. If business has outsourced jobs it’s the inevitability of globalism. But the truth is that government is there for the people first. Government of the corporations, for the corporations is another form, not Democracy. Yes, talkin’ about f-a-s-c-i-s-m: strong leaders, suppression of dissent,  protection of business and elites, and preservation of class systems. Fascism in Europe arose out of fear of the rising power of the working class and it seems like many are ready to follow these themes today without understanding the history of this failed system. Pretend patriots and pretend moralists, they pick and choose which parts of the Constitution and the Bible they will champion. The real patriotism we need in America is economic patriotism.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address seems apropos in the sense of being a memorial and a call to live to humanistic ideals.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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Filed under Healthcare, History, Politics, Religion, Social Issues

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