Anger and Apathy

LYRICAL LOITERINGS OF A LISTENER Series

Thoughts, ideas and reactions provoked by song lyrics. The series is also featured on Clink Music Magazine.

“Man is only truly great when he acts from the passions; never irresistible but when he appeals to the imagination.” – Coningsby, Benjamin Disraeli

The lyrics of As I Lay Dying’s Anger And Apathy adopt a philosophical and moral viewpoint that truly speaks to the core of my soul. The song’s poetry describes the essentiality of passion, with language and imagery that radiates beautiful intensity.  Anger And Apathy boasts a vocal persuasion to complement the song’s intellectual ferocity.

Anger And Apathy

I’ve tried to find reconciliation behind the walls of those whose hatred burns.
For I find it easier to reach someone who still feels,
Than to make amends with passionless apathy.
Where all lines are the same a portrait cannot be made.

I need to burn inside. I need to know that you are alive.

I need to know that feelings of discontent are stronger
Than indifference for those too weak to stand.

Like a colourless sky over a sea of nothingness,
Hatred faces its enemies while apathy strikes furtively.

I need to burn inside. I need to know that you are alive.

I need to know that feelings of discontent are stronger
Than indifference for those too weak to stand.
I need to know that feelings of discontent are stronger
Than indifference for those too weak to stand…

Until our anger burns against injustice, we will create
The faceless by dismissing those forced to concede.

Many of us have turned off the light outside, erasing what exists beyond our front door.
And for you I find it harder to reach common ground than my most glaring opposition.
But what about those who’ve lost the luxury of choice?
… striving for identity, buried by our lack of interest, souls marked as mere history.
How much grievance will it take to awaken us?

I need to know that feelings of discontent are stronger
Than indifference for those too weak to stand.
I need to know that feelings of discontent are stronger
Than indifference for those too weak to stand…

How much grievance will it take to awaken us from the comfort of our homes?
… the comfort of our oversized graves.

I’ve tried to find reconciliation… I’ve tried to find reconciliation…

Apathy And Anger is an ode to anger and a rant against apathy, against mediocrity. The lyricist is ready to put more energy into reconciling with those “whose hatred burns” than with those “with passionless apathy”. He would rather “make amends” with, or come to an understanding of, those who hate – those whose ideological standing is so different from his own that they may even be considered enemies. The lyricist reasons that he has more in common with those who anger and hate because the passion of that emotion is a uniting force – an opposing idea vehemently expressed with the passion of emotion is preferable to the vacancy of no idea and no emotion. That passion, that common ground between enemies, inspires understanding. At least “Hatred faces its enemies while apathy strikes furtively.”

The writer’s contempt for the apathetic is made evident in the metaphor; “Where all lines are the same a portrait cannot be made.” Those who do not feel, by choice or other, are lifeless and dull, like the lines on a page that cannot unite to create an identity – a portrait. The notion of identity is resurrected toward the end of the song when the lyricist says that the quest for identity is “buried by a lack of interest”. It is thus fair to deduce that identity is associated with an engaging sense of interest and imagination, and a lack thereof leads to a crisis in identity that can only be cured with the passion of existence.

In the song, the comfort of a home is compared to an “oversized grave”; indifference is thus equated with death. This idea is emphasised in the line “Many of us have turned off the light outside, erasing what exists beyond our front door” and the song goes on to say “And for you I find it harder to reach common ground than my most glaring opposition.” Again, the lyricist registers his contempt for apathy. The aforementioned words paint a picture of suburbia, where people go about their daily business completely oblivious to what is happening around them… because their lives are comfortable. The song suggests that comfort is apathy, and apathy is negligent. Not only is apathy negligent but it is a selfish, deathly existence that entraps one in a grave of comfort which renders ‘existence’ dead and useless to the rest of the world.

As well as condemning apathy, the lyrist places a burden of responsibility upon the impassioned. The song says “Until our anger burns against injustice, we will create/ The faceless by dismissing those forced to concede”, which suggests that if we accept mediocrity by failing to inspire those who live with indifference, “the faceless”, we are in fact creating mediocrity and are thus as negligent as the apathetic. There are those who are unjustly forced to concede their passions and identity, and those “faceless” individuals should not be ignored, even if we have nothing in common with them. Inspiration through art, friendship, words and actions is a moral responsibility on behalf of the impassioned – passion is not a selfish endeavour. By accepting the apathy of others we are being apathetic ourselves; “I need to know that feelings of discontent are stronger/ Than indifference for those too weak to stand.” Discontent inspires action and to act consciously is to participate in Life.

The Carpe Diem tone of the song is aptly described by John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

The song, as the film, speaks of Life and the passion that is required to live it. A passion that is intrinsic to the human race and to deny it is to act unnaturally. To supress that which is the essence of humanity is to deny that which makes us human and fallible – to live passionately involves risk, which imposes vulnerability. The lyricist says that in order to relate to othersI need to burn inside. I need to know that you are alive.” His soul burns when coming into contact with another burning soul. Passion is contagious and its very nature demands expression.

Metal is an extreme genre… an extremely expressive genre. It is risky and confronts listeners with no possible method of escape, and therein lays its ominous, resplendent, brutal madness. Metal represents a lifestyle, a lifestyle that pushes boundaries and shames mediocrity. Taking the risk of loving music so extreme makes one vulnerable; metal exposes the soul and betrays the incongruity of its devilish ugliness and glorious beauty. And that’s what it means to live passionately – to take the risk… to love, to inspire.

“How much grievance will it take to awaken us?”