I am BARRY HESS > Blog

The Drive Home

Driving home this past Sunday morning, I decided to listen to “Dark Side of the Moon” straight through for the first time in a loooong time. Still outstanding. Major goosebump territory for me is the end of “Time” …

Home, home again I like to be here when I can When I come home cold and tired It's good to warm my bones beside the fire Far away across the field The tolling of the iron bell Calls the faithful to their knees To hear the softly spoken magic spells

Which then leads into “The Great Gig in the Sky.” My skin’s crawling at this point, in a good way. Those lyrics above provided a sort of turning point in my life, I believe. The last two lines are probably in direct step with the high point of my Catholic faithfullness. Never have I “believed” as much after hearing those lines as I had before.

(Note: The rare movie-bumps hit me during the last half of “I Got a Woman” watching “Ray” on Monday night. The genesis of “What’d I Say” was right there, too. Non-musically, I had a rush as Bruce Willis’ story ended in “Sin City.”)

Back to those lyrics. Upon hearing them, I was immediately reminded of this passage of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” which I’m slowly working my way through right now. This was quite a stream of consciousness jump. The background is that Jurgis works in Chicago’s meat packing district. The working, and food, conditions around 1900 were horrendous …

[Jurgis] never missed a [union] meeting, however. He had picked up a few words of English by this time, and friends would help him to understand. They were often very turbulent meetings, with half a dozen men declaiming at once, in as many dialects of English; but the speakers were all desperately in earnest, and Jurgis was in earnest too, for he understood that a fight was on, and that it was his fight. Since the time of his disillusionment, Jurgis had sworn to trust no man, except in his own family; but here he discovered that he had brothers in affliction, and allies. Their one chance for life was in union, and so the struggle became a kind of crusade. Jurgis had always been a member of the church, because it was the right thing to be, but the church had never touched him, he left all that for the women. Here, however, was a new religion--one that did touch him, that took hold of every fiber of him; and with all the zeal and fury of a convert he went out as a missionary. There were many nonunion men among the Lithuanians, and with these he would labor and wrestle in prayer, trying to show them the right. Sometimes they would be obstinate and refuse to see it, and Jurgis, alas, was not always patient! He forgot how he himself had been blind, a short time ago--after the fashion of all crusaders since the original ones, who set out to spread the gospel of Brotherhood by force of arms.

One can see how pretty much all comers have religion, even if Religion has long since gone the way of Santa Claus. There is something that nearly every one of us believes in adamantly. We will argue with others about it, trying to make them see the Truth. I love the phrase “wrestle in prayer.” Back at Augustana we had a religion professor who always likened faith to “wrestling.” Wrestle with god. Wrestle with your beliefs. Wrestle with faith. I sincerely hope that every one of us learns to wrestle with our beliefs. It seems far too many are simply being pinned.

(Note: “The Jungle” appears to be in public domain. I recommend it, even though I’m only 100 pages in.