On Personal Conviction

Music and films lead to more music and films. New releases refer to past ones, famous and obscure. Genres cross over, involving similar concepts, tropes, devices. Writers lift, pay tribute, re-imagine, claim as their own and take it a step further in their effort to tell gripping, original stories. Pick up the trail and we end up making extraordinary connections.

Welcome to Connection Degree Three …

This piece matches today’s ‘burn-it-down’ politics atmosphere. Three people, second chances, one vision …

Cat Stevens / Yusuf is a songwriter/performer who wrote and sang iconic tunes like Father And Son, a song about his troubled relationship not just with his father but with his greater environment, the hapless and corrosive surroundings that led him to seek out a life beyond what had been demanded of / prescribed to him. Stevens / Yusuf was a person who, despite the pressure, found a way to break through and tell his story, and whose melodies and vision inspired

Dave Mustaine, a songwriter and heavy metal frontman/axman whose career started with Metallica, one of the legendary rock bands in history. Mustaine was fired from the band just as their careers were taking off, and the betrayal almost destroyed him. Yet Dave came back to form his own band, Megadeth, whose rabid, drug-fueled tunes became a cornerstone of speed-thrash metal, and whose one-against-everyone attitude was a major inspiration for

Behind The Mirror, a story by Yours Truly about Xavier Wayson, a man at odds with his wife and friends and neighbors, and whose odyssey takes him on a wild journey, one that involves the use of alcohol and other substances. Xavier lets down his wife and children in his attempts to satisfy his urges, disgusted by those who pretend to be free while subject to invisible forces – social/corporate/religious – how everyone is made to listen and obey without question, to belong and blend in, to do as everyone does. Xavier strays from the beaten path, venturing far and wide in search of true liberation, but he’s not as free as he believes. He, too, becomes obliged to forces he’s unable to control, and is ordered to listen, which forces him to double down on his rebellion, bringing us back to

Cat Stevens / Yusuf and one’s troubled relationship with one’s surroundings. The need to break through drives everything, no limits. Whatever the price, the individual unwilling to toe the line ends up following his or her or ze path, making a story out of it – perhaps even music and history – so that he/she/ze may respect oneself.

It all starts with self-respect and a little sacrifice.

And there it is! Three individuals – two of them flesh-and-blood, one fictitious – at odds with their surroundings. These are the lengths to which one has to go for the truth to out, for the bag over one’s head to be removed and for the voices deep inside to rise up, scream, raise hell. How popular the dance of complicity, the lines we toe unending, the chords of betrayal harsh, brutal – how dirty this life gets when we cover our tracks to make our lives look good and smart and righteous, all the while supporting the very forces that damage our surroundings, our very selves. Those of us who fail to stand up straight, who cow down to familiarity in the name of comfort, who get along and make no trouble, man, we do ourselves no favors, playing the supporting instruments in an orchestra of me-me trumpets, banging out the tunes of other people’s dreams, one note at a time.

To escape, one has to tear everything down and start from scratch, just as Cat / Yusuf, Dave, and Xavier did. These are the lengths to which one has to go for boundaries to collapse. The ax of personal conviction has to fall and rise and fall again, until the darkness is brought down and the job is done, come what may.


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