Prophetic Notes: Vision 3 – Half the World

rush

I have long been a fan of the Canadian rock band, Rush. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart are all virtuosic musicians. My appreciation of this band comes from my father, who fell in love with Rush in the years of his youth. I grew up singing along to “Closer to the Heart” and “the Trees.” For a long time, no road trip was complete without my father and I air-drumming to Peart’s insane drum riffs in “Tom Sawyer” and “YYZ.” In the past year or two, my father and I have seen Rush twice and I continue to be amazed at the sheer magnificence of their musical ability.

This next “vision” in my series, Prophetic Notes, is inspired by a Rush song that was never considered “classic.” It is called “Half the World” and was included in their 1996 album, “Test of Echo.”

test for echo

The lyrics are below and you can listen to the song here.

Half the World by Rush (1996, Test for Echo)

Half the world hates
What half the world does every day
Half the world waits
While half gets on with it anyway

Half the world lives
Half the world makes
Half the world gives
While the other half takes

Half the world is
Half the world was
Half the world thinks
While the other half does

Half the world talks
With half a mind on what they say
Half the world walks
With half a mind to run away

Half the world lies
Half the world learns
Half the world flies
As half the world turns

Half the world cries
Half the world laughs
Half the world tries
To be the other half

Half of us divided
Like a torn-up photograph
Half of us are trying
To reach the other half

Half the world cares
While half the world is wasting the day
Half the world shares
While half the world is stealing away

For those who are familiar with the discography of Rush, this song stands in contrast to the technically intricate and rhythmically diverse tunes of their work in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. For me, the simplicity of the melody allows me to focus more on the lyrics which are composed by drummer Neil Peart (who is considered by many to be one of the most talented drummers in the history of rock).

This song is first and foremost driven not only by the rhythm and the melody but by the verbs as well. As we are taught in seminary to engage in scripture, we are told by many a professor to look at the verbs in the text. Many times, as I am preparing a sermon, I will simply take a separate sheet of paper and write down each of the verbs in the passage to get a feel of the action of the text.

The brilliant lyrics of this song provide verbs which give voice to the separation in this world. It is clear that the members who make up the band Rush see the world as a world of divisions (for more on this theme, see their song “Subdivisions” to get an idea of this familiar Rush motif). Half of the world gives, half of the world takes. Half cries, half laughs, half tries to be the other half. It almost sounds as if this text belongs in the book of Amos rather than in a 1996 rock song!

What are the divisions in your life? What half of the world are you in? The one that laughs or the one that cries? The one that gives or the one that takes? Food for thought…

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