Growing up, people would often ask me why I listened to metal—wasn’t it filled with evil lyrics and violence? No, not all of it.
Listening to metal exposed me at an influential age to a wide range of views and opinions, many of which touched me. Megadeth sang about the pain of losing someone close to you (“In My Darkest Hour”), Testament sang about the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre (“Seven Days in May”). But consistently Martin Walkyier-era Skyclad sang about the urgent need to look after the earth.
I know that it was easy for some of my Christian friends to dismiss Skyclad out of hand because they marketed themselves as a pagan folk metal band. But I always felt that they spoke about the earth and nature with such love and respect that it influenced how I thought and treated this remarkable rock on which we live, spinning around our nearest star. Perhaps not enough, though.
During one of the hottest weeks I’ve ever known in Scotland, I was in the car the other day – I know! but the supermarket is too far away to walk to, especially with my poor health – listening to Skyclad’s 1993 album, Jonah’s Ark when the song “Tunnel visionaries” started.
I loved this quotation from American historian Howard Zinn that I read in James Clear‘s latest email newsletter, “3-2-1”.
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
Howard Zinn—You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History (2018)