NIN … searching for redemption

Nine Inch Nails in concert
Photo by Bill T Miller

Anthony de Mello’s classic book on spirituality, Awareness, opens with these words:

Spirituality means waking up.

Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up.

They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence.

Compare this with an interview with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails in the last edition of Terrorizer magazine about their new album Year Zero:

“It’d be ludicrous for me to say, ‘Oh there’s always been a real optimistic side to our music,’ but most of the time, no matter what state of despair or desperation I might be in on the records, there is an element of hope, of salvation being searched for. When I’m onstage reacting to people it certainly doesn’t feel hopeless or hate-filled to me …

Overwhelmingly for me, NIN is always searching for redemption of some sort. There was and is a positive reason for this record to exist. To get people to pay attention, look around themselves in a different way. It’s pretentious, it may not work, but it’s worth a shot. I’m only pissing my own money away!

And I’d hate to look back and just think my music sleepwalked through these years. Year Zero feels like the right thing for me to do right now. It’s the only thing I could’ve done and still been okay with myself.”

A couple of things struck me about these quotations:

  1. The religious language used: “hope”, “salvation”, “redemption” — and a real sense of searching

  2. Reznor’s need to ask questions of life and his encouragement for others to also ask those type of questions, and to consider looking at the world in a different way

  3. Reznor’s fear of ‘sleepwalking’ — in other words: he wanted to wake up, he wants ‘awareness’

You could argue that Reznor is fulfilling an important task of a theologian here: pointing to the BIG questions of life, and encouraging others to join in the debate.

The album Year Zero is rather good too, which is a bonus.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Scrum master at Safeguard Global; latterly at Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

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