Mister Mister

Recently I was driving in my car listening to music on the radio, which I almost never do in recent years. But I’d just been in Subway, and the station they had on was doing its nightly ’80s hour, and I was enjoying it, so I tuned it in to keep listening. And they played Mr. Mister’s “Kyrie,” which I don’t think I’d heard since it was on the charts in 1986 or so, the year I graduated from college. And in light of Orthodoxy, I heard it in a whole new way, as though it was a meditation on Orthodoxy!!! Actually what I thought was, “Who the heck wrote this, St. Symeon the New Theologian?!!!” Stranger things have happened in the annals of popular music-writing…. Alas, nothing in the available information (at Wikipedia or elsewhere that I can see) suggests Orthodox or Greek or other-ethnic-Orthodox, or even Eastern Catholic, influence – which doesn’t mean it’s not there, just that if it was, they didn’t feel like talking about it, which would be understandable, since they were presenting themselves as a secular band. Let’s take a look at it.

The wind blows hard against this mountain side,
across the sea into my soul
It reaches into where I cannot hide,
setting my feet upon the road

This reminds me of pictures of Mt. Athos, Greece’s Orthodox Monastic Republic – sheer, craggy mountains rising above the sea, home to dozens of monastic communities. [I’d link to their website, but it hung-up my browser. So here’s Wikipedia.]

“The road” seems to be life, even “the Way,” on which “the wind” – the All-Holy Spirit of God – sets us if we let Him. And deep inside, one really “cannot hide” from God; He knows it all, and forgives anyway if we ask: “Kyrie eleison,” Lord Have Mercy – which Orthodoxy does incessantly.

My heart is old, it holds my memories,
my body burns a gem-like flame
Somewhere between the soul and soft machine,
is where I find myself again

To many ancient cultures the heart and not the brain was the seat of memory, consciousness, self, mind. As I’ve quoted from Fr. John Romanides, the heart not only pumps blood, but also holds the nous, the faculty of the soul that, if purified and given to do so by God – shown His Mercy – may see His Glory as Light now and forever “unto ages upon ages.” And what else could “my body burns a gem-like flame” talk about but:

There is a story … of the fathers of the Egyptian desert. Abba {ie, Desert-Father} Lot journeyed to see Abba Joseph to ask him for a word that he might live. He said to him “Abba, as far as I can, I say my Little Office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven; his fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

That is to say, manifest God’s Doing in your life and even through your very body, His Energies, Light, Fire. Of course, this is the goal. Though after such an experience of theosis, as Fr. Romanides reminds us, we return to continued purification and illumination. Therefore, this verse would reflect the heart of someone for whom it’s taken a long time to receive the gift of divinization, and now has ‘come down from the mountain,’ even like Moses, back to ‘the world’ for the time being.

Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I’m going will you follow
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light

Even in the ’80s I questioned “where I’m going will You follow,” and thought it should be the other way around! But if we think of “follow” as “accompany,” and “the road that I must travel” as God’s own calling for the person – that must of ‘Divine necessity,’ even as we read in the Gospels “it was necessary that” – then maybe it’s not so bad. Especially if it’s the reflection of someone not trained in the niceties of fine Latin seminary distinctions and Western ‘theological correctness,’ but merely how it feels, perhaps for an Orthodox layperson…? “Road… darkness… highway… light….”

When I was young I thought of growing old,
of what my life would mean to me
Would I have followed down my chosen road,
or only wished what {or that?} I could be

OK, I don’t have much for this verse! Perhaps healthy introspection, even Examination of Conscience like at the end of the day, or before Confession, or seeking meaning in life. Also questioning wishing versus doing. This sounds more like Western Existentialism, unless we add-in what’s gone before. The speaker of the words may be an elder, the one who has experienced glorification/theosis – St. Symeon, anyone?!! he did write hymns too – recalling his more-youthful questioning of how things would turn out, perhaps offering hope for us listeners. [This is seat-of-the-pants, and you or I might think better of it later!!]

Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I’m going will you follow
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light
oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I’m going will you follow
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light
(repeat chorus)
(a cappella) Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel!

And you thought the DJ was smart when s/he told you “kyrie” was Greek for “Mister,” as in the group’s name! I don’t mean to suggest what I’ve suggested can be read into the song, like we often try to do with some of the better-written pop and rock songs of the last 40 years, those with reflective or meaningful or moral lyrics. I’m suspecting this is what the song is really about!

Like the man said, ‘Submitted for your approval.’

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