two television shows that i would consider to have been most-liked by me over this past decade or so are “breaking bad” + “dexter.” and as it happens, at the centre of each story is a less than ideal father figure. both walter white + dexter morgan try in their own ways to care for their families; but it’s clear from numerous decisions in each program that their role of parent is at most secondary to the other understandably concealed parts of their lives. after all, how can a serial killer or crystal meth manufacturer be completely open + honest with their family without it becoming an insurmountable issue? and while i’m not in the habit of murdering people or making illegal drugs, i can definitely relate to feeling like i’m living a double life + to being a less than ideal parent. on one hand, there’s the extreme sense i have of inadequacy regarding how to teach my kids about the world (i.e. when one isn’t fully convinced about what is true/real anymore, it’s correspondingly troublesome to impart anything like doctrinal knowledge to one’s kin). and on the other hand, a generalized malcontent + low-grade anger that for whatever reason resides within me has been exacerbated over the past number of years conceivably by my loss of independence, tiredness + contending with children who have wills of their own. now – i’m sure that every parent at some point questions their ability to be a good mother or father. i know i have. in these almost ten years of being a dad, i can say with absolute confidence that it’s easily the hardest thing to do well. but unlike some people for whom parenthood is a core identity marker + source of joy, more often than not my favourite time of day is when my son + daughter are asleep. because then, not only can i have some time to myself in silence, but i can also not screw everything up with my complete lack of patience + compassion. this isn’t to say that i’m ungrateful for my children. it’s hard to picture a life without them. however, i do wonder why i regularly can’t seem to get it right + i’m disappointed in myself for failing to love those closest to me like i should.
that’s the surface-level meaning of “insolent.” it began as an almost-sonnet of regret. lyrically, it’s the most complex + mathematically symmetrical poem that i’ve ever written (which is surely not apparent when simply listening to the song). but if one were to examine the rhyming + syllable pattern of the song’s opening verse, the reader will see that the first line rhymes with the fourth line, the second with the sixth, the third with the eighth, the fifth with the tenth, the seventh with the eleventh, and the ninth with the twelfth. each line also alternates between nine and seven syllables – except for the middle four lines (that move between eight + seven). one other short aside: the song in its final form almost never existed, since i purposely deleted the original version of “insolent.” in mid-september of 2019, everything for “lunacy + the second naïveté” had been recorded except for this track. so, i layed down the drums, the guitar parts + was about to begin writing lyrics when i came to a realization: in my final push to get the album done, i had produced something subpar. this resulted in me scrapping what i had + starting the song over completely. the result was a creation of something far superior, which i consider to be some of my best work to date. it’s also arguably the darkest thing i’ve ever composed, but that may not be initially evident either. because while it was primarily written as a reflection on letting others down – like my son or my parents – the last part of the song effectively flips the meaning into a completely different realm. the words in “insolent” are indeed about me; however, the deeper message is that i may not be alone in parenting imperfectly. specifically, the grim reading of this particular track – in line with the rest of the album – is one of experiencing God as absent or unloving.
being from a tradition where God is presented both as having a personal nature + as being the quintessential expression of what we consider to be “good,” even contemplating the notion of a divine absentee parent is inconceivable. at the very least, like the man in the yellow hat from the curious george stories, perhaps there is one who is present but merely out of view. yet, as i muse in article/episode seven (a.k.a. “truancy”), one’s inaction/unresponsiveness while allegedly being on the ground with us is itself problem-ridden. and so, people understandably reference something that Jesus is remembered to have said; namely, “ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. for everyone who asks receives, and everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? if you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in heaven give good things to those who ask him. in everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” it’s a nice sentiment – it really is. but how many times have we ardently asked for something good + it wasn’t given to us? and to turn the analogy around, how many times have my kids called me in the middle of the night because they were sick or had a bad dream + i immediately came to their aid (despite losing my cool with them earlier that day + valuing undisturbed sleep)? in answer to both of those questions: consistently. i am well acquainted with my own lack; but if either of my kids want to talk or need help, i am + will be there…even if my presence is at times reluctant. that’s just what parents do. but can we honestly say the same of God? i guess i have just assumed over the years – perhaps mistakenly – that if God is in actuality a person of some kind, us children might receive a direct answer or perceptible help in our present day when we intently call out (as opposed to being repeatedly ignored, which doesn’t sync with any definition of “love” ).
next time on the fringe faithful collective, the song “destroy the moon” that was based on a short story that i wrote in the summer of 2017 (which though originally written as a critique of escapist theologies could also legitimately be interpreted as a depiction of the climate crisis we’re facing). until then, here is “insolent” (which you can freely download or stream anytime at soundcloud.com).
peace + love sisters + brothers.
as good a father as i’m a son
double disappointing child
in your insolence i see myself
it confirms that i’m the one
who’s shite at that “do unto” rule
cause i get so easily riled
self-centredness is my default
no regard for family health
i wouldn’t like me if i were you
each day i’m a proper tool
treating open wounds with stares + salt
wishing i was someone new
are these words about me?
and do you sing along?
cause they apply equally
had you signed your name to this song