The Complicated Cloud of ‘Dark-and-Detached’

Quadrophenia

God bless the members of my Crossing small group; they continue to tolerate all sorts of crazed nonsense from me.

Jimmy on the 5:15 Train

Jimmy Cooper on the 5:15.

Most recently, several of them agreed to come over on a Friday night and watch director Franc Roddam‘s 1979 attempt to bring The Who‘s 1973 double album Quadrophenia to the big screen. For many of us recovering anti-social, depressive types – you know, that awkward kid who spends long hours in a darkened dorm room with headphones on – listening to Quadrophenia over and over again quite often subverted the alienation theme and (ironically) drew us black-clothing types closer together, at least temporarily. “Yes! This guy gets it! He understands how sick I am of middle class values!”

I was simply trying to give these friends of mine a glimpse into the darker history of my youth…as well as provide a popcorn- and movie-candy-fueled small group social event.

Catcher in the Rye

As a young man, I drank deeply at the well of darkness and despair, convincing myself (against all evidence to the contrary) that no one “really” cared what happened to me. I got caught up in cheering for anti-heroes like Jimmy Cooper, the main character in Quadrophenia, while also willfully blinding myself to the logical outcome of that lifestyle.

Despair will, 100% of the time, lead us in the wrong direction…but I had no interest as a young man in seeing that.

While it may seem incredibly fashionable and mod, there is a very real danger associated with drawing too close to the depressed and/or suicidal art forms that succeed in earning their authors piles and piles of cash. What we adopt at first as a social mask can eventually become imprinted on the contours of our soul. Two incidents stand out for me.

  1. In high school, I can well recall the warm, sucked-in feeling that accompanied my first-ever read of J.D. Salinger‘s Catcher in the Rye. As I recall, we were several chapters in when our English teacher asked for a show of hands as to who in the room could “really identify” with the book’s main character, Holden Caulfield. My hand shot straight up and stayed there, foolishly hoping to be called upon to recite some of the snappier dialog I had already memorized. What a cold shower of reality, then, when my helpful instructor cautioned all the Holden Caulfield Groupies to keep in mind that Holden’s ravings – funny as they were! – were mostly a transcript of his sessions on the couch with a psychologist…after he had completely cracked up.
  2. Pink Floyd: The WallPink Floyd released The Wall on Nov. 30 in 1979; I was in my first semester as a freshman at college, newly freed from the “tyranny” of life at home. For those of us old enough to recall that heady semester, you could hardly walk into a dorm, bar or restaurant without hearing one of the more radio-friendly tracks from this masterpiece of depression and isolation. Such was the impact of this album that it sold 23 million units by 1999. My infatuation with the work of Gilmour, Waters, Wright and Mason began to tarnish a bit a year or two later when one of my friends stopped going to class, stopped talking to others and stopped eating in favor of drinking, drugs and playing The Wall over and over again in the isolation of his room. Needless to say, that guy did not finish the semester and no one really knows what happened to him after his parents intervened.

I relate these two tales at some length simply to make the point that soaking in a dark and hopeless outlook on life will have consequences. Some of us have serious chemical imbalances that cause depression and, if you fall into that category, you should avail yourself of the means that God has blessed us with to treat our medical conditions. What I am discussing, rather, is the adoption of a dark outlook as a chosen lifestyle. If that describes you, then (like me) you may simply need to repent.

Actor Eric Isenhower and "Orin"

Actor Eric Isenhower and “Orin”

More than I can express with words, I will be forever grateful to God for pulling me out of the tar pits of depression-for-its-own-sake and empowering me to live a personally-rewarding life that is, paradoxically, not about my life at all. Thank God that I can now laugh along at the spot-on satire of dark and gloomy youth given us by actor Eric Isenhower in his portrayal of “Orin” in the TV series Parks and Recreation; “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

One of the enemy’s greatest tactics is to pervert culture such that our fallen souls finds sin fascinating, while missing the danger inherent in the path we’re choosing. To be thought of as “dark” and “ominous” – for Orin or Jimmy Cooper – makes him interesting to us. These characters, when found in “real life,” however, are isolated, lonely individuals, extremely vulnerable to temptation: “Oh, what the hell…no one really cares what happens to me, anyway.”

Wrong.

This is precisely the sort of deception that Satan traffics in (Genesis 3:1-4; Job 2:4-5; Matthew 4:3; 2 Corinthians 2:11).

Honestly, it really doesn’t matter what your present life situation may look like. I don’t have to meet you or get to know you to say with confidence that someone does care – very much – for you. It may sound trite and supremely unhelpful to hear someone say something like, “Cheer up! God loves you.” While that statement is very much true, the Word of God only gets “painted in 3D” when we as Christians put flesh on it. Our own flesh.

There really are flesh-and-blood people, here and now, who care about you…or will quickly choose to. And there are many more people who need you and rely on you than your mind can imagine. You may not have run into them yet, but that does not mean that you should allow yourself to stop looking. You will for sure not find what your soul needs hanging out in a darkened dorm room with Orin.

Recommended Resources:

Jesus in Matthew 10:28-31 (ESV):
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Leave a Reply