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Rock musician Chris Cornell, of bands Soundgarden and Audioslave, has died at the age of 52, shortly after performing at a concert in Detroit. According to reports his death is being treated as suicide. He also achieved success as a solo artist.
I confess that while I listened to a few Soundgarden tracks it was really some Audioslave tracks that impacted me. We all have songs that we count as soundtracks to our lives and some Audioslave songs are included on my ‘life album’.
One track which helped me was, Show Me How To Live from the self titled album Audioslave.
It contains the line:
“Nail in my hand, From my Creator, You gave me life, Now show me how to live.”
These words stood out to me at a time when I was struggling in my own life with questions about who I was and what my purpose in life was.
The words struck me because I had chosen to become a Christian and, despite what many today think, that is not an easy road to travel. These words reminded me that I had a Creator and that I could depend on him even though the road could be tough and painful. I wasn’t left to my own devices.
There seems to be some debate about whether the song purposely uses religious imagery as a cry to God about existence. See the comments after the song lyrics on this page for instance. The whole song does seem to contain deeply religious imagery but even if it wasn’t intended that way, one person suggesting it’s more a reference to the Frankenstein story, that story itself involves deep theological questions. The song surely does constitute a deep rooted cry for understanding about existence and it takes a skilfully poetic mind to articulate it in song in a way which resonates with other struggling human beings.
From time to time over my life, when I’ve been struggling with questions of purpose and identity and experienced depression ranging for mild and manageable to severe and incapacitating, the words Cornell sang have come back to my consciousness and have been a reminder to me that I am a created person, that’s why I exist. I have a Creator and that Creator is both willing and able to communicate with me, commune with me and remind me that I have a purpose worth living for. That was for me a light in dark places. It is no coincidence that such words and phrases which helped me, came from places including the struggles of Cornell’s own life and his journey through tough circumstances including depression, divorce (both his parents and his own) and rehab. In an interview with Cornell in The Guardian, Dave Simpson writes:
“Since then, Cornell has had to re-evaluate his whole life. He’s now a sober non-smoker, and very different to the brooding star of Soundgarden, who wrote songs about the “sudden fear that life was f*****”. He concedes that some of his current lyrics are “more hopeful than some people might prefer”.”
Re-evaluating life is something we all do at various times and I am no exception. A song which aided one of my re-evaluating seasons was called Be Yourself, from the Audioslave album Out of Time. This included the words:
“To be yourself is all that you can do.”
Very simple words which had a very profound effect on me upon hearing them. Once more I was questioning myself, finding difficulty not only ‘being myself’ but figuring out who I was in the first place in order to ‘be myself’.
I had struggled for many years with who I was. Some knew or suspected my struggle, others were likely oblivious to this. Some battles with self discovery are fought more publicly, some are fought privately and with inward pain regardless of outward appearance.
It was to be some years before I was diagnosed as on the Autism Spectrum, something which came as not much of a surprise at all to those who knew me and knew something about autism. It came as a complete and life changing revelation to me. It was a huge step forward in understanding who I was in order to be myself.
I was also struggling with deeper questions of what it meant to discover who you are, in my view a created being, created in the image of a personal God, and how this formed my identity and mapped my pathway. This has been an at times painful, at times disorientating but certainly liberating journey, a journey which is ongoing.
The words, “To be yourself is all that you can be” have, as with those of “Show Me How To Live” returned to me time and time again, as pointers on my pathway, sign posts, reminders that there are answers to our searching and satisfaction for our longing.
I found these answers in the person of the Jewish Carpenter whose victory over death changed everything, Jesus Christ. That journey continues.
Chris Cornell and his music unknowingly helped me on that journey.
Thank you Chris Cornell.