Yesterday afternoon as I was listening to some music to relax at the end of a long day of work, I came across a review of the new Harry Styles single “Sign Of The Times,” which ended up being very positive. Not entirely expecting this given the reviewer’s reputation, I was curious enough to listen to the song itself, which I found to be a moving piano ballad. As the sort of person who likes to know more detail  about songs, I did some research and saw what Mr. Styles was getting at by writing his lyrics about a mother giving birth to a crying baby while having been told that because of a problem she would not be able to make it. And so birth and death are combined in the story of the song, which adds layers to the song’s rather non-specific framing. I think it’s even better of a song when one knows what the singer was going for in his writing and performance. We’ll see if the song can improve on its spot as #4 on the charts as a debut. Some people are thinking that the song is not as successful as Zayn’s debut “Pillowtalk,” but whatever its chart position it is a better song and there is something worthwhile about that.
This morning I looked at the news and saw that Aaron Hernandez  had apparently hung himself while in prison. Although he beat a double murder charge, he was still in jail for life for murder. As someone whose beat as a writer includes suicide, sadly , it is worth discussing why this happened with this timing. Aaron wasn’t going anywhere for a long time, likely for the rest of his life, as a result of his previous conviction, and the elation of beating the rap of murders–whether he committed them or not–would have been followed by the crushing realization that the victory was an empty one. Perhaps it was too much to take. Part of the price of being a particularly tormented soul is being interested in the tormented souls that one finds convenient to investigate, and for better or worse there are many tormented souls in my day and age, and in the places that I haunt in my own deeply conflicted existence. Until my own soul finds its repose, I suppose I will always be interested in such matters. Perhaps it is a sign of the times, or a sign of the sort of gloomy person I am.
What is the relationship between what we believe about end times and how we live our lives? Clearly there is some sort of relationship. By and large, we live in an age without a great deal of optimism. When we look at our political discourse on either side of the divide in our nation or others, we see a great deal more fear about the other side than we have any particular confidence in anyone. Even those who by virtue of eschatology consider themselves optimists depend on one of two events happening–either a massive conversion of society to godly conduct or a deus ex machina, including perhaps the literal return of Jesus Christ, in order to save us from ourselves. We seem invited at every turn to either seek an escape from intolerable existence through some chemical or philosophical means or turn our gaze towards the grim task of surviving one day at a time despite the fact that a great deal of our existence is grim and without a great deal of cheer.
And yet the tune with which we began does at least hint at where we can find courage. As a fond reader of young adult dystopian literature aimed at people a bit younger than I am, I notice a particular pattern that appears particularly relevant. The young and tormented heroes of these stories, over and over again, seek to save the world even when they have some awareness that they do not save it for themselves. We know that there is a terrible price to fighting against the pervasive evil that permeates every aspect of our contemporary existence. We know, even if we struggle against it, that we are corrupted somehow by living in the times and places that we do. We know the terrible contest between our noble ideals and our passionate longings. We reach for glory and honor and stumble into madness and despair, and we know that even if we are able to make a better world somehow with all the help we can find, that we will be scarred enough by the experience that we will not be able to fully enjoy and grasp the joy of that better world because of what we have experienced. Even if we should live in the flesh until we see a better world tomorrow, we are still ourselves, and we are still faced with the task of being renewed and transformed from within. What use is it to save the world if we cannot save it for ourselves as well?
 See, for example:
 See, for example: