Burn it all down

Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols singing to the crowd

One day in eighth grade, I spent the very long bus ride home from school carving a large anarchy symbol into my forearm with a piece of metal I broke off my spiral notebook.

When my mom saw it a few days later, she flipped. “Why would you do that?!?”

It was a great question, and honestly I had no idea.

I do now, though.

It started with my best friend David.

One morning as we were getting off the bus, he handed me his earphones and said, “Listen to this.” It was maybe the best thing I had ever heard.

“What is this??”

“That’s punk.”

I was a heavy metal guy and thought punk was stupid. (An opinion I was absolutely sure of even though I had never actually heard punk.)

The Sex Pistols changed my outlook on everything that morning — so much so that carving an anarchy symbol into my arm seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do, even though I couldn’t explain why.

I had always been a good kid. Acted right. Got good grades. Did what I was told.

People told me my life would be better if I did those things, and I believed them.

By eighth grade, I had realized it wasn’t true — and that most of the people who had been telling me those things didn’t really believe them either. It was all a lie.

The Sex Pistols knew that, and they were mad about it. All these people and organizations and institutions that were supposed to be helping us were actually just helping themselves.

Man, that resonated with me. I had finally found people who were speaking truth. The system was beyond hope. The only solution was to burn it all down.

That’s why I carved an anarchy symbol into my arm. I was all in. It felt good.

I still carry that anger. Listening to punk still feels good. I’m 50 now though, not 14, so it’s a more informed anger and more accurately directed.

But I’m still mad.

Filed under Spirituality