In the run up to releasing my EP Warts And All, I’m writing a series of blog posts to give a little information about each track in the set. This first post talks about the opening track, “All The Super True Believers.”
Over the last several years, I’ve nosed around into a lot of Eastern philosophy, especially Taoism. In my opinion, Taoist philosophy speaks a lot to the Western classical liberal sensitivity. It does that, though, from an individual viewpoint. “Tao” is the Chinese word for “way.” Everything, from the smallest sub-atomic particle to the whole universe (aka the Great Tao), has its own way. Things that align themselves in accordance with their Tao are better off than if they don’t.
This has meaning when it comes to how we behave and the impacts on our society and our politics. Humans follow their Tao best when they go with the flow of things and treat each other with kindness and mutual respect. (Or as Buck Owens sang. “All I gotta do is act naturally.”) When people lose sight of this natural, spontaneous way of treating each other, society intervenes to impose values of “justice,” “mercy” and “piety.” Eventually, this all breaks down because the “leaders” also lose their way (or Tao). In the end, “loyal” political officials end up running the show.
This is laid out in the eighteenth chapter of the Tao Te Ching, the ancient text written by the Taoist master Lao Tze. I was really taken by a translation made of the final lines of this chapter by the writer and translator Sam Hamill:
When the nation is in crisis
All the patriotic ministers appearfrom Tao Te Ching, translation by Sam Hamill
That’s what inspired “All The Super True Believers.”
The song itself is about the clash of “values” that’s going on in America in 2019. It’s a big war between social and political “thought leaders” that just gets on the nerves of folks outside the culture war bubble, who are just trying to get along.
Left or right or red or blue
Either way they think they know what’s best for you
So they tear the world apart
While they swear it’s your best interest in their heart . . .
I was originally going to title the song “All The Patriotic Ministers.” The problem I ran into was that in the rest of the world people understand “minister” to mean a political official. In America, though, the term is more associated with members of the clergy. The point would get lost. So, I came up with “super true believers.” After all, people who “believe” in a certain system of “values” often try to impose that set of beliefs on others — for their own good, of course. So the lines above ended up in the chorus as:
When the nation’s gripped with fear
All the super true believers appear
Chanting slogans, laying blame
Don’t you wish they’d just stop playing that game . . .
Of course. the “game” exists only because people lose sight of their true nature (their Tao).