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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Day 22 - "Christmas" by The Who - 25 Days of Christmas Angst

"Did you ever see the faces of the children
They get so excited." 
[My niece, Mikal, Christmas 2001.]
I first encountered Tommy only a few years ago.  It was a revelation, and I'm not sure how I missed it for so many years.

The story is complex and probably too far off topic to relay the whole thing here.  If you haven't seen it, what you need to know is that Tommy goes deaf, dumb, and blind from the shock of a trauma. 

Today we might say that Tommy was suffering from PTSD which manifested itself as simultaneous hysterical blindness, deafness, and aphasia.

The song for today is "Christmas" from the movie soundtrack.  As it is impossible to purchase the soundtrack separately, you can see this segment of the movie here:  http://youtu.be/oQE298PYhrg.  I do, however, recommend watching the whole movie; it is well worth the time.

This song and all of the songs used in the movie are from The Who's rock opera of the same name.  You can hear the original, trippy, studio version of this song here (http://youtu.be/7BWiYJ3yykw) or a hard driving live performance (with a few sour notes) here (http://youtu.be/cMytVwEZO2M).

Preview the remaining days of angst or review the previous days here:   

"Christmas," like the whole movie, is a marvel in that it blends the secular with the religious in an intriguing way.  The heart of the song is Tommy's mother and step-father wondering whether or not Tommy will be able to go to heaven since he seems to not comprehend anything about the world around him.

His mother frets:

And Tommy doesn't know what day it is.
He doesn't know who Jesus was or what praying is.

and the chorus chimes in with:
How can he be saved?
From the eternal grave.

Through all of this Tommy is pleading in his head:

See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.
See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.

Out of context these lines seem a little unsettling and creepy (especially when sung by a child).
His mother concludes:

I believe in love
But how can men who've never seen
Light be enlightened.
Only if he's cured
Will his spirit's future level ever heighten.

This sets up the rest of the movie and a big section of the plot as his mother and Frank take turns with attempts to "cure" Tommy of his condition. 

Tommy is not able to speak and hear until his mother breaks a mirror that he stares at obsessively.  The breaking of the mirror represents the shattering of the persona he adopted after his traumatic experience. This trauma was caused by his mother and Frank; when Tommy takes on their sins, he looses himself.

As a Christ-like figure, Tommy tries to share the enlightenment he gained from his time as a deaf, blind mute.  His efforts fail.  When people realize his message doesn't work for them, they riot.  His mother and Frank are killed and Tommy starts a new phase of his life with an even deeper understanding of human nature.

Each human needs to find his or her own peace in the world.  We can help each other, guide each other, look out for each other, and inspire each other.  We cannot answer the difficult questions in life for anyone else though. 

What time of year more typifies the human need to form groups around an ideal or draw dividing lines based on small points of deviation?  We should all try to look at the world like the children in the first lines of the song; except that joy doesn't have to be be here only on Christmas morning and the generosity comes from the world around us, our fellow man, and ourselves.

Christmas
as performed in Tommy

  Mother:
Did you ever see the faces of the children?
They get so excited.
Waking up on Christmas morning
Hours before the winter sun 's ignited.
They believe in dreams and all they mean
Including heaven's generosity.
Peeping round the door
To see what parcels are for free
In curiosity.

And Tommy doesn't know what day it is.
He doesn't know who Jesus was or what praying is.

  Chorus:
How can he be saved?
From the eternal grave.

  Frank:
Tommy can you hear me?
Tommy can you hear me?

  Mother:
Tommy can you hear me?
Tommy can you hear me?

  Mother & Frank:
Tommy can you hear me?
(Can you)Tommy can you hear me? (Can you hear me?)

  Chorus:
How can he be saved?

  Tommy (thoughts):
See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.
See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.

  Mother & Frank:
Tommy can you hear me?
Tommy can you hear me?

  Chorus:
How can he be saved?

  Frank:
Surrounded by his friends he sits so silently
And unaware of anyything.
Lazy eye, he picks his nose, he smiles, he cries
He pokes his tongue at everything.

  Mother: 
I believe in love
But how can men who've never seen
Light be enlightened.
Only if he's cured
Will his spirit's future level ever heighten.

  Frank:
And Tommy doesn't know what day it is.

  Mother
He doesn't know who Jesus was or what praying is.

  Chorus
How can he be saved?
From the eternal grave.

Resources:

"Tommy (film)"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_%28film%29

Lyrics
http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/t/thewho4144/christmas197122.html
 
25 Days Of Christmas Angst
Day Song Download/Purchase Info
22 "Christmas" by The Who (from Tommy) Buy the full album:
Tommy
Buy the song:
Christmas
Buy the DVD:

Buy the Blu-Ray:

Amazon Instant Streaming:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
Tommy contains a very disturbing Christmas scene with an equally disturbing song to go with it.
21 "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" by Fred Astaire (from the stop motion classic Santa Claus is Coming to Town)
Buy the DVD:

Amazon Instant Streaming:
Read my blog post for more about this song.
Who is this "Claus" and why is he coming to my town? Did TSA check him out?

Click this link to preview the remaining days of angst or review the previous days:  http://www.carneylentz.com/p/25-days-of-christmas- angst.html
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