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Single Serving:
Behind Blue Eyes – Pete Townsend & The Who
By Michael Dalton

For many rock music fans, the term “rock opera” is closely associated with Pete Townsend and The Who.  A rock opera or musical tells a story through a series of related songs.  It’s comparable to today’s concept albums, with songs built around a theme.
 
The Who popluarized the concept with the release of Tommy in 1969.  Quadrophenia came four years later, and a mini rock opera, Wine & Glass, was released recently.
 
“Behind Blue Eyes” was the theme song for the rock opera that got away.  Pete Townshend wrote it to describe the villain, Jumbo.  Intended for the “Lifehouse Project,” which was going to be similar to Tommy and Quadrophenia, it landed on the album Who’s Next. 

 No one knows what it’s like
 To be the bad man
 To be the sad man
 Behind blue eyes
The mournful singing and the haunting sounds of the opening part convey self-pity— a feeling or disposition to which even the best can succumb.  The Old Testament prophet Elijah serves as an example.  He served God during the wicked reign of King Ahab and his infamous wife Jezebel.  Unlike Elijah, Jezebel had no fear of God.  She personally saw to the execution of as many of God’s prophets as she could find.
 
Now Elijah wasn’t a bad man, but he became a sad man.  Ironically, it happened after a great victory.  He, or it might be better to say, God, came out the winner in a contest with 450 prophets of Baal.  Elijah killed the losers, which did nothing to enhance his standing with Jezebel.  When she heard the news, she sent a cryptic message to Elijah that you could paraphrase as, “You’re a dead man.”
 
You could say that Elijah lost his head before Jezebel could take it from him.  He ran for his life and finally sat down under a juniper tree where he prayed to die.  

How does one go from fearlessly confronting 450 false prophets to fearing for your life?  Let yourself become depleted and worn-out and you will understand.  J.H. Jowett writes, “That is a peril against which we need to be on our guard.  Our spiritual maladies are strengthened by our bodily neglects.  There are some forms of fearfulness which are directly attributable to our bodies being ‘out of sorts.’  Weakness engenders doubt . . . Ill-fed nerves foster nervousness and the ten thousand fears which portray a discordant and chaotic world.  Many a man has the nightmare that his public usefulness has ended, and the cause of the nightmare is a body which is clamoring for a little more care.  Even Mr. Spurgeon wrote out his resignation more than once, under the depressing conviction that his ministry was over; but it was only a rebellious body which was colouring everything blue.  One night’s sleep, and in the morning his purposed resignation was committed to the flames!”   The smallest thing can seem insurmountable when you are just too tired for one more challenge. 
 
Like the man behind blue eyes, our outlook can be bleak when the world has worn us down and we lack the faith to see through renewed eyes.   
 
God sent an angel to care for Elijah.  He ate, drank and slept before he did anything else.  Even servants of God need proper rest and nutrition.
 
Later when confronted by God, Elijah claimed to be the only faithful one left.  It’s as if he was saying:

 No one knows what it’s like
 To be hated 
Sometimes I think that Christians know better than anyone what it’s like to be hated.  Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19 ESV).  Whether it’s on the job, at school, or in social interactions and daily life, Christians are hated at times for no apparent reason.  We all experience people who don’t like us, but this is resentment and animosity towards what we represent.  Those who reject God persecute those who seek to please Him.  Especially in these times, Christians are learning what it means to be hated for following Christ.
 
It’s easy to fall prey to a siege mentality when it feels like everyone is against us.  No one knows what it’s like we think.  But the Scripture says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13 ESV).  However we may be tempted, it’s a temptation that is common.  We are tempted in ways that others have been tempted.  
 I have hours, only lonely
 My love is vengeance
 That’s never free
It’s after this lyric that the singer gives vent to rage.  Self-pity and anger are often alternate responses.  In Michael Phillips’ A Perilous Proposal, Micah Duff explains to Jake that this is how people often respond to hardship. “Anger’s not a pretty thing. It makes people miserable inside. Then there’s other folks that get sad and discouraged at all the hardships that come in their lives. Maybe they don’t get angry, but they go around being sad and miserable and letting people know it. They want people to feel sorry for them, and that’s not too pretty to see either.” 
 
A passage in the Book of James makes it clear that anger, like self-pity, is a wrong response to the injustices of life.  “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires” (James 1:19-20 ESV).  James condemns violent acts and the rhetoric that incites them.

Years ago, a former neighbor in a unit adjoining mine, swept-out the cigarette butts in the back of his pick-up truck.  My unit is located at the end of a driveway we shared.  Matt had backed his truck to the end of the driveway.  As he proceeded with his sweeping, the scattered remains fell in an area just outside my entryway.  Aside from being an eyesore, I was angry at what seemed a deliberate attempt to provoke me.  Our relationship had irreversibly gone bad after I talked to him about having a relationship with God.  

One night he was visibly upset after his live-in girl friend told him that she wanted to end their relationship.  I could see that he was drunk and was obviously hurting.  I tried to encourage him toward a relationship with Jesus, but he just became mad.  He even commanded his pit bull to attack me.  Fortunately, the dog went no further than to jump up and lay a paw on me.  After that night, my relationship with Matt was all down hill.  He only resented me more than he already had.

I saw the cigarette butts as a purposeful act of aggression, but later I realized that it might not have been the case.  The Human Resource manager of a medium-sized bank once said to me that most people are unaware of how their words and actions impact others.  While the sensitive suffer, callous people give little thought to the misery they leave behind.

As I swept up the remains of those cigarettes, I wanted to take them and deposit them at his front door, but I knew that an action like that would have been far from what God wanted.  It would have made the situation worse.  I noticed later that he never again swept his truck bed out at the end of the driveway.  When he heard or saw me sweeping up those remains, did he realize that he had made a mistake?

 No one bites back as hard
 On their anger
 None of my pain and woe
 Can show through
I suppressed the smoldering anger inside of me that day.  But it probably led to sadness later on, which is a greater temptation for me.  Dealing with strong emotions in unhealthy ways can lead to grief, despair and depression.

I long to respond to injustice with meekness.  Too often I react to perceived injustices against me.  I get sad or occasionally, I want to lash out.  Both responses fall short of the righteous life that God wants me to live and the example set by Jesus.

In Dream of Life Michael Phillips writes, “True humility is more immediately apparent within the female of the species.  Meekness is rarer within the masculine temperament than it ought to be, than it was intended to be—the humility of seeking not one’s own and counting others better than oneself.  The Man who was the supreme example of that manhood . . . has sadly been neither Master nor relational paradigm for the greater part of the humanity he came to seek and to save.

“There are, however, a few rare man souls who count the meekness of Christlikeness the only worthwhile life-ambition.  When such ones meet on the foundation of manly humility, their shared masculinity rises to the high realm of personhood, a realm where rivalry and ambition give way to love as it was meant to flow among strong men.” 
 
It’s tragic that seemingly so few aspire to true Christlike humility.  The alternative is the hopelessness and rage embodied so well in this song.     

Sadness and anger are like two twins that can lurk behind blue eyes.  Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, The Who’s singer, both have blue eyes.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
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