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Taylor Swifts new song, Anti-Hero- strikes a cord. Her newest album, Midnights as a homage to her suffering. Considering that for the first time in history, one artist dominated the entire Billboard Top Ten, I would say her album was paying homage to the suffering of many.

She explained, in a PopBuzz interview, that this was her favorite song that she ever wrote because it was the deepest dive into her insecurities and fears. 

I am not much on pop culture, but I was alerted to this song and her album, and wanted to share this with you because I felt it would resonate deeply, for a few reasons, of which I will discuss. 

Quickly, let's just look at a few sets of lyrics to get the idea of the landscape of inner suffering then we can deep dive.

The first set of lyrics just dive right in with feeling remorse and depression; it is deep in suffering.

I have this thing where I get older but just never wiser
Midnights become my afternoons
When my depression works the graveyard shift
All of the people I've ghosted stand there in the room

This next set speaks of lack of self trust, fear of abandonment and circular struggle.

I should not be left to my own devices
They come with prices and vices
I end up in crisis (tale as old as time)
I wake up screaming from dreaming
One day I'll watch as you're leaving
'Cause you got tired of my scheming
(For the last time)

There's a few sets that I've left out but wanted to. highlight this grouping; it speaks to her feeling guilt and shame, and and realizing that character and connection is the meaning of life.

Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism
Like some kind of congressman? (Tale as old as time)
I wake up screaming from dreaming
One day I'll watch as you're leaving
And life will lose all its meaning
(For the last time)

Again, I left out a little but jumping into this set, this speaks of dreams of being used and also, feeling guilt that she isn't doing enough for others perhaps.

I have this dream my daughter in-law kills me for the money
She thinks I left them in the will
The family gathers 'round and reads it and then someone screams out
"She's laughing up at us from hell"

This next set is a chorus that is present a few times in the song. It winces of self-loathing but also a hint of hopelessness.

It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me
It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me
It's me, hi, everybody agrees, everybody agrees

In the PopBuzz interview mentioned earlier, Swift describes herself as feeling troubled and not feeling like "a person". If we look toward Jung, we might say she is feeling like a persona, a set of actions or what she does, as opposed to a person, who she is.

In Zen Buddhism, lack of connection or shall I say, lack of awareness of connection, causes us discomfort and suffering. Her entire song and album for that matter, is an outline of varying ways that she feels disconnect.

But what about the fact that the entire top ten of Billboard was filled with her angst-ridden album? Anti-Hero was number one on the list. What does this say about the demographic that enjoys pop music? Does that demographic speak for most everyone?

Fear is the very root of suffering in Buddhism; for me, I might make an assumption that many people from preteen to mid-life, even those who do not participate in enjoying pop music, are feeling fear, disconnect and suffering.

Don't assume that just because you don't feel fear or suffering that you are free of the suffering itself. We don't always understand the fear and because of our lack of understanding, we don't feel or respond to the fear.  

We are inter-conneced; if the pandemic taught us anything it is that it did not matter what side of the vaccine, masks or social distancing you stood on, we all suffered in some way. So, while some were saying that did not fear because they were vaccinated others were saying that they did not fear because they had an immune system; but in whole there was a lot of fear, suffering and anger from both.  

Just because we don't feel the fear personally as in an attack on ourselves, doesn't mean we are not suffering as a society.

Even when we know fear exists, it persists. We might try to categorize it, analyze it, judge it, box it up, put a bow on it- but it is still fear. Until we understand the origin and address that origin, we can't move or remove the fear easily.

When we harness the energy of the fear instead of the fear harnessing us, we can manifest the power of transformation. Lyrics like Anti-Hero are more of an awareness of suffering but not origin of suffering, thus remind us that we are suffering but not address the path to healing.

Fear is a pain; suffering is the tension from the pain.

I remember my mother was in pain with her cancer during her last weeks of life. When she let go of trying to stay alive, and and we were able to have our last words of love to each other, comfort each other in eternal love- her pain was present but tension was gone; she released suffering and looked calm and peaceful. Her last days before passing were quite gentle.

So, in the words of Taylor Swift, summarizing, we are the problem.  

Yet- we can also, be the answer.


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