1. Believe/2. No Place For The Innocent
What do you believe? What is belief? Why do we have to believe anything at all? Pendragon’s “Believe”, while not heralded as their best album, is definitely one of my favorites because of its incredibly deep conversation on the most natural of human reactions: belief. Nick Barrett (guitarist/vocalist) offers some insight into his own heart here, while also pining about the human condition.
The first two songs on this album are called “Believe” and “No Place for the Innocent”. The former is really just an intro into the later. The main idea here is that this world is designed a certain way. This world, the very fabric of reality, dictates that we must take the plunge into belief every single day. We must have faith in something, whether that is religious or not. “This is no place for the innocent/ This is no place for the broken-hearted/ This is no place for the innocent/ This is no place for the weak, faint-hearted”.
As natural as that may sound, belief is actually a very difficult thing. There is such a large variety of ideas, philosophies, ideals, and so much more that we can get lost in the ocean of human thought. It is so easy to find ourselves drowning in despair over what is right and true, especially when we are being solicited from all sides. This it truly no place for innocent, unwary people. This is a place where you have to grow up, take a stand, and rest in something over which you may not have any control.
“The eyes of the world are upon you/ Watching each move that you make/ I journeyed to find the God of dreams”. Adding insult to injury, not only is belief a hard thing, but the world makes it even worse. Everyone is eyeing you to see if your beliefs line up with societal or religious norms, and they may disparage or dismiss you if they don’t meet you eye to eye on everything. Nick himself lives to find the God of his dreams: a God of love and truth.
3. The Wisdom Of Solomon
Belief is a powerful thing. The third track on “Believe” explores the arrogance and stubbornness inherent in all of us. I think this song might be more appropriate than ever in our modern day social media fires. “It would take the wisdom of Solomon/ To answer all your questions/ I could fake all that you want to hear/ But you cannot change my thoughts”. Indeed, it seems nigh unto impossible to change anyone’s mind, no matter the strength of the argument you present. It just seems futile.
And so, we slowly are gaining more and more sects that believe different things, and so we keep dividing ourselves further and further. None of these people are willing to consider other viewpoints or to empathize with other perspectives. Instead, they “throw common sense and reason to the wolves” and “spew arrogance and junk” in this never ending crusade to guard their sensitive little minds. They don’t believe that anyone else has a valid idea or belief, but they have never really analyzed their own, either.
It goes even further than that, unfortunately. This isn’t just ignorance. No, they insist that “black be white be black”, hurling hate and fear at anyone who will listen. They ramble on like a zombie or a robot about their ideology, ignoring any evil that is pointed out or any problems in their twisted thoughts. They can’t see any evil or hear any evil in their own ideas.
So, what are my thoughts here? One of the strengths of any theory or belief is that it is falsifiable. In other words, if you can present counterarguments to your own beliefs, your theories are actually stronger, not weaker. This fact seems completely lost in the fog nowadays, unfortunately. No one really analyzes their own ideas. No one tries to consider other ideas or to perform some measure of introspection on their own mind, agenda, or motivations. Socrates would be ashamed. “It would take the wisdom of Solomon/ To end this futile game”.
4. The Wishing Well
The Wishing Well: For Your Journey
“Destination unknown/ To steer this great ship through time and space/ Through the cold and dark abyss”. Tracks 4-7 on Pendragon’s “Believe” are one song titled “The Wishing Well”. This is a track that I have been considering for years now, and I think that I have a good angle on it. I hope I’m right. Oh, yeah, it’s going to be a long track to cover, too.
In this confusing and blighted mess we call life, there are many roads to choose and many paths to seek. As we all stumble along trying to find truth and right, there may be an option that many of us have never considered: In the quest for knowledge and advantage, many of us never consider happiness as having any true value. When it comes to mankind, what has the most value? What is the most important to our well being?
Nick’s lyrics here celebrate humanity at its very core and heart. He explores the proverbial collective wishing welling that collects all of the prayers and dreams from every day people all over the planet. What is contained within? What do we actually want out of life? Most of us feel like we are free falling into a great abyss; into the unknown. And in some ways, we actually are. What or who can we trust for guidance? “Are we falling into free-fall/ Set the controls and steer that great ship Mankind/ Through the black holes past the asteroids/ To safety”.
Although the song doesn’t necessarily give the answers, it gives us a map to find them. When we truly live life, the most important things are never being right or having the most knowledge. It’s the small, beautiful moments; from holding your lover’s heart in your hands to growing old with the ones you love to following your heart above all else; that really matter. When the world finally crumbles to dust and time winds to a standstill, it is love and the beauty of human diversity that will remain; no matter the political party you supported or the choices you made.
You might well be wrong/ Is it better to be happy or be right/ Never let those eyes twinkle out/ Just always walk in the light/ Carry the crazy, the wild/ The excitable, the child/ And when you’ve fallen to your knees/ And your eyes are full of tears/ It’s time to make things new/ Listen to your heart/ I beg you, please”.
The Wishing Well: Sou’ By Sou’west
“As the first snowflakes fell/ The toys in the window cast their spell/ On children whose eyes sparkle in the night/ Laying down to sleep perchance to dream/ Nothing left but ashes just a case/ A date a name”. Human happiness: That mysterious goal of all peoples everywhere, and it often is found in the strangest of places.
Part two of “The Wishing Well” presents us with a dichotomy. This contract is between the gentlest of human desires as opposed to the inevitability of death and ruin. Objectively, it seems like nothing to study at all, but being subjectively involved in the human experience you will find so much more.
You will find wonder and fear. You will find peace and strife. You will love and hate. You will find humanity. And in that humanity, whether it involves life or death, there is a certain amount of beauty, as profane as that sounds. The point along the way, then, is the journey itself. The most meaning is found in the interactions and relationships that make us the most human.
But there are people who want to make it more about who knows more and who has the most money. These sharks come in all shades, from religious to legalistic to corporate. It takes heart and passion and courage to defeat these sharks. We have to band together, to wear a little enemy blood on our faces, and to love each other in order to navigate these treacherous waters: It takes an adventurous spirit and collective effort to keep our humanity as well as the feelings and image of God that come with that. Together, we can throw a coin in the ol’ wishing well and make our dreams come true.
The Wishing Well: We Talked
This third part of The Wishing Well is summed up rather succinctly, as it simply follows from the deeper thoughts in the first two parts. Nick discusses life here, plain and simple. Life is love and war. Life is rich and poor. Life is adolescence and maturity. Life is choices and indecision. Humans live life everyday, making choices that may be bad or good. Who knows? But the important thing here is that they need to live life, regardless of the past.
“I saw coloured lights hanging from the trees/ Celebrating who we are/ This memory’s stayed with me/ But if you wonder exactly who you are/ The dancing the bourgeois nights the music set us free” How few of us know exactly who we are! We know what we enjoy, but we search everywhere else to find ourselves.
Decision after decision, choice after choice; humanity inches closer to destruction as we ignore those things that make us human in the first place. We ignore those important issues and the pains of others, sometimes living in the moment too often, but sometimes not living in the moment enough, either. But rather than taking action, we just talk. We just ramble on about what could be, rather than doing what is needed.
“Question everything/ Believe nothing/ We talked music/ We talked nothing”.
The Wishing Well: Two Roads
The final part of The Wishing Well is honestly one of the most touching and beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. “Two roads entwined and never ending/ Two souls upon each other are depending/ And in my mind my heart and in my heart new words”. The words here are even more emotional when you understand Nick’s struggles through his divorce that had occurred not too long before this album. “Two Roads” is an ode that takes the dreams and prayers of the first few parts of the song, and applies it to the private love affair between husband and wife.
These two are not just lovers, but also partners in living life. They depend on each other, and lean on the strengths of the other. “And in my mind, my heart and in my heart, new words/ Her thoughts floating like an iceberg/ His such a logical and practical mind bend/ Keep this safe for your journey home”. She provides the volume and emotion, and he provides the objectivity. Both are need to get through life’s obstacles. And they complement each other perfectly in every other way.
And so, these two people on two different roads meet and love one another. They find themselves and all their hopes and dreams in one another. That is a beautiful thing. In the end, we realize that this track is itself Nick’s hope and dream. He hopes that one day he will have the depth and ideal that this relationship impresses upon his mind. This is the coin he himself tosses in the wishing well.
5. Learning Curve
“Warriors of the search”. The fifth song on Pendragon’s “Believe” concerns something with which we are all very familiar: personal mistakes. This is a song about that search for the right path and way of living, only to fail and make mistakes again and again. It’s the “Learning Curve” of life, so to speak.
Just like the main theme of this album, though, Nick asserts that the journey is more important than the destination. The beauty lies not in arriving, but in the struggle to arrive. “It’s about faith/ It’s about time and space/ It’s about everything in your life you must face/ It’s about life/ It’s about love/ It’s about death/ It’s about all you can feel/ And all that’s unseen”. Humans experience so much through this reality and life, everything from taking the plunge into belief to falling again and again into depression and failure. It’s about loving and dying; feeling and faith. And that’s the best thing about it.
“So be patient on your journey/ These things need time and space/ The learning curve is slow I know/ But will click into place”. Have patience with yourself. Have a little grace for others, too. Give yourself time to grow into the person that God wants you to be. The journey—this life—is your training ground, and you have no idea how many people you’ve probably influenced or helped when you considered yourself a failure. In your failure, others may have found inspiration or relation: You never know how you will be used to affect the world. We all have stories, like open books. We all bear the scars of what we’ve seen and felt. Give yourself time. Give yourself space.
6. The Edge Of The World
“Sometimes I feel like a twig floating down a stream/ Don’t know where it’s going/ Don’t know what it means/ And that stream always ends up at the sea/ And it’s strange as this is where I wanna be/ And I know I’ll find those of my kind/ To share these words and rhyme”. So far in this album, Nick has taken us through a logical step by step understanding of life. First, we have to understand that we need to believe something. Next, we have to see that our own beliefs might not always be 100% true, if at all. Third, we have to understand that the beauty of life lies in the journey and diversity of humanity, not in being correct about everything. Fourth, we have to give ourselves a little grace, as we are part of this great human tapestry. Finally, in this track “The Edge of the World”, Nick suggest that we should just let it all go.
Give into the great collage that is humanity. We are all lost and hopeless in one way or another, and it’s time to find our place with each other, not in our division. Can we join together? Can we find happiness in the same ocean together?
Nick ends the album on a personal note. He wants this unity. He wants the intensely personal relationship with just one person that he mentions in The Wishing Well, but here he stands looking over the edge at that world he wants so badly. She’s still there. But she’s a million miles away. What obstacles can be overcome? What joy and happiness can be had? Where do you find yourself when you can reach that destination? He realizes he has to step back and find his home in the here and now, not in some dream. Find joy in your journey, even if you never truly find your way.
“Sometimes I feel like a twig in a stream/ Heading out to sea/ It’s then I know I’ll never be alone/ It’s then I know I’m home”.