Music Commentary: The Tao of Rush

Written by Brant David

Since I’m one of those music geeks who finds Rush music to be the soundtrack of his life, who finds that all things in life can be related to some Rush song and who lists Neil Peart as one of the great major poets of the English language, I decided to write my own commentary on the Rush lyrics that were selected to make up The Tao of Rush. — In my excitement about the forthcoming release of the Rush R40 box set, I’ve been reading about all things Rush and came across this awesome little thing called The Tao of Rush. It’s actually a blog post at CBC Music, made using a slideshow. Slideshows are cool and not for hoseheads, eh?

Since I’m one of those music geeks who finds Rush music to be the soundtrack of his life, who finds that all things in life can be related to some Rush song and who lists Neil Peart as one of the great major poets of the English language, I decided to write my own commentary on the Rush lyrics that were selected to make up The Tao of Rush. Here we go.

Eric Lifeson of Rush

Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Rush to Live By

Know your place in life/Is where you want to be.

These opening lines from the Ayn Rand-inspired song “Anthem” only make real sense in the context of the lines that follow next: “Don’t let them tell you that/’You owe it all to me’.”

Yes, in spite of what certain “men who hold high places” (see below) choose to try to shove into our brains, we who have creative careers really did build that. We who own successful businesses really did build that. We know where we wanted to eventually be and we took the risks, put in the sweat equity and the dirt time to get there.

Saying to us, “You didn’t build that. You owe it all to us in government,” is like telling a bird that it didn’t really build its nest because it didn’t grow the tree in which it rests, or because it didn’t create the materials from which that nest was made.

And the men who hold high places/Must be the ones who start/To mould a new reality.

Today’s Neil Peart may not agree with these lines written by a far younger Neil Peart, since they might imply that those in government are supposed to start moulding the new reality. (We’re using Canadian spelling for this one, alright, eh?) However, the lines could also mean those individuals who have great influence in society — the wealthy, creatives or high profile business owners. Of course, the new reality is meant to be moulded so that it’s “closer to the heart.” The heart of human passion and concern, and the heart of matters — in short, reality.

If you choose not to decide,/You still have made a choice.

To me, this is one of Peart’s greatest quotes. How many people do we see all around us decrying the responsibility of making choices, crying out that we should have fewer choices (less freedom), wanting to let government or celebrities in commercials make choices for them, eschewing decision making? Well, much as they try these people can’t get out of it: as Pythagoras wrote, “Choices are the hinges of destiny.” And even if you choose not to decide, to be wishy-washy, to refuse to have conviction, to be pressured into compromising your values — you have still made your choice.

Video: RUSH – Freewill – Live In Holland – HD

We are secrets to each other,/Each one’s life a novel/No-one else has read.

It doesn’t get more truthful than this. Whether it’s awesome or awful, you have lived a story that only you know in full. But rather than force you, and force us all, into isolation, this reality lets us understand each other better when we share our chapters and invite others to do the same. We find commonality when we realize that others, like us, have a unique story, too.

One must put up barriers/To keep oneself intact.

Well, we don’t want to take these words out of context. Neil was writing about the price to be paid for success and stardom. Nevertheless, we all experience the way that people approach us who think that they know us, but they don’t. Strangers try to pass themselves off as long-awaited friends. People are always trying to sell us something. All Roy Rogers sentimentality aside, most people don’t really know us and most never will — even if they’re members of our own family! We need to draw our own personal bright lines as we realize that we don’t owe everybody else a reaching out for their approval. And never let them tell you that because your mind is not for rent, you’re an arrogant jerk.

Video: Rush – Limelight

The more we think we know about,/The greater the unknown.

Another one of my personal favorites that I’ve quoted to others through the years. As we learn more, we also learn how much more there is to learn. The more an astronomer learns about the universe, the bigger and more mysterious the whole universe becomes. Comprehending this lets us avoid the evil of the Dunning & Kruger Effect.

All of us get lost in the darkness;/Dreamers learn to steer by the stars.

If you’re thinking big and seeking to actually live your fantasies, you’re going to get lost in a deep, dark forest or an empty desert somewhere. It’s inevitable. Everyone loses their way, everyone takes a wrong turn in some way, shape or form. But the dreamers — the visionaries, the big thinkers — they just learn how to navigate the darkness. They look up instead of down. And they’re the ones who get to live the lives they’ve imagined.

Video: Rush – The Pass – Live in Dallas 2012 – Clockwork Angels Tour

We’re only immortal for a limited time.

Ironically enough, this is true even for the gods and Tolkien’s Elves. Those who are immortal can, by definition, die. They simply are never going to die of old age. Oh, how many adolescents and twenty-somethings are there who need to learn that they’re only immortal for a limited time? When you know that you, too, can die, your life becomes much more precious. And richer. And more focused.

Though we might have precious little,/It’s still precious.

Speaking of things that are precious … Imagine if you’ve only got $10 in the whole world. That’s a precious $10, isn’t it? Imagine if you’re homeless and all of your possessions are contained in the big leather bag that you have to carry around with you. That’s the most precious leather bag on Earth, isn’t it? Think about this: are you really your things, or are you something more than they are?

The world is, the world is,/Love and life are deep;/Maybe as his eyes are wide.

One of the more mysterious sections from what I regard as my personal theme song. Well, when you approach the world as a wide-eyed peaceful warrior, you see the miraculous all around you. The world just is. It is what it is, it isn’t “this” or “that” or “the other thing.” And what’s deeper than love or life itself? Ah, it’s zen in the life of Tom Sawyer.

Video: Rush – Tom Sawyer (Official Music Video – 1981

So, Grasshoppah, there you have it. Some Rush wisdom for the ages. Enjoy.

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Featured Image: Geddy-henhouse” by Ziggee at en.wikipediaOwn work (Original caption: “I, Adrian Buss, took and own this photo and give others permission to use it as described in the attached licencing statement.”). Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Brant David McLaughlin — aka Brant David — is a Milford, NJ-based senior writer for us here at aNewDomain. Follow him at his +BrantDavid Google+ page. Email him at