A few months ago (back in September 2010, to be exact, when this post first took on life), when I was asked to speak to the general congregation for the first time at my church, I was trying to come up with a phrase to describe someone who’s a slave to his work.  The phrase “slave to the grind” popped into my head right away, as if it’s as common a phrase as “pie in the sky” or “stuff my dad says.”

But when I was going over the notes with A, she didn’t feel as “connected” to the phrase, and didn’t think it was that common or popularly understood (she suggested “The Rat Race”). I was baffled, since she was an English major (and still is, I suppose.. once an English major, always an English major), an excellent writer, and generally knows a lot more than I do.  So I went to my best Internet friend, Google, and asked her where the phrase came from.

Turns out “Slave to the Grind” was an album by Skid Row, a hair-metal band from the ’80s.  Yes, I listened to metal.  A lot of it.  The DJ played Skid Row’s “I Remember You” during my first ever slow dance in 8th grade, during which I managed to mangle the poor girl’s toes (I can’t remember her name, just that she had curly blond hair). But I digress.  (I notice I tend to use parentheses a lot. I also just learned that you’re only supposed to use one space after the period, not two.)

All of a sudden, I recalled all the controversy in the ’90s about how heavy metal music was bad for you, satanic, had hidden messages, and made kids kill themselves. There were arguments about how the music we listen to influences us. There were allegations that if you played “Stairway to Heaven” backwards, you’d hear a satanic message (and this website actually took samples and play them in reverse for you.. you be the judge). At the time, I was under the firm belief that music was music, and that we listened to it for entertainment, and that’s that.

Now that I’m older, and hopefully wiser, I’ve come to believe that the media we ingest does indeed affect the way we think. For the 20 years since I’d first listened to Skid Row, the album name has been lying dormant in my mind, and then out of nowhere, surges back into my consciousness. And that’s just the album name. What about all the lyrics from that album (or any of the other metal albums I’d listened to)? The ones that promote anger, rebellion, death, and all those other ingredients you won’t find in family oriented media like SpongeBob Squarepants? Would this possibly explain why I have such a bad temper?

Matthew 15:18 tells us, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.” What have you been putting into your heart all these years? Are you aware that one day, without warning, those things may come back out?

I personally think the hidden backwards messages are more coincidence than malicious acts of brainwashing. But maybe one day scientists will reveal that our brains are actually capable of processing audio in reverse. Which makes me wonder – why do I have so much trouble processing what people tell me in plain speech?

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