Under Pressure

David Bowie's death inspired this meditation

One song on my iPod that I listen to often is one I downloaded several years ago, its lyrics striking me through several trials in my life. Perhaps this is why I was in such a reflective mood yesterday when hearing of David Bowie passed awayUnder Pressure I suspect to be one of his best works.

"It's the terror of knowing what this world is about."

“The terror of knowing what this world is about.”

I can’t recall what the conflict was years ago, just that I was feeling the weight of the world. I had pressures in my life—whatever they were, I felt like there was no escape. I was Under Pressure. When the song came on the radio, I soaked in the lyrics and wept.

Three heavy weights in the lyrics hit me like bricks. Somewhat of a syllogism of thought, the complex statement shows what is wrong in our fallen world. Consider (numbers added):

Pressure! Pushing down on me
Pressing down on you, no man ask for
Under pressure (1) that burns a building down
(2) Splits a family in two
(3) Puts people on streets

The minor premise: (1) unexpected pressure. The major premise: (2) turmoil and deception. The conclusion: (3) being cast out. I didn’t ask for this—no one does—but the pressure was there.

Unexpected Pressure

Don’t you feel pressure in your life? I do, and the pressure doesn’t seem to ever end. The older I get, the greater my problems. Pressure! I’m afraid it isn’t going away:

It’s the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Scream, “Let me out!”

Some appear to escape pressure. I’m not sure why, only sure that I have not. I wish things went more smoothly, problems didn’t nip at my heals, and that life would be smooth riding. They’re just not.

What’s worse are the lies in my head that keep me under pressure, which is my second weight.

Turmoil and Deception

I have a few friends who think my problems are avoidable. They give me unwelcome advice on how to relieve my pressures. Since they don’t struggle with the same problems, they tell me how to think, live and believe. They’re trying to help, I know, but they do not hold the release to the pressures I’m facing.

Sometimes, I lay out a counter challenge, and it upsets them: If you’re life is free from pressure—perfect, punctual, pristine—you aren’t living.” That’s just too much for some to accept. Here is a most certain lie: pressure in life is reflective of some incorrect thinking, somewhat of a curse for not believing properly. In other words, the pressure you feel is reflective of something wrong with you, perhaps something evil or harmful. “Definitely not helpful,” the haters would say.

But the pressure is beautiful and healing and life-changing.

I suppose you can say I’m telling you to “find your inner debater,” which is why I delve my life work into speech and debate. Reach into the margins of life and attempt to understand. I seem to ask for the pressure, seeking out complex issues, and I wrestle through conflicting ideas and beliefs. For some, this is threatening, almost impossible.

The threat of breaking under pressure is too much, but this breaking is where truth waits for us.

Being Cast Out

Allow me to meditate on a few whoppers in my life. Maybe you can identify with:

  • Pressures in business. I have been sabotaged by competing egos (not always competitors, but friends from within), losing sight of the purpose of my self-employment.
  • Failures in parenting. I used to believe crazy things, and I regret adopting ideologies that my oldest children suffered that my youngest are free.
  • Disillusionment in faith. I envy those who seem to have unshakeable faith, but I doubt the direction of my faith often, sometimes even thinking doubt is evil.
  • Stubborn resistance for counsel. I’ve submitted to counseling, but not without fighting it first. I’ve never regretted it, so why did I ever resist?

I could go on and on, really. This is life. Something in me wants to hide the pressure, put on cork on it and pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s a facade: “I’m an awesome parent with a successful business and a rock-solid faith who needs no counsel.” What crap. My raw, exposed, gut-honest reality is perhaps no different than anyone else’s: I’m screaming, “Let me out!”

There are many ways out, none of them fulfilling. You can “crack” under the pressure. But there is only one way, a most excellent way.

Insanity laughs under pressure we’re cracking
Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love, give love?

Changing the Conclusion

Freddie Mercury presses the point: the way out is love. It is another lie that’s tempts me: love isn’t important. I used to think love was “window dressing” to more important things in life. “Insanity laughs” at our attempts to ignore it. Something in me—and this something is dark—wants me to believe that love is for sissies. You might say that my inner debate is “surrender to the dark side” and let love be left for those idiot flower children and flaky quacks.

This is siding on the error of fear, not caution, succumbing to depression, self-doubt, blaming others, etc. Clumsily, I’ve attempted to find a valve to the pressure. But time and time again, only one pressure actually worked…

Love. Old-fashioned love.

‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure

I listened to the song in its entirety again yesterday morning, and again—like so many times before—I got choked up. Listening to it a-capella will bring you to tears. Thank you to the deceased David Bowie and Freddie Mercury for being honest about your pressure.

And I recorded a very good podcast from it. I reflected on the “people on streets” lyric and was reminded of Patrick McConlogue and his excellent admonition to the attendees at the For Action Conference in 2014. It’s for debaters, but it can really be for anyone. Listen to it here:

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • mkeddy

    I’m nodding my head agreeing with you. I admire Bowie for prioritizing his family in his later years, for raising his son when mom ran off. For having what appears to be a solid, loving, healthy marriage to his second wife, and shutting the nosy world out of his family and home. Also one of my favorite songs of his.

  • Melody Vig

    I enjoyed this post, I agree that Under Pressure brings intense emotions to the surface. I remember hearing the song on just a regular day at work a few years ago, and I suddenly had to excuse myself to go cry in the bathroom for about ten minutes. Although I am saddened that he is no longer among us pyschically, today I have been feeling the love of David Bowie and an enlightenment I haven’t felt in a long time.