aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Interlude מ: Miss American Pie

April 22, 2017
San Jose

A piece of onion flew past my head. This was a common occurrence when I argued with Erica while she was trying to cook. Today we were arguing about the lyrics of American Pie. She thought it was about rock n’ roll. I thought it was about Christian soteriology’s claim to supersede the Jewish conception of divine law.

The first stanza was clearly setting up a contrast between the twin poles of song and dance. Song represented divine goodness or mercy. Its first three letters were “son”, corresponding to the second person of the Christian Trinity, and there were the kabbalistic implications from UNSONG and Peter Singer to consider. Dance represented divine justice, because its first three letters were “dan”, and “dan” or “din” is Hebrew for “judgment”, like in the Beth Din or the name Daniel, “judgment of God”.

That wasn’t how I earned the onion, though. I’d earned the onion because of the chorus. He drove a Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry. Well, “shevet” was the Hebrew word for “tribe”, so a Chevy at the levee means the Tribe of Levi, ie the priesthood. John 7:24 says that “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” When the song says that the levee/Levites were dry, it’s pushing the standard Christian line that the Pharisee priests of Jesus’ day had become so obsessed with the Law that they had lost true faith.

Apparently Erica believed this interpretation merited an onion, even though in the very next line they refer to whiskey, which comes from the Irish uisce beatha, meaning “water of life”, which is practically an exact match for the John quote. I had a tough audience.

Bill Dodd walked in through the unlocked door, saw the table empty but for myself. “Am I early?” he asked.

“Everyone else is late, as usual,” said Erica. “Please, save me. Aaron was just trying to convince me that American Pie is about Christian soteriology.”

Then she had to explain the whole conversation thus far to Bill, and then Bill protested that it was obviously about the history of rock and roll, even though it clearly wasn’t. “Seriously!” I protested. “The very next stanza starts out with ‘Did you write the Book of Love / Do you have faith in God above / if the Bible tells you so?’ How do you not see that as an attempt to contrast the Old Testament – the Book of the Law – with the New Testament as the Book of Love, offering salvation by faith?”

“Book of Love is a famous rock n’ roll song,” said Bill, “and the very next line is ‘do you believe in rock n’ roll.”

“Exactly!” I told him. “Salvation by faith requires belief in Christ’s resurrection. The most obvious sign of which was that the rock blocking his tomb had been rolled away. Then ‘Can music save your mortal soul?’ Music = song = the Son, as I said before! It’s saying that Christ saves people’s souls! And then dancing real slow is the suspension of divine judgment!”

“I know that you’re in love with him, because I saw you dancing in the gym,” continued Erica. “Where in the New Testament does Christ dance in a gym?”

“Dancing means divine judgment!” I repeated. “And ‘gym’ is Greek for naked. There’s a perfectly clear part of the Bible that links nakedness to divine judgment, and that’s Genesis 3! The Garden of Eden narrative! We know that God is in love with humanity because even despite the justice of punishing original sin, He chooses not to do so.”

“You both kicked off your shoes,” protested Bill.

“Exodus 3:5,” I said. “And the LORD said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”

Erica threw another onion slice at me. It missed by half an inch.

“Look,” said Bill. “You can fit individual pieces to relevant Bible verses. I’ll even give you that you mostly stuck to the Jesus theme. But the song as a whole only makes sense in the context of rock n’ roll. For example, just after the shoes part, it mentions a pink carnation, which was what young men traditionally wore to dance halls.”

“And which also contains ‘incarnation’ as a substring. You don’t think that an Incarnation could possibly have anything to do with…”

The door opened. Zoe Farr came in. “Hey guys. What are you yelling about? I could hear you all the way out in the driveway.”

“AARON IS TRYING TO SAY THAT AMERICAN PIE IS ABOUT JESUS,” yelled Erica. “HE IS SAYING THAT THE CHEVY AT THE LEVY IS THE TRIBE OF LEVITES AND THE PINK CARNATION IS THE INCARNATION. YOU NEED TO MAKE HIM STOP.”

“Calm down,” said Zoe. “That sounds kind of fun. Even though I think I read somewhere that American Pie is about the history of rock n’ roll. It even mentions the Rolling Stones at one point.”

“Okay,” I said. “Fine. You want to talk Rolling Stones? Let’s talk Rolling Stones. The relevant stanza begins ‘for ten years we’ve been on our own.’ In Bible prophecy, a day of God represents a year – this is why the seventy weeks of Daniel correspond to the 490 years after Daniel’s own time. So ten years by that conversion equals 3650 years. The Seder Olam Rabbah dates the creation of the world as 3761 BC, so in Biblical time the birth of Christ is about ten years and three months from Creation. That’s not a coincidence because nothing is ever a – ”

“And the Rolling Stones?” asked Bill.

“For the love of God, I already told you,” I said. “Resurrection of Christ. Matthew 28:2. ‘And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door.'”

“Wait…” said Zoe.

“No, you wait,” I said. “Let’s go over exactly what happens in the rest of that verse. The King is looking down – obvious reference to God entering the world, especially paired with the incarnation part earlier. Jester has clear phonetic resemblance to “Jesus”, sounds even better if you use the original “Yeshua”. He’s wearing a coat borrowed from James Dean. But we know the root ‘dan’ or ‘din’ means ‘justice’ in Hebrew. So ‘James Dean’ deciphers to ‘James the Just’, who is described in Acts as ‘the brother of Jesus’. Most commentators reconcile this with Jesus’ supposed heavenly descent by saying he was a half-brother from Mary. So James the Just represents Jesus’ human bloodline, which means the ‘coat borrowed from James Dean’ is the human form that He incarnates into, like a coat. So we have God coming down into the world and taking human form, and even having a human soul – a “voice that came from you and me”. Then he ‘steals a thorny crown’ – I hope I don’t have to explain that one to you. What happens then? ‘The courtroom is adjourned; no verdict is returned.’ The Law is supplanted; divine punishment is suspended. This would all be super obvious if you would just stop with your stupid rock n’ roll obsession.”

“The very next verse mentions John Lennon!” Erica protested.

“Lennon! Lennon is a Avgad cipher for Moses! Lamed – nun – nun, move all the letters one forward, mem – samech – samech spells ‘Moses’. And Marx. This was all in that article you rejected for the Standard. Marx means ‘man of war’, so it’s a reference to God. Moses is reading a book on God – the Torah. The whole thing is happening “while Lennon read a book on Marx”, ie along with it. Jesus comes not to supplant the law but to fulfill it. And then! A quartet is practicing in the park – that’s the Four Evangelists. Dirges in the dark the day the music died. The music is the song is Jesus. The day the music died is the day Jesus died. Mark 15:33, ‘And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.’ They’re singing dirges in the dark because Jesus just died and a supernatural darkness descended over the land.”

“What descended over the land?” asked Ally Hu. She had just come in. I had been so intent in correcting my friends’ misperceptions about American Pie that I hadn’t even noticed her.

“Supernatural darkness,” I said. “I’m explaining American Pie to these guys. We were at the part about singing dirges in the dark. It’s a reference to the supernatural darkness that covered the land after Jesus’ crucifixion.”

“I do not know so much about American culture,” said Ally, “but I thought that this song was about a history of rock n’ roll.”

“THAT’S WHAT WE’VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL HIM,” said Erica, at the same time I muttered “Et tu, Ally?”

“Exactly,” said Bill. “For example, the next verse references Helter-Skelter, Eight Miles High, and The Birds. Helter-Skelter is a Beatles song, the Byrds are a rock band, and Eight Miles High is a song by the Byrds.”

“The verse goes,” I said, “Helter-skelter, in the summer swelter, the birds flew off with a fallout shelter eight miles high and falling fast. Is there a rock band called ‘Fallout Shelter’? Is there a Grammy-award winning song by that name?”

“Not everything has to…”

“Everything has to!” I said. “Nothing is ever a coincidence. Look. The Bible contains a clear example of a fallout shelter related to divine judgment. Noah’s Ark. God decided to destroy the world for its wickedness, and Noah built something to survive the apocalypse. That’s a fallout shelter. It’s even eight miles high. The floodwaters covered the earth to a depth higher than the highest mountain. Everest is six miles high, the floodwaters had to be above that, leave a little margin of error, that’s eight miles. And falling fast, because after forty days and nights God opened the portals of the deep and the waters flowed back in. According to the story, Noah sent forth a raven and a dove to see if they could find dry land. In other words, the birds flew off, with the fallout shelter eight miles high and falling fast. The raven can’t find any dry land. But the dove can. It lands, fowl on the grass. The jester is Jesus is the Son is the Song is divine mercy, but it’s on the sidelines in a cast because at this point divine mercy has been suspended – even wounded – and divine judgment allowed to have free rein.”

“Oh wow,” said Zoe.

“You skipped the part about the players trying for a forward pass,” said Bill.

“The players are all the people and animals, trying to pass their genes forward to the next generation. The marching band which is trying to interfere – well, think about it. There are two interesting facets of a marching band. They play music. And they march. Who does that sound like? Right. The angels. The heavenly choirs and the heavenly hosts. So the players – created mortal beings – are trying to take the field. But the angels and nephilim refuse to yield – they’ve seized control of the earth. So ‘do you recall what was revealed’? How do you say ‘revealed’ in Greek? Right. ‘Apokalypsis’. The angels tried to control the earth and wouldn’t make room for humans, so God called down an apocalypse. That’s why this is in the verse that talks about Noah’s Ark.”

The doorbell rang. It was Eli Foss. “Hey,” he said. “Is dinner…”

“Okay,” I said. “Just so we don’t have to go over this yet again, and I don’t have to answer every one of your dumb complaints in order. The generation lost in space was the generation of the Exodus who were lost in the desert for forty years. The time we were all in one place was Sinai, where according to the rabbis all the souls of Jews past present and future were present for the revelation of the Ten Commandments. Jack is Jacob is Israel is the Israelites. The candlestick is the pillar of fire by night. The Devil is the Devil. A plain that climbs high into the night is a hill or mountain; it’s arguing that the theophany at Sinai naturally concluded on Golgotha. The sacrificial rite was the crucifixion. Satan is laughing with delight because Jesus just died. The girl who sang the blues is Mary Magdalene, who is sitting outside the tomb crying. They ask her for happy news because she’s the first to witness the Resurrection. She smiles and turns away as per Mark 16: “neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.” The sacred store where they had heard the music years before is the Temple, but the music wouldn’t play because the system of Temple sacrifices has been replaced by a direct relationship with God. In the streets the children are screaming and so on because Jesus is dead. The church bells are broken because Jesus is dead; kind of a heavy-handed metaphor, but whatever. The three men I admire most represent the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, exactly like he says. Do any of you have any other questions?”

“What are you talking about?” asked Eli. “Is that American Pie?”

Just then Ana came downstairs, radiant in her white dress.

“Ana!” said Erica. “You have to help us! Aaron is doing this incredibly annoying thing where he says that everything in American Pie is about the Christian version of Biblical history, and he says that the fallout shelter is Noah’s Ark and the pink carnation is the Incarnation and the Chevy at the levee is the tribe of Levi, and the Rolling Stones are the stone rolled away from Jesus tomb, and we keep telling him it’s about rock and roll and he won’t listen and you’re the only one who can ever make him see reason!”

“Erica,” said Ana calmly, “you’re going about this the wrong way. When Aaron is like this, you can’t argue against him. You have to beat him at his own game.”

“What?”

“For example,” said Ana, “Aaron, I propose that the Chevy does not represent the Tribe of Levi, but rather the Tribe of Issachar.”

“Huh?” I asked. “Why?”

“Because,” she said, with an ethereally beautiful smile, “a Chevy is a car.”

“AAAAARGH!” I said. “AAARGH AAAAARGH AAAARRGH AA – ouch!”

Erica was throwing onions at both of us now, and one of them had hit me just below the eye.

“OKAY,” she shouted. “EVERYBODY IS GOING TO SIT DOWN AND EAT THEIR DAMN DINNER AND NO MORE TRIBE OF ISRAEL PUNS SO HELP ME GOD.”

I looked straight at Ana and I thought [Sit down and eat their Dan dinner]

She looked back at me and thought [So help me Gad]

I thought [We should Asher her that we’re not going to make any more puns]

Then we both broke down laughing helplessly.

“ARE YOU THINKING TRIBES OF ISRAEL PUNS AT EACH OTHER TELEPATHICALLY?” shouted Erica, and nobody else at the table even knew about the telepathic link so they thought she was making some kind of joke and started laughing awkwardly, and just as I had almost calmed down Ana thought at me [Our puns seem to be Reuben her the wrong way] and then I broke down laughing again, and it bled through the telepathic link and made Ana start laughing again, and both of us laughed like maniacs while the rest of our friends just stared at us.

I tell you this story as an apology. So that when we get to the part in the next chapter where I had to decide between dooming the world and dooming Ana, you understand why it was such a tough choice.

[A new author’s note is now up. Also, if you like this story, please vote for it on topwebfiction.]

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