What a Rush: the USCCB and Neil Peart!

A break from the voting part of Catholic Vote for a moment. . . .

I participated in a wonderful conference this past week.  Sponsored by the Foundation for Economic Education (Larry Reed, the anti communist Indiana Jones of the 1980s, is the president; Carl Oberg is his vice president), a number of faculty explored the history of the notion and manifestations of liberty.  The facilities were excellent as were the students.

The Foundation put all participants up at a Hyatt.  Purely by coincidence, two other groups were staying at the same hotel, a fraternal organization by the name of “100 Black Men” and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops!  What a wonderful gathering for all.

For my part, I had the fine pleasure of seeing my bishop, Earl Boyea, and I also somewhat obnoxiously introduced myself to Archbishop Chaput.  I also kept running into the same bishop (several times a day).  He was as friendly as could be and we started joking that we were stalking one another.  After the conference, I looked him up on Google and found him to be the bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.  An entry on the internet described him as “extremely left.”  If so, I didn’t see it.  He seemed like an amiable and holy man, not an ideologue.

A small protest formed outside of the Hyatt.  Frankly, it was about as impotent as it was small.  There seemed to be no enthusiasm for the protest, by the protestors or those watching the protestors.  I doubt if anyone but the local media took any notice of these folks.  As my two oldest daughters and I walked out of the hotel, I turned my camera on the group.  A hawk-eyed woman in the protest immediately turned her sign toward me.  My guess is that no one else (again, other than the local media) cared about them.

The only protest that was more of a failure–at least in my own viewing–was one I tried to organize while in graduate school, protesting one of the military interventions by President Clinton.  Three libertarians and an old 60s hippie showed up.  We had a great time talking, but I don’t think we changed the minds of a single person.  Our signs were even more pathetic than the one above.

But, I risk becoming cynical. . . .

On a more interesting note, the world of progressive rock has been booming in all of its creativity and glory during the last dozen years or so.  More is to come.  The always brilliant Big Big Train have announced their forthcoming album, “English Electric, Volume I.”  You can pre-order it now.  Additionally, the band has produced a rather beautiful 4.5 minute video.  It’s well worth watching. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did.

On Tuesday, the Canadian progressive rock trio, Rush, released its 20th studio album, “Clockwork Angels.”  I wrote a review as well as a very personal autobiographical reflection on the lyrics of Rush for The Imaginative Conservative.  For what it’s worth, Neil Peart’s lyrics (along with the works of Tolkien and Bradbury) sustained my understanding of a moral world during my own teenage atheism and rebellion.  Peart approaches the age of sixty, but his lyrics and his drumming only improve with age.  He remains one of the greatest men of integrity of our era.

Though most regard 1981’s “Moving Pictures” as Rush’s masterpiece, I’ve always been most taken with “Grace Under Pressure.”  I even had the gall in a liberal-arts core course my sophomore year of college (spring of 1988) to write a major paper on the lyrics of the album, trying to piece together a coherent philosophy.  I’m sure to many TIC readers, this just sounds nothing short of bizarre.  But, “Grace Under Pressure” deals with concentration camps, ideologies, artificial intelligence, fear, death, and almost every complication imaginable in human life.  From the opening note to the last, every part of the music and the lyrics radiate intensity.  For a high-school student first encountering this in 1984, this was truly heady stuff.  A title from Hemingway, a song based on a Ray Bradbury story, and references to T.S. Eliot’s poetry?  It didn’t get much better for me.  And, frankly, even at the age of 44, I’m still very moved by this album.

If you’re interested in reading more, please go here.

A blessed weekend to everyone.



  • T. Sawyer

    Neil Peart wrote, in discussing the new album, “All we’re seeing, especially in the world today, is a very malevolent kind of faith, in fundamentalism of all kinds, on both sides.”

  • Jeff Miller

    I am glad I am not alone in having “Grace under pressure” as one of my favorites of Rush’s albums. I have many favorites, but this album always has a special place for me every time I return to it.

    I totally enjoyed your piece over at the Imaginative Conservative, especially being a Rush fan since 1976 when I first saw them on the 2112 and then immediately went an bought their 4 albums so far.

    After multiple listens to Clockwork Angels I am very happy to find that Rush is still at the top of their form. Though imagine the lyrical heights Peart could obtains if he was cured of his atheism.



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