Hearing the Pain of Maynard’s Tragedy

I have been a huge fan of the band Tool since well before my conversion to Christianity. I think that some of this is due to the philosophical angst of Maynard’s lyrical content. If one simply sits back and takes in the music of Tool as an experience you will hear the pain and tragedy of Maynard’s life. The instrumentation and the lyrical content of the music powerfully communicates what appears to be deep suffering.

I think that part of why the music of Maynard appeals to me, whether it is his work with Tool or Perfect Circle, is because of the non-cliched way that he writes. Maynard approaches his projects with seriousness and dedication. There is no halfway with him. He brings his philosophical and worldviews to bear on what he writes. Moreover, he isn’t afraid to boldly push his views into the faces of his listeners. Consequently, when he tackles issues that are near to him, the tragedy comes out in a scornful screed of dissonant anger.

Take this stanza of “Intolerance” from Tool’s first album Undertow:

Veil of virtue hung to hide your method

While I smile and laugh and dance

And sing your praise and glory

Shroud of virtue hung to mask your stigma

As I smile and laugh and dance

And sing your glory

While you lie, cheat, and steal

But you lie, cheat, and steal

But you lie, cheat, and steal

And yet I tolerate you

What Tragedy Marred Maynard’s Life?

Maynard was relatively young when his parents divorced. His mother, Judith, was apparently a devout Southern Baptist and raised Maynard in this belief system. At some point Judith remarried and according to Maynard, he ended up living in what Maynard describes as “an intolerant and unworldly household where his intelligence and creative expression would be stifled”.

When Maynard was 11, Judith suffered a cerebral aneurysm that paralyzed her and left her in deep suffering until her death in June of 2003. By all accounts, his experience with Christianity and Christians in general seems to have left him with a strong distaste for the God of Scripture. As is often the case with personal tragedy, Maynard was left to process this experience relatively alone. Subsequently, when presented the chance to relocate, Maynard jumped at the chance and went to live with his dad. Apparently, this freed Maynard from the constraints of religious restraint. Maynard excelled academically and athletically eventually joining the Army and was offered a chance to attend West Point. He declined this in order to pursue a more artistic path and eventually landed in LA.

It was there that Maynard began to pen lyrics and write the music that makes up his catalog of music now.

When Art Reflects Ideology and Tragedy

Maynard brings his intellect and reasoning into his music in a way that we do not see in most lyrical content these days. In the song Forty-six and Two from the Lateralus album the band displayed their use of the Fibonacci Sequence. This is not a mere trifling by people pretending to be intellectuals. It takes actual skill and intellect.

But this is not the end of Maynard’s intellect or that of the band. Maynard especially brings his life experience into the content of their music. In Wings for Marie, Part 1 and Part 2 , Maynard lashes out at his perception of Christians and Christian theology and suffering. Read this stanza before you listen to the songs I link here:

Daylight dims leaving cold fluorescence…

Difficult to see you in this light…

Please forgive this bold suggestion…

Should you see your maker’s face tonight…

Look him in the eye…

Look him in the eye, and tell him…

I never lived a lie, never took a life…

But surely saved one, hallelujah

It’s time for you to bring me home…

But Maynard doesn’t stop there. He unleashes on God in Judith from Perfect Circle. He blames the God he has rejected for leaving his mother in the state she died in. As you listen, be warned that there is caustic pain and vitriol in the lyrics. It is a raw and gritty coarseness that doesn’t simply border on blasphemy. But it is worth hearing, because it is the world. Furthermore, it is a tragedy that modern Christians have created. Because we have become a religion that has made God a magic genie promising to heal all of our ills.

Maynard Understands Sin Better than Most Christians

From his lyrics it is easy to tell Maynard is not just an intellectual. He is, at best, an agnostic. But he also has a grasp on the sinful estate of man far better than most modern Christians do. When you survey most professing Christians in Western Christian Culture today, they see people as basically good. WCC treats Jesus as an example to follow instead of as the Sole Savior from Sin and the unmitigated wrath of God.

Maynard tackles this hypocrisy in the song Right in Two. Read this stanza before you listen to the song. Then dwell on how important doctrine is for all Christians and not just the pastors and elders of a local church.

“Monkey killing monkey killing monkey over pieces of the ground…

Silly monkeys give them thumbs, they make a club

And beat their brother down…

How they survive so misguided is a mystery…

Repugnant is a Creature who would squander the ability…

To lift an eye to heaven, conscious of his fleeting time here…”

So now listen to the totality of the song and then ask yourself, “How important is doctrine? Do I know what the Word teaches, and can I defend it?” If the people who surrounded Maynard had been able to do that imagine where Maynard would be today.

Hopefully Maynard will Understand that the Gospel Doesn’t End Tragedies

I want to believe that somewhere in the years before Maynard left his mother’s home, some devout Christian explained the Gospel to him. That is my true hope for him. Maynard is the success story that is the American dream. But what does it profit a man to gain that level of notoriety only to lose his soul?

By all accounts Maynard is an incredibly wealthy man with much success behind his name. Numerous musical projects, Tool, Perfect Circle and Puscifer.  A vineyard and a wine label. Millions and millions of dollars and beautiful wife and two beautiful children.

But he also has an aching bitterness in the core of his being that is bent on lashing out at God. But why? Could it be because no one was ever able to explain to him that God isn’t the magic genie waiting to fix everything for him?

It is my hope that some Christian close to Maynard, maybe a fan, could someday sit down with him and apologize to him for the failings of professing Christians in helping him process his mothers suffering and death. It is my hope that the tragedy that followed Maynard for so many years will be means by which he can come to see God as the loving Father He is. Moreover, that Maynard will come to understand that sometimes, as hard as it is, suffering is necessary.

In 1 Corinthians 5:21 we are taught that Jesus was made to bear the wrath of the Father and become sin for us. But why?

So that we would not have to suffer that deserved wrath if we repent and believe. That is what Maynard is missing. And I hope some day he will hear it!

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd