Updated: Dec 19, 2018
By TC Smythe
For this installment of the Oasis blog, we offer a discussion of a song lyric provided by long-time Oasis member, Gary Taylor, with an analysis by TC Smythe. (TC's favorite lines are in bold text.) We hope that this topic might inspire our members to create more songs and anthems with a humanist twist.
Heaven's Not The Great Beyond
©2008 Gary Taylor - White Cat Records
Well I ran across Jesus Christ today, glancin' through a window pane.
He was nursing a cup of coffee at Jack's on 3rd and Main.
The fogged up diner window was all there was to keep the cold away.
Well I sat down at his table, I could tell he had some things to say:
I said, "I thought you rose to somethin' better when they nailed you to that pine".
He said, "Aw, that's just a little parlor trick to keep the flock in line.
But I thought I'd better try again, cause this world's way out of whack,
and there's a bunch of people speakin' for me who are really off the track."
Cause Heaven's not the great beyond! You can be there everyday.
Could be talkin' to some stranger in some coffeeshop café.
And Hell is not some place below, it's more a state of mind.
It's a sad or lost or wasted day or a friend you've left behind."
He said, "You know those 1-800 righteous folks who've declared themselves a saint?
Well if somebody tells you how smart they are, it's a sure sign that they ain't.
They claim a hotline straight to gloryland, to the Lord and all his men,
but when they go poundin' on the pearly gates, well they ain't gettin' in!
But you know, religion is a perfect game, it's like rollin' out all sevens,
'cause people will trade their Sunday money to buy their piece of heaven.
And you can promise folks eternity, and who knows if you've lied?
Nobody's gonna sue you when they're gone, if there ain't no other side!"
So I left a five there on the table, payin' for his brew.
He died for me all those years ago! It was the least that I could do.
The son of God, or just some homeless guy, well I guess I'll never know.
He just crunched on down the boulevard into the drifting snow.
"Hey man, what's the secret?" I yelled, as he faded from my view.
He said, "Treat a stranger like a friend, my friend, just do what you can do.
And live your life full every day, and one more thing before I fly:
If you want to get to Heaven - Don't wait until you die."
[Repeat Chorus - end]
Of all the songs that Smythe and Taylor perform, this one has more overt religious and philosophical content than any other. My duo partner, Gary Taylor, wrote it, and we recorded it on our album, "Come What May". We frequently dabble in humanist themes, but this one really puts it out there in a less-than-subtle way, which is why it isn't part of our regular set list.
Most of the venues that hire us aren't interested in our learned opinions, because songs about religion and politics tend to divide a room, and that's not good for business. However, when we do manage to sneak it in, it occasionally gets applause! We suppose it must be coming from those few non-religious folk in the audience who actually listen to lyrics and have grown tired of being bludgeoned by religious themes on a day-to-day basis. It's almost as if they're trying to tell us, "Finally! Someone who shares my world view!" It's fans like these that help populate our schedule with more house concerts, and fewer restaurant/club gigs!
So how did a song like this one manage to rise to the surface of Gary's brain? According to him, the “fogged up diner window” was a recollection of the storefront at Cincinnati's 'Skyline Chili' in wintertime. And if the reader is familiar at all with snow, they know that if it crunches, then it’s bitterly cold outside! Gary is also very good at mining story sources, and he's not above eavesdropping in restaurants to harvest fodder for a good story.
…“the son of God or just some homeless guy, well I guess I’ll never know”, means of course, that it was just some homeless guy “nursing a cup of coffee” who perhaps believes he is Jesus, or perhaps waxing philosophical.
Coffee shop philosophy is often much better than what comes from a pulpit, and the dialogue format always beats a monologue if one wants to keep the listener engaged. In songwriting, this is true every day and twice on Sundays.
As performers, we approached this song as a pretty straight-forward anti-religious tune until one of our friends, (a pastor in Colorado) said, “I really like that song - if you come play it for us on Sunday, I'll build a sermon around it.” - and he was as good as his word! This was a real head-scratcher to us until three more ministers went out of their way to tell us how thought-provoking they thought it was too. Maybe it's because Gary was patient enough to save the best line for last - and maybe it's because the last line allows both sides of the belief spectrum to agree on a very humanist idea: “If you want to get to Heaven… don’t wait until you die".
Editor's Note: If you would like to hear more music from Smythe and Taylor, please visit http://www.mytexasmusic.com/smytheandtaylor/