My counselor leafed through the thick manuscript and wriggled her nose to settle her glasses. “So I see you’re a Rush fan. I’ve been reading your — essay– the self-examination you wrote for me… I must say, it’s… original. Entertaining, even. I’ve never read one quite like it. I mean, a screenplay…”
“I’ve been reading about your high school years,” she continued. “Discovering ‘2112’… ‘Moving Pictures’ released… your first concert… hm.”
She pushed the document to the side and removed her reading glasses.
“You feel different, peculiar, misunderstood. Underappreciated. This sense of otherness, disconectedness, leads to a sense of isolation and loneliness. At the same time, you are quite confident in your own intelligence, your interests and tastes. This self-confidence, coupled with a lack of affirmation, leaves you feeling slightly paranoid, even a little neurotic.”
“I — well, yes, exactly, but — how –?”
“Rush fans generally feel this way.”
Last week I saw Rush for the last time. After 41 years together, they are winding down, while still at the peak of their game, before their bodies turn against them. I went with a group of friends, including my 16-year-old godson Nathan and his dad. It was the boy’s first and last Rush concert — a major Bucket List item. We all had high hopes. I was a little nervous for Nathan. He’s an Asperger fellow, and as such sometimes has difficulty with sensory overload, with things that frequently change, and with things that don’t change frequently enough. A roaring rock show that promised three hours of non-stop, constantly changing mayhem, might prove overwhelming. I had advised him to listen to a lot of Rush during the spring, to build up his endurance; but I didn’t think he had. I picturedhim at the concert, growing increasingly agitated and demanding, but not wanting to spoil the evening for the rest of us. I imagined him screaming, and then collapsing into my arms, dissolved in tears of frustration. I prayed for him a lot in the days before the show.
The concert was at a mammoth sports stadium (of course). It was sold out (naturally). Our seats were way up high. Nathan twirled his companion Orange Blankie over his head and declared that he supposed it was the first security blanket to attend a Rush concert. I looked around at the mob of 50,000 geeks and thought, Probably not.
The sound in our section was miserable — I mean, atrocious. At their best, Rush sounds weird; I feared for Nathan’s difficulties coping with unmet expectations. Then he began singing along to “Clockwork Angels”, and dancing to “Headlong Flight”. He asked me, “What’s that high-frequency sound?” I supposed it was the screaming crowd; later I realized his ears were ringing.
In the second half, the band played “Natural Science”, and I told him it was about social philosophy. “I’m digging it!” he yelled. They played “Hemispheres” and I explained it was about psychology, a metaphor of the conflict between our intellect and our emotions, personified with figures from Greek mythology. What other rock band does such a thing? “None!” he hollered. They launched into Jacob’s Ladder. I wept, and told him it was an interpretation of a thunderstorm. He bellowed “What part of this concert is not?”
In the encore, the band played “Working Man.” Nathan cried, “My favorite!” He screamed, collapsed into my arms and dissolved in tears of elation.
I am so proud of that band. They have stayed true to their quirky selves throughout a lengthy career. By developing their art faithfully, they have given so much delight to so many — and hope and joy to countless geeks and nerds all around the world. But I am especially proud of my godson. His is a tough row to hoe, but for this one evening, anyway, he embraced life as a fine proposition.