Culture

Yes, There Are Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 3: The Dispenser of Wisdom

Wisdom

Welcome to the third installment in my series examining Judeo-Christian values and ideas in the Smashing Pumpkins’ album Oceania. Last week, I delved into the album’s opening track, “Quasar” and Billy Corgan’s use of the abbreviation of the sacred Hebrew name of God.

This week I’m looking at the third track, “The Celestials,” and I have to admit that I had a difficult time understanding the song – much less finding some meaning in it – until I searched the lyrics and found a comment on one of those lyric sites. The commenter wrote:

Billy Corgan, in the interview “From Mellon Collie to Oceania” with Matt Pinfield, said…that this song is almost as if the same guy that was singing on Mellon Collie, is singing to a kid from today with the experience he has, almost sort of warning him of what to do.

Then it hit me. I imagined Corgan today, singing these lyrics to a young, idealistic rocker, set on wearing the Zero t-shirt and singing lyrics about being a “rat in a cage.” Or perhaps he is speaking as a father to his child. In this light, he is imparting wisdom and sharing experience in small nuggets, almost like fortune cookies – or proverbs.

Endlessly they’ll set you free
Give you reason to believe

[…]

Never let the summer catch you down
Never let your thoughts run free
Even when their numbers draw you out
Everything I want is free
‘Til the end

[…]

Take a chance if you should go
Face upon your happy home…
You were always on your own
You can’t escape

[…]

Never let the summer catch you down
Never let your thoughts run free
Even while their numbers call you out

OK, so it’s not exactly conventional wisdom, but as the song moves from ethereal chamber pop to driving rock, Corgan is sharing wisdom based on experience with a sense of urgency. We see the same passionate pursuit of wisdom in both the Old and New Testaments:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. (Proverbs 1:7-9)

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have,get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.” (Proverbs 4:1-9)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (James 1:5-6)

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

Like the authors of Proverbs and James, the brother of Jesus – along with plenty of others throughout the Bible – Corgan seems to understand the idea of sharing wisdom. Perhaps his maturity in growing older and his spiritual journey have led him to see the real value of wisdom.

I’m on vacation this coming week, but join me in two weeks as I dive back into Oceania (no pun intended) and dig for more Judeo-Christian themes.