Culture

Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 10: Contentment

Contentment

Welcome to Week 10 of my series listening through the Smashing Pumpkins’ 2012 release Oceania, delving into the lyrics, and looking for Judeo-Christian themes and values. Feel free to check out Parts 1-8  at your leisure. Last week we looked at the value of faith in Track 10, “The Chimera.”

This week we’re taking Track 11, “Glissandra,” for a spin. This tune rocks easily and smoothly, with a driving bass groove and guitar and keyboard lines typical of Smashing Pumpkins’ work. As with the rest of the album, Corgan is in fine, confident voice here. His lyrics come from the perspective of someone who has experienced what life has to offer, and he makes some observations:

As life uncovers our unions pulled threadbare
Pleasure taps it’s vein
I’ve been hungry and I’ve been full
And I’ve been sated some more

[…]

I used to know
What a wish was for

[…]

What’s left for me to leave for you unsaid?
You can’t fill with dread
I’ve been hungry and I’ve been full

Here, Corgan echoes the Biblical concept of contentment. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, we can find instructions to be content with what we have. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon – the wisest man who ever lived, according to the Bible – wrote that he had seen it all, and he knew that pleasure, materialism, and even wisdom do not fulfill on their own. Instead, Solomon says:

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26)

In Psalm 37, King David instructs God’s people:

3 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this…

In the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs His followers:

25  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28  “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:25-33)

The Apostle Paul thanks the congregation in Philippi for their generous gifts to him with an encouraging lesson in contentment:

10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:10-13)

Paul also tells Timothy that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6), while the author of Hebrews reminds believers to “be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5). If God is all we need, why not be content with Him?

The idea of contentment is a radical one, especially this time of year when materialism rears its ugly head higher than any other time. My prayer for everyone who reads this is that, regardless of your beliefs, you will be filled with contentment.