“I Liked it Better When My Car Had Sound”

Since their first studio album, Vessel, released in 2013, the band Twenty One Pilots has been tearing up the music scene with their unique sound and deep, introspective lyrics. In a world where most pop songs are about shallow love affairs, Twenty One Pilots has carved out a singular space where they can talk about hard things that people face, like fear, depression, suicidal thoughts, and insecurity. If you’ve listened to their music, you know that there just isn’t a whole lot of music out there like it.

Since its release in 2011, the single “Car Radio” has remained one of their most popular songs.

“Now I Just Sit in Silence”
The song was born out of an incident where lead singer, Tyler Joseph, actually had his car radio stolen. Take a moment to imagine what that would be like. What would you do if you had no music to play in your car? For a lot of people, it would be completely unsettling. Tyler explains why.

I ponder of something great
My lungs will fill and then deflate
They fill with fire, exhale desire
I know it’s dire my time today

I have these thoughts, so often I ought
To replace that slot with what I once bought
‘Cause somebody stole my car radio
And now I just sit in silence

He begins by talking about the fire and desire that are inside of him. Humans are complex beings. We have passions, desires, deep thoughts, and feelings, but we don’t always pay attention to them because we’re so distracted. Now that his car radio has been stolen, Tyler has to sit in silence, and this can be uncomfortable. Most of us like listening to music in the car, but sometimes it distracts us from thinking about hard things, or it helps us to avoid dealing with our problems, fears, and failures. Sometimes, it’s just easier to tune out the hard things in life.

The song lays a finger on one of our culture’s biggest problems: We don’t know how to stop, to reflect, to ponder. We are too busy with our work. We constantly have to be doing something. When we aren’t working, we fill our lives with distractions to avoid deeper things. For many of us, the TV serves the same purpose as a fan at night. It’s white noise. The silence is uncomfortable, so we flip on the TV or turn on our music to drown out that silence.

“Sometimes Quiet is Violent”

Sometimes quiet is violent
I find it hard to hide it
My pride is no longer inside
It’s on my sleeve
My skin will scream reminding me of
Who I killed inside my dream
I hate this car that I’m driving
There’s no hiding for me
I’m forced to deal with what I feel
There is no distraction to mask what is real
I could pull the steering wheel

Why are we so bothered by silence? Perhaps it is because our minds start to think when we are quiet. We are forced to deal with the things that we have been tuning out. Perhaps there is some person whom we are hating that we haven’t acknowledged (“who I killed inside my dream”). Maybe there is relational hurt that comes up or depression resulting from failure and broken dreams. We might even have suicidal thoughts (“I could pull the steering wheel”). When we sit in silence “there is no distraction to mask what is real.”

I ponder of something terrifying
‘Cause this time there’s no sound to hide behind
I find over the course of our human existence
One thing consists of consistence
And it’s that we’re all battling fear
Oh dear, I don’t know if we know why we’re here
Oh my, too deep, please stop thinking
I liked it better when my car had sound

In the end, Tyler points out that we are all battling fear. Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? What are we supposed to do? What’s going to make us happy? What happens when we die? We all ask these big questions at some point in our lives, but dealing with these questions can be scary. We may have to change our beliefs; we may have to change the way we live; we may have to take hard steps. Since humans are thinking beings, we can’t just bury these questions forever. We can’t turn our brains off. Perhaps that’s why we constantly seek to distract ourselves.

“Faith is to be Awake”

There are things we can do
But from the things that work there are only two
And from the two that we choose to do
Peace will win and fear will lose
It is faith and there’s sleep
We need to pick one please because
Faith is to be awake
And to be awake is for us to think
And for us to think is to be alive
And I will try with every rhyme
To come across like I am dying
To let you know you need to try to think

The final lines of the song are a rallying cry, a challenge for each of us. We have a choice, we can just try to sleep it off, or we can choose faith. Faith isn’t just blindly accepting things as they are. It means being awake. It means thinking. It means trusting that there are answers out there that we can find, and it means investing time in looking for those answers. It means dealing with our fears, our doubts, and our disappointments.

Sitting in silence and having rhythms of rest is a part of the Christian life. It’s not always just entertainment that distracts us from this. Sometimes we allow “busyness” to distract us from what’s really important. As Christians, we often mistakenly find our identity in doing thing for God instead of resting in what God has done for us. We should follow the example of Jesus, who knew the value of getting away to a quiet place (see Mark 1:35, Luke 5:15-16, Matthew 14:13). Like the Psalmist, we must learn to “Be Still” (Psalm 46:10).

What are the distractions that are keeping you from thinking and dealing with the big questions, the hard thoughts, and the difficulties of life? When was the last time you just sat in silence?

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Ben Keiser

Ben Keiser is a writer, teacher, and student of theology, whose chief interests include biblical theology of heaven and earth, C. S. Lewis, and early Christianity in the first three centuries. Ben has a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Liberty University. He resides in Colorado where you can often find him hiking in the mountains.