Wealthy but It’s Not Enough
Woven throughout Twelve Carat Toothache are motifs of wealth and dissatisfaction which run parallel to Post’s life. Estimated at a worth of 45 million dollars, Post likely does not need to worry about running out of money.3 Every other line in “I Like You (A Happier Song)” is filled with references to the artist’s riches alongside a deep desire to have a relationship with the woman in the song:
Ooh, girl, I like you, I do
I wanna be your friend, go shoppin’ in a Benz
I like you, I do
I’ll hit you when I land, can you fit me in your plans?
I like you, I do
We went over to France and we woke up in Japan
I like you, I do (I do, mm, mm)
Shopping in a Mercedes Benz, meeting up with a crush after a mysterious flight, traveling so much that you forget where you are (France or Japan?), these are all experiences that most of us could only dream of.
Post realizes that money cannot satisfy him, so he is looking for a girlfriend to share life experiences with. He says later in the song, “I need someone to save me…someone to ground me…someone to share this heart with me.” Other lyrics in the song seem to indicate that Post is searching for a romantic relationship to save him from his demons (many of which seem to be related to his fame).
Searching for Salvation
Flannery O’Connor, one of America’s greatest writers, dreams up a character in one of her short stories who is very much like Post Malone. O.E. Parker, in Parker’s Back, fills his life with drinking and fighting, tattoos and women.4 Where Post itches for a romantic relationship, Parker hopes his wife will bring him peace. Where Parker feels desperation for another tattoo, Post hopes to find another unique way to express himself. Both of the stories presented in “I Like You (A Happier Song)” and in Parker’s Back are about men searching to satisfy their desires, which they can never seem to fulfill. Drowning in uneasiness, both anxious souls search for relief and salvation from their fears.
Through the writings of O’Connor, we can learn about the nature of human longing and desire—and where someone can authentically find peace. Parker’s life gets thrown into turmoil after he metaphorically runs into the cross and finds “Christ with all-demanding eyes.”5 This Christ cannot be seen and ignored as he demands something of Parker. No matter what Parker does, he cannot escape the Christ who forces him to examine his soul, confront his identity, and rethink his whole life. Christ is tattooed on Parker’s back, the only area of his body not covered in tattoos. Parker cannot find comfort in drinking or fighting (a metaphor for his old lifestyle) nor can he find consolation in his wife (who is metaphorically the Old Testament Law), instead, he must respond to Christ and pour his sorrow out at the foot of a pecan tree (the metaphor for foot of the cross).
The All-Demanding Eyes of Christ
The pull of desire can at times be overwhelming—the itching, emptiness, and longing to be filled take different shapes in different people. For Parker, the desire to maintain image and status through the acquisition of tattoos seems to bring him temporary relief. Whenever he has the chance to look at his tattoos in the mirror he does, but complaints come over him like a wave, compelling him to get another tattoo. It is not until Parker’s life gets painfully turned upside down, that he is forced to confront his immense dissatisfaction.
Almost everyone has the temptation to fill their lives with temporary means of satisfaction. For you, it may be food, television, or social media. Maybe you find temporary relief in having a significant other or in an accomplishment. Post Malone’s song focuses on something or someone outside of himself to bring him peace and soothe the discontentment he feels. O’Connor’s story shows how temporary band-aids are not enough and that trite remedies are not sufficient to fix what seems to be unbearable pain.
These two ways of viewing dissatisfaction or painful situations can easily be transposed on to a personal experience. When struggling with pain or unrest one could look for the next quick fix (like Post) or one could look straight into the eyes of Christ (like Parker). Christ will require everything of those who look upon him, it will not always be easy, and following him will not be a blissful quick fix. Christ will insist that his people confront the hidden and shameful parts of their lives and take their place at the foot of his cross to learn what it means to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:11-13; Matthew 11:28-30).Yet, contentment is often hard to come by.
Infused with Contentment
In Philippians 4:11-12 Paul says that he experiences contentment in every situation. Some people define contentment as, “the psychological state or disposition of being at peace towards one’s circumstances.”6 It’s easy to long for that sense of peace, and most people (if they are like me) just wait for that contentment to waft over them, like it’s a fog. Yet contentment is not a fog that blinds you from reality nor is it something that is completely out of reach. Certainly, if we could summon contentment many of us would, so it cannot be something that we have total control over either. Instead, Steve Porter states that contentment, “qualifies as a virtue—and there is a particularly Christian way to bring it about.”7 He goes on to explain that contentment is a result of the strengthening presence of Jesus Christ, and through his grace it is a strengthening of our will.
O’Connor also notes that contentment comes from the strengthening presence of Jesus Christ, which is why Parker has Jesus tattooed onto his back. Virtue is harder to come by than a tattoo, instead, it is the sort of character trait individuals need in their life in order to flourish.8 The way this virtue is learned and formed is primarily through one’s relationship with Jesus.
Our relationship with Jesus matures and is formed as we imitate him and follow his commands. After all, who we imitate is often who we become. Ask the question, Who in my life “rubs off” on me? Whoever comes to mind is the person you may be learning contentment from. So, surround yourself with good influences.9 Next ask, Who do I look up to? We often emulate the people who we look up to. Find a person who you believe is content and try to emulate their behavior—learn from them!10 Overall, the pursuit of contentment must become our pattern of thinking and our pattern of living through the grace of God, so that it is so infused into us (like a tattoo) that we learn to become content in every situation.
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