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Stairway to Heaven, a song performed by Led Zeppelin, is and was a tremendously popular song. On YouTube, it has two hundred and fifty million views. That’s impressive, but it is paltry compared to the top twenty most popular music videos, all of which have billions of views. Nevertheless, STH is ranked thirty-one by Rolling Stones’ 500 Greatest Rock Hits of All Time. If you’ve ever listened to it, I think you’ll agree that it has a haunting melody, and the lyrics are poetically beautiful in some places. One stanza tells us this:

“And it’s whispered that soon if we all call the tune

Then the piper will lead us to reason

And a new day will dawn for those who stand long

And the forests will echo with laughter.”

This sense of something whispered, something out there in nature, a beautiful cosmic mystery that was on the verge of being revealed, was rampant among the young people of the Woodstock Generation. It was, after all the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, when there would be:

“Harmony and understanding

Sympathy and trust abounding

No more falsehoods or derisions

Golden living dreams of visions

Mystic crystal revelation

And the minds true liberation.”

But these songs, and others like them, lied to us, didn’t they? The piper didn’t lead us to reason, and the hoped-for harmony and understanding never arrived. Truth is, we didn’t even know how to “call the tune” or even what that meant. The last stanza of STH said that if we listened very hard, the tune would come to us at last. We didn’t know how to do that, either.

The tune never came, and we were not led to reason. And who was this piper anyway? And who was doing the whispering?

Stairway to Heaven ends with the words, “When all are one and one is all to be a rock and not to roll.” (Well, there is the final tag line, “And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.”) A stunning song with some great lyrics ends with a hokey comparison of all of us being led to reason by becoming a rock that doesn’t roll. Really? I thought it was corny even back in the day, although I found the song enchanting. At a certain point, however, I realized that even though I loved the tune, no enlightenment was contained in it or any of the others of the same ilk. Hope turned to cynicism. By 1971, when the album Led Zeppelin IV containing STH was released, I was nearing the end of my search in the mystical, hallucinogenic-driven dreams being offered by the hippie culture and its music. Some of these dreams came from the Beatles, who also caused us to think that truth was out there in a Strawberry-Fields-Forever, Let-It-Be, wispy Buddhist unreality. That false dream they inspired dissipated when their latter songs contained unenlightened, meaningless lyrics and dreadful noise. When the band broke up, the hope for any illumination from The Fab Four disappeared.

There was no truth in any of it. I gave up on it. Before I became a Christian, I was gathering kit to go live in the Cascade Mountains alone.

I know almost nothing about contemporary pop or rock music, nor have I for over forty-five years. However, I’m relatively certain that there is no hope for some empyrean mystery to be revealed any longer within songs today. Perhaps those pop and rock genres have devolved back to where they were before the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and other groups changed everything, in which songs about love, relationships, and sorrow dominated the airways. However, it seems that now, from what little I know, anger and bitterness are strong, added ingredients. This is no surprise. Joy and flourishing in relationships without God are difficult to achieve. It’s challenging enough with Him.

The piper didn’t lead us to reason. We didn’t “call” the piper’s tune, no matter how hard we listened. That’s because the unknown, ill-defined piper of which Robert Plant sang does not exist. There is a call to listen for, but it is the call of the Lord God Almighty. Reason is not what we are to be led to. We are led to Jesus. And if we come to know Him and are redeemed by Him, we will indeed find reason—we will discover reason to love Him.

The Woodstock Generation was not searching for Jesus, although He was available and present. We just didn’t want any part of Him—until, that is, Jesus began saving us by the thousands. Let’s pray the Lord sovereignly saves lost and searching-in-all-the-wrong-places people in this present hour. The One we need to hear is ignored. We are sliding headlong into darkness and lawlessness to our eternal peril. Save us, Lord Jesus. By your mercy, help us hear Your call.


Gif courtesy Bing images.

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