Though it may seem like perfectionism has your best interest in mind, it plays out much differently in the unfoldment of life.
Perfectionism can be stifling. Though the drive for perfection can sometimes push you towards your goals, it most often creates delusional expectations, paralyzing procrastination and harsh self-criticism (as well as external criticism).
We all know (on some level) that perfection doesn’t exist in this reality, so there is an inherent chasm of doubt whenever we chase perfection. The chasm of doubt and subtle anxieties of cognitive dissonance put us on the operating system of fear, where fear becomes the dominant motivating force. This is how perfectionism can make us hyper-critical (to both ourselves and others) as well as prevent us from even starting things (because of the fear that it won’t be perfect).
Nature is imperfect, yet the imperfection of nature is what makes it beautiful, unique and ever-changing. Perfection is stagnation. Perfection is static. Perfection is permanence, which defies the very nature of our impermanent Universe. The only constant is change (in this reality at least), so you might as well embrace the paradoxical perfection of ever-changing imperfection. Imperfection is a gift, as it allows for uniqueness and the potential for perpetual improvement. Forgo the pursuit of perfection, accept where you are in each moment and strive for continual improvement.
Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.
~ Gerard Way
Overcoming Perfectionism Through Belief Transmutation
One way to overcome perfectionism is to replace limiting beliefs with new, more empowering beliefs. This is the alchemical art of transmutation.
Examples of limiting beliefs regarding perfection:
I have to be perfect in order to be worthy.
Everything has to be perfect for me to be happy.
Everything has to be perfect for (insert any hope or dream you want to come to fruition).
I’m afraid of doing this because it might not turn out perfectly.
I want to achieve perfection now.
Substitute those old, limiting beliefs for new, more empowering beliefs.
Examples of more empowering beliefs:
Perfection doesn’t exist in this reality, but I achieve excellence.
I’m continuously improving and fueled by self-love.
I accept where I am in each moment, while always moving forward.
Imperfection allows for uniqueness and continuous improvement. I embrace my uniqueness and I’m endlessly evolving.
I always try my best and leave the rest up to the Universe/The Process of Life/God.
I’ll start now. I can always change, refine and improve things later because nothing is permanent.
I embrace the journey and find joy in continuous improvement.
Listen closely to your self-talk regarding perfection. Be particularly aware of your self-talk when the urge to procrastinate arises. What beliefs are you holding? What are more empowering beliefs to replace them with? A belief is simply a pattern of thoughts. Change your thoughts and you will change your beliefs.
Overcoming Perfectionism Through Action
If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.
~ Margaret Atwood
Perfectionism has a component of fear to it, particularly the fear of not being perfect. And since nothing in this reality is perfect, the perfectionist often chooses inaction over the possibility of trying and not achieving perfection. This creates an incapacitating state of constant procrastination, which is an insidious byproduct of perfectionism. Building a habit of taking consistent action deprograms the perfectionist mindset.
The unachievable expectations of perfectionism can be paralyzing, preventing you from even starting things. But taking action overcomes the rigid inertia of perfectionism and starts a snowball effect of empowering momentum. By flexing your action muscles, you break through the chains of perfectionism like the incredible hulk ripping through a shirt (except you probably won’t be angry).
When you build a habit of consistent action-taking, procrastination becomes a distant memory. You’ll learn to find fulfillment in the process. Perfectionism will be re-programmed into the mindset of embracing the journey of life.
A strategy often discussed in entrepreneurial circles is that of releasing something, or taking action, before you’re fully ready. This idea is not about releasing an unfinished or half-assed product/service, but in accepting imperfection and building the habit of taking action. Remember, nothing is permanent and you can always tweak things later.
Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right’. Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.
~ Napoleon Hill
In the book The Motivation Manifesto, Brendon Burchard discusses defeating your personal demons. One of these demons is called “Defiance,” whose sole purpose is to delay your actions. How do you defeat this demon? You defeat Defiance by transforming delay with action. Decisive action, in the face of fear “sets off an internal tidal wave of power that subjugates our meeker impulses,” according to Burchard.
The practical how-to aspect of action is simple. Take small actions consistently, preferably every day. Break big tasks or big goals into bite-sized chunks. Create a system to bring you in the direction of a goal and stick to the system. Taking small actions on a daily basis allows you to avoid being overwhelmed and strengthens your action muscles to the point where procrastination doesn’t stand a chance.
How I Overcame Perfectionism
Though I still have perfectionist tendencies from time-to-time, it no longer has me in its clutches. Changing my perfectionist beliefs and taking consistent action were invaluable solutions for me.
My journey progressed based on those two strategies. Firstly, I realized (conceptually, at least) that perfectionism is not attainable in this reality. After some time I was able to accept, feel and deeply understand that truth. Viewing life as a video game greatly aided this understanding as well. From that point, I was able to transmute my perfectionist beliefs into more empowering beliefs (meditation and mindfulness helped with being able to notice limiting beliefs I was holding onto).
Action was the ingredient that completed the recipe. The most predominate action-based habits I built were publishing blog posts and recording videos. Since I started Feelin’ Good, Feelin’ Great in September 2012, I’ve written a blog post every single week (with a few exceptions). Creating that commitment to action played a pivotal role in breaking out of the paralysis of perfectionism. If I had waited for myself to write the perfect blog post, I would’ve never released anything. It was in choosing to just put myself out there that catalyzed the process of becoming an exponentially better writer. By committing to continual action, I’ve practiced writing far more than I would have if I was stuck in the paralysis of perfectionism.
More recently, on top of the weekly blog post habit, I’ve been releasing one video every day (on YouTube and Facebook). I record the videos in one take, and they’re unscripted except for jotting down a few bullet points beforehand. Executing the videos in such an impromptu fashion has improved my speaking ability, spontaneity, self-confidence, memory and mental clarity by leaps and bounds. Additionally, recording a video every day has “greased the groove” of my action-taking ability and has allowed the bright light of unconditional self-love to scatter away the shadowy phantoms of perfectionism.
Dear Human: You’ve Got It All Wrong
Dear Human. You’ve got it all wrong. You didn’t come here to master unconditional love. This is where you came from and where you’ll return. You came here to learn personal love. Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty Love. Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love. Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling. Demonstrated through the beauty of… messing up. Often. You didn’t come here to be perfect, you already are. You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous. And rising again into remembering. But unconditional love? Stop telling that story. Love in truth doesn’t need any adjectives. It doesn’t require modifiers. It doesn’t require the condition of perfection. It only asks you to show up. And do your best. That you stay present and feel fully. That you shine and fly and laugh and cry and hurt and heal and fall and get back up and play and work and live and die as YOU. It’s enough. It’s Plenty.
~ Courtney A. Walsh
Embrace imperfection, and accept where you are, while enjoying the journey. Live, learn and grow.
You materialized in the third dimension, popped out of your momma and ended up a resident of planet Earth.
So don’t you want to explore it? Don’t you want to see what it’s all about? Aren’t you curious?
I know I am (to say the least). And deep down, beneath all of the fear, you too want to explore as much as you can before you’re gone.
The concept of life being like a video game fascinates me. For many reasons, I think it’s such a profound (and accurate) comparison.
Beyond the argument that so many signs are pointing to this universe being some sort of grand holographic simulation*, the principles of video games also apply to life in general. That’s the aspect which I want to focus on here.
We only grow through overcoming obstacles. Everything is a learning experience. If life weren’t challenging, it wouldn’t be fulfilling, rewarding or fun. Think about it this way, would you play Super Mario if all you had to do was casually stroll to the right the whole time, meeting no obstacles? Of course not. That would get boring after two minutes. The same theme applies to life.
Travel is an aspect of life where the video game comparison is unavoidable. Here’s why…
5 Reasons Why Traveling is Like Playing a Video Game:
1. You Expand Your “Mental Map”
The mental map is a concept that my friend (shout out to Cole King) and I came up with while we were working as pizza delivery drivers in high school. We compared learning new streets to the maps found in many video games. You know how in video games the map starts as completely black, and as you explore it, it clears? (You can see a good example of it in this video.) Well, the same applies to your own mental map in life. Everything is just a mysterious abyss when it’s unknown. And you “clear out” and materialize that abyss by personally exploring it.
It would be a damn shame to die with only a tiny speck of your mental map cleared out. There’s so much out there (and in there) to see and experience. Make your story exploratory!
2. You Level Up Through New Experiences
I love the concept of “leveling up.” When traveling, I find myself gaining new insight (like whoa), broadening my perspective and developing skills at a mindblowing rate. Improving at anything is leveling up, and travel is conducive to improvement in many facets of life.
When traveling, you continuously expose yourself to new experiences. You’re perpetually launching yourself out of you comfort zone. You don’t learn or grow by going through the same monotonous routine all of your life. New experiences provide the fertile ground for you to grow, level up and evolve into the greatest version of yourself.
3. You Meet New People (Allies)
If you’ve done any traveling, you know that you meet so many awesome, interesting people. You learn from all of these people too. Everyone you meet is a teacher. People you meet are like allies you encounter in a video game.
4. Each Place You Go to is a New Level
Each and every place has its own unique culture, landscapes, architecture, quirks and personality. They are all different levels within the video game that is your life.
5. You Must Defeat the Bosses
In most video games, there are bosses to defeat at the end of each level. The “bosses” in life, however, are often intangible forces and/or fears to overcome. For example, You may have a fear of heights that you defeat by cliff jumping.
“Bosses” that I’ve defeated on this trip:
Travel anxiety – The fear of missing a flight, not finding a place to stay…etc. All of that fear based on projecting into the future. I’ve learned to do what I can, let go and be present instead of uselessly worrying about the future.
Fear of rejection – This fear would come up when approaching women. But I’ve acted in spite of this fear so many times that it’s no longer is a big deal. And you know what? Every time I’ve said “fuck it” and approached someone I wanted to talk to, it turned out well (or it’s a funny story). I’ve even met some really, really amazing people doing this. Maybe I’ll elaborate on it more in another post.
Striving syndrome – I’m hyper-critical of myself most of the time. I constantly put pressure on myself to keep improving, be a better person, learn more, write more and stay focused on goals. This is good when it comes to achievement, but it can rob you of the bliss of allowing yourself to just BE. There have been many moments where I had to stop and give myself permission to just BE; to simply enjoy the moment, with no goals and nothing to strive for. It’s difficult to balance being grateful for where you are right now and continuously improving. But I’m finding that balance. Due to my awareness of this tendency within myself, the “striving syndrome” now has less of a grip on me.
Kayaking in Dubrovnik, Croatia
Where I’ve been to so far on this trip (aka the details of my mental map expansion):
Croatia – Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar Island, Zagreb
India – Pune
Thailand – Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai
Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur
This trip feels like I’ve squeezed multiple lifetimes into this journey called “Stephen Parato.” I’m so grateful to be doing this and I want to inspire you to follow your heart as well.
Have fun and keep leveling up.
Greetings from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
– Stevie P!
PS – For pictures and some short goofy videos of my travels, follow me on Instagram @steviepthatsme
Why do we want a good job? Why do we want an awesome wife/husband? Why do we want to travel the world? Because we (falsely) believe that those things, once attained, will make us happy.
Bliss is what we yearn for in each moment. But here’s the key point: We would have no appreciation for bliss if it was all we ever knew.
“If you want to know what the water is like, don’t ask the fish.” – Chinese Proverb
Without experiencing an alternative, we have no perspective. We need the negative to be able to fully enjoy the positive.
As human beings, we need the “bad” to appreciate the “good.” Challenges and struggle make our lives a fulfilling, worthwhile experience.
We need darkness to recognize light. We would not even see anything if reality was all darkness or all light. We would not hear anything if reality was all noise or all silence. The law of duality permeates our universe, birthing a continuous dance of the yin and yang, helping us gain perspective.
Who appreciates a warm, sunny day more? Someone in Southern California? (Where it’s like that every day.) Or someone in Alaska who just experienced months of blistering cold and darkness?
“Sunny days wouldn’t be special if it wasn’t for rain
Joy wouldn’t feel so good if it wasn’t for pain”
– 50 Cent (Yes, I just quoted 50 Cent. That’s a great line.)
Something is cherished only when you know its opposite.
That’s why we’ve incarnated into this reality; to experience limitation and challenges in order to spur growth. This state of physical limitation allows us to fully appreciate the infinity that we’re all aspects of.
Everything is a Learning Experience
Experience the negatives and view them as a learning experience (because they are).
“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of a greater or equal benefit.” – Napoleon Hill
Wallowing in victimhood and self-pity has never benefited anyone. We have to work through obstacles, learn from “failures” and use challenges to spur growth.
Working Out: A Microcosm of Life
Just as avid weightlifters learn to love the intense resistance of the weights, we can all apply the same mentality to life in general. Workouts are inherently challenging, but that’s why the practice is worthwhile. You must push yourself and struggle with weights you can barely handle to grow stronger. If it were easy, there would be no benefit or sense of fulfillment. Life is the same.
Success and Failure
Highly successful people persevere through struggle and hardships.
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” – Bruce Lee
Heroes work through struggle and overcome obstacles. Life would be boring and consist of no growth if it was one big cakewalk. There’s a reason why sheltered, spoiled kids grow up to be incapable, unpleasant people. They’re never forced to challenge themselves and grow.
Note: Though all things negative are crucial to any learning experiences in life, you have the choice to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering. For example, getting depressed or beating yourself up because of a perceived failure instead of using it as fuel for future success. A lot of people get hung up on their struggle and attach their identity to it. This is what creates a victim mentality, where you will limit your experiences to the “negative” side of the spectrum until your mentality changes.
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer
Video Games, Novels, Movies and Stories
Would you play a video game if it was too easy? Hell no. You would be as bored as Michael Vick at a PETA meeting.
Think about the best video games, the best novels, the best movies and the best stories. They all involve tremendous struggle that has to be worked through and overcome.
While things like war, in my opinion, are unnecessary forms of struggle (because they’re manipulated into existence), some form of struggle is necessary for a worthwhile experience.
My Personal Perspective
I’ll admit that I’m more positive than most (which is why I write about this stuff). But I’m not happy all of the time, nor do I pretend to be.
Like everyone, I experience the full spectrum of human emotions. And I’m grateful for it. It’s in feeling the brilliant diversity of emotions that we can call ourselves truly alive. However, it’s a choice whether or not to be consumed by these emotions. This is where things like meditation and mindfulness provide tremendous help.
Sometimes I’m frustrated. But I acknowledge the frustration and observe it without judgment. Then I’ll do something like deadlift while bumpin’ some Sean Price (RIP!) to release the frustration. Next thing I know, I’m back to my feelin’ good, feelin’ great self.
Life wouldn’t be the miraculous learning experience that it is if we were always happy. We need darkness in order to truly appreciate the light. Embrace the struggle and persevere. Everything is a learning experience.
First of all, I want to thank Lupe Fiasco for creating a masterpiece, as well as Genius for annotating these extremely intricate and deep lyrics.
I don’t write about music too often here, but this album completely blew me away…
“Tetsuo & Youth” is a holistic depiction of life and death, seamlessly weaving themes of spirituality, religion, reincarnation, struggle, freedom and, as the title implies, youth. All of this is subtly and contextually coated with the concept of life being akin to a video game. Lupe’s lyricism is as skillful as I’ve ever heard. Every line is loaded with complex rhyme schemes, alliteration, double entendres, hidden meanings, clever punchlines and eccentric references. The lyrics are masterfully crafted, leaving the listener deciphering deeper meaning with each listen. The exquisitely adept rapping is silhouetted by beautiful soundscapes, which artfully match the ever-evolving emotional tone of the album.
The musical experience of “Tetsuo & Youth” is transformative, as it speaks to everyone in unique ways and sheds perspective on your own experience of this journey we call life.
The cover artwork for the album is an original painting by Lupe entitled “Man Eating Tiger” (Is it a man eating a tiger? Or a man-eating-tiger?) Like the album itself, it’s a constantly shifting depiction of life and death, with multiple meanings and layers. Here’s what Lupe himself has to say about it: “For me as the guy who painted it. I see a tiger descending into the body of a man, being consumed. You see the inside of man. But I also see a tiger in the process of ripping a man to pieces. A very chaotic scene of violence. The meaning of this painting is constantly shifting and changing. I see death and life and a constant pursuit of these two goals.”
The Title: Tetsuo & Youth
Some more hints from Lupe:
“For me, Tetsuo sounds cool. You can hate him for what he’s done, but it’s not just him being an asshole. How that relates to me as a person — you can take that however you want, but it was more like, let me get to the emotion of that misguided anger and make this sound like a song.”
“I wanted to just write about youth and children and their experiences cause I feel like I’m a child. I miss my youth, I wish I had a different path when I was younger […] If people want to know what the ‘Youth’ meant in the title, it’s in the interludes — those kids and the absence of kids; youth and the absence of youth.”
There are four interlude tracks on the album, for each of the four seasons. Lupe refers to them as “sonic palette cleanses.” These interludes are brief pieces of classical music accommodated by the sound of children (or lack thereof, in the case of “Winter”). Each season has a unique feel, both in terms of the music and the background sound of youth.
The album is a story, but it’s also a story in reverse. It’s revelatory to listen to it from front-to-back, then back-to-front, as I’ll soon explain.
The album’s story isn’t so much an individual story, but more like a skillfully knitted story of the seasons of life. It’s like a tapestry of existence, a “mural”, if you will (see what I did there?).
Listening to the album in the forward direction, Tetsuo & Youth opens with the “Summer” intro. Then immediately kicks into high gear with “Mural”, a truly momentous, lyrical journey. It’s like a soul hyped up to incarnate into the world. Lupe maintains a certain youthful exuberance in “Blur My Hands” and “Dots & Lines.” But “Dots & Lines” could also represent him losing his freedom (the dots and lines of contracts), because it is followed by the “Fall” interlude. “Fall” seems to symbolize a fall from grace, which carries from “Prisoner 1 & 2” all the way through to “Madonna.” “Winter” is akin to the ‘dark night of the soul’ and the album tosses the listener into the dangerously chaotic environments of “Chopper” and “Deliver.” “Madonna” is interwoven with hope and hopelessness; birth and death. “Adoration of the Magi” incorporates almost every theme of the album. Is it about birth? Is it about death? It’s definitely a short journey into the totality of the human experience, dipped in religious references while simultaneously transcending the downfalls of organized religion. The last full song is “They.Resurrect.Over.New” which is about reincarnation from the perspective of playing a video game. It leaves the listener questioning whether it’s really the end, or a new beginning. The album closes (or opens?) with “Spring” which is basically the aural interpretation of pure, youthful joy.
While the forward-moving story plays out like a fall from grace, with the opportunity reincarnate and try again, listening to it in reverse is that new attempt within the video game of life.
Lupe hints at this multiple times throughout the album…
In “Blur My Hands” he says…
“So you starting at the end, that’s the part where you begin I skip the bullshit so we can start it where we win Yeah, spoiler alert I can hear you all saying “boy you’re a jerk” But it’s cool though, know we gotta rule yo Get in, then we win and do it all again, ho”
And in “Body of Work” he hints at it again…
“Realize my begin when I find where my end is.”
There are no coincidences when it comes to Lupe Fiasco. He’s absolutely meticulous with his compositions and packs them with as much meaning as he can muster.
The Journey Back Home
If you listen to the album in reverse, it is positively mind-blowing. It’s essentially incarnating into the video game of life and achieving ultimate victory. The journey back home starts with “Spring” and insinuates reincarnation with the “proceed to the next level” theme of “They.Resurrect.Over.New.” Next, the narrative moves on to “Adoration of the Magi” which heavily plays upon the themes of birth and infancy. Then it proceeds through the journey of life before climaxing with “Mural.” “Mural” is like the culmination of everything, the final boss of the video game. That’s why Lupe ends “Mural” by emphatically stating “defeat samsara, achieve nirvana and brilliance.”
A Brief Song-by-Song Breakdown When Listening to the Album in Reverse Order (AKA The Journey Back Home):
“Spring” – This outro, or intro in this case, is utterly joyful. When used as the intro, it gives a heavenly vibe (or however you want to describe a utopian reality existing beyond this one). So it’s like hanging out in a blissful wonderland before you jump into the challenging video game of life.
“They.Resurrect.Over.New” – Heavily plays on video game themes and reincarnation. It’s also a turbulent swirl of altered states of consciousness and mythology amidst the unfathomable depth of the universe (or multi-verse). The song almost gives you the feeling of what it what be like to enter this reality; a chaotic blend of confusion and excited confidence. And the fact that Ab-Soul has the final verse adds to the mystery. Are him and Lupe blending identities? Is it hinting at multiple people reincarnating in groups? It adds an even greater enigmatic quality to the album.
“Adoration of the Magi” – The term “adoration of the magi” traditionally refers to the nativity of Jesus in art, surrounded by the 3 magi. This song is conceptual brilliance, blending religion (while constructively criticizing it as well), youth, loss of innocence, video games and reincarnation intermixed with the reality of the world today. (See my breakdown of some of the lyrics below. It’s mind-blowing.)
The middle of the album incorporates the bittersweetness of worldly struggle. The listener incarnates into a whirlwind of harsh environments, which is the equivalent of playing the video game on expert level.
“Madonna [And Other Mothers in the Hood]” – It’s a swirl of life, death, birth and struggle with a calling for the divine feminine. Because it blends multiple themes (like so many songs on Tetsuo & Youth), it could be the end of one story, yet the start of another.
“Deliver” – This song throws the listener into the grim reality of the ghetto. Lupe draws upon motifs of food and religion to paint a captivating, yet bleak, picture. And both motifs are incorporated in the chorus. “Pizza man don’t come here no more… deliver.” (Drawing upon the common Christian phrase “deliver us from evil.”)
“Chopper” – Chopper is the only song on the album with multiple guest verses. It feels like an act in a play where different characters step to the front of the stage to recite their soliloquy. “Chopper” is the testimony of toughened souls ‘playing the video game on expert level’. To give it even more of a thematic, character-driven vibe, the song starts with a voice saying “Ladies and gentleman, Lupe Fiasco.” Chopper is slang for both a gun and a helicopter, so it’s like going into a war zone. And it definitely feels like one.
“Winter” – The most foreboding of the interludes. The sad classical tune with the absence of any sounds of youth makes it a bit creepy.
“No Scratches” – A slow, emotional song about relationships that plays upon the metaphor of a car crash. It advises “to walk away with no scratches“ from a dysfunctional relationship “before we hit a wall.”
“Little Death” – This song is a plethora of parallel themes seamlessly laid atop one another. Sex (La petite mort), killing animals, ego death, the death of childlike innocence, the justice system, the Universe’s cycles and the death of creativity within people.
One line that stands out to me is “And more mercifully murdered Pisces” which incorporates both the topic of killing animals and universal cycles. In terms of astrology, the age of Pisces is coming to an end and we’re entering the age of Aquarius (hence “murdered Pisces”). This is also something that Lupe references multiple times throughout the album.
“Body of Work” – Subtly about hip-hop, with so many great lines, references and rhyme schemes. Some of Lupe’s best technical rapping of the album is on this track.
“Prisoner 1 & 2” – This song is a mini-epic, divided into two parts. Prisoner 1 is from the prisoners’ point of view. The bowling metaphor at the end of the first verse is just superb, and he does it while simultaneously painting a captivating image of prison life. Prisoner 2 is from the guards’ perspective, who are just as much prisoners as the prisoners themselves. Both are colorful descriptions of this ominous reality. In narrating from the sides of both prisoners and prison guards, Lupe emphasizes a crucial point… Even though people appear dualistic on the surface, we all have a connection point. And everyone shares a lot in common on a deep level.
Also, the acronyms of the chorus are fantastic:
+ “LOVE is Looking Over Various Errors”
– “HATE is Habitually Accelerating Terror, Everywhere, but the mural.” (with the mural reference, he’s referring back to the song “Mural.” I think he may also be alluding that hate can’t touch the collective that we’re all a part of. It can’t reach our true essence.)
And LOVE being Looking Over Various Errors is a call for a new way to deal with morality, because it’s obvious that privatized prisons (with a ridiculously disproportionate number of minorities confined within their walls) aren’t working out for us. It reminds me of this story that’s been floating around social media about a particular African tribe: (here’s where I saw it)
When someone does something hurtful and wrong, they take the person to the center of town, and the entire tribe comes and surrounds him. For two days they’ll tell the man every good thing he has ever done. The tribe believes that every human being comes into the world as GOOD, each of us desiring safety, love, peace, happiness. But sometimes in the pursuit of those things people make mistakes. The community sees misdeeds as a cry for help. They band together for the sake of their fellow man to hold him up, to reconnect him with his true Nature, to remind him who he really is, until he fully remembers the truth from which he’d temporarily been disconnected: “I AM GOOD”
“Fall” – When moving through the album in reverse, “Fall” is a time of change. It could be looked at as death of the ego-self and the clearing of all negativity.
“Dots & Lines” is a song of freedom and spiritual growth. ‘Beautiful’ sums up this composition, complete with references to sacred geometry and the intrinsic conncectedness of everything. Lupe also discusses how the natural cycles of the universe override anything man-made that isn’t in harmony with those inherent principles. Sacred geometry is mentioned in the chorus and these concepts are also discussed in lines such as:
“The applause and patience of the laws in nature Override lies and the laws of nations”
“Sun positions overcome traditions”
“Where the golden means, so the overseer gets overseen”
The golden mean is the golden ratio, also known as the Fibonacci Sequence (or Fibonacci Spiral), which is observed in both the macrocosms and the microcosms of the universe (as above, so below). These geometric principles “oversee” man-made reality. So if an “overseer” creates a system not in harmony with these principles, it will create dysfunction and inevitably crumble. One example of this is the concept of time. Everything moves in a spiral pattern (the Fibonacci spiral) and in cycles, yet we measure time in a linear fashion. That’s why our (man-made) concept of time causes so much anxiety for most people. (Read more about the concept of time in this post.)
“Blur My Hands” is almost like a victory song. It’s about transmuting hate into love, and pokes fun at road rage. What’s the best response to someone giving you the finger? “Yeah that’s cool, cause I think you’re number one too.” Brilliant.
The title, along with hinting at the censorship of the middle finger, could be referencing blurring the hands of a clock; signifying the transcendence of time and becoming eternal. Lupe’s opening line is “take TIME to learn me…”
“Mural” is the climax, the culmination, the final boss. It’s a lyrical epic, through the magical mystery of infinite possibility.
Concluding the song with “defeat samsara, achieve nirvana and brilliance” is the ultimate happy ending. And then it fades into the interlude of “Summer” to allow the listener to soak in that state of nirvana.
Breakdowns of some of the most profound lines:
Meditate until there’s no mind Decorate me with shine till I go blind BDSM dominated it with no bind Safe word is don’t stop, both or don’t go no times
These lines are far deeper than just meditation, wearing jewelry and bondage/discipline/sadomasochism. And there’s a reason why the “safe words” for the self-imposed bondage are so confusing…
Two scenarios are depicted here. One being someone leaving this world, and another entering this world.
Picture an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, or high priest preparing for death. Meditating until they merge with all of existence, their bodies adorned with jewelry for the afterlife and they might even still be alive during their death preparations. So they may have entered a tomb while still alive, with no way out.
The other image that these lines create are that of a soul incarnating into the world. Being in the peaceful stillness of deep meditation, then coming out into the bright lights of the world as an infant emerging from the darkness of the womb. And spiritual beings choosing to come to this world of suffering and extreme limitation are subjecting themselves to a spiritual form of BDSM. But growth only happens when we overcome obstacles. So by subjecting itself to limitation, a spiritual being can continue to grow. And the video game (being in a human body) inherently comes with amnesia, so that’s why the “safe words” are purposefully confusing. Because the human experience wouldn’t be fulfilling if we already knew everything. It’s meaningful because we’re constantly learning and growing.
Adoration of the Magi
Quiet is kept like Rosicrucians meet Cosa Nostras on Oprah’s sofa With both controllers Watchin’ Gazans and Ashkenazzis ride roller coasters Say yeah Yeah, lots of options, now up is down, two player Now A is jump and B is punch You seein’ somethin’ that weren’t there To find friendliness in a nemesis, it’s a old test 3 buttons, see somethin’ That’s emphasis on genesis
Quiet is kept like Rosicrucians meet Cosa Nostras on Oprah’s sofa = Secret societies hiding in plain sight.
With both controllers = Secret societies (mentioned in the line above), operating from behind the scenes act as the “controllers” to manipulate conflicts (see the next line). This is also the opening to a video game reference, comparing life to a video game.
Watchin’ Gazans and Ashkenazzis ride roller coasters = Those “controllers” manipulated the Israel-Palestine conflict from behind the scenes. Riding roller coasters might be referring to the classic Bill Hicks stand-up about how life is just a ride.
now up is down = Inversion pervades our society. Also keeps with the video game reference.
“Just look at us. Everything is backwards, everything is upside down. Doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, psychiatrists destroy minds, scientists destroy truth, major media destroys information, religions destroy spirituality and governments destroy freedom.” – Michael Ellner
two player = A reference to the concept of duality. And still keeping the video game theme.
Now A is jump and B is punch = Along with saying “two player”, talking about playing the Sega Genesis video game Double Dragon (Is this a reptilian reference too?)
You seein’ somethin’ that weren’t there = A world of illusion
To find friendliness in a nemesis, it’s a old test = People allow themselves to be divided because of the old testament, when we should all unite as one. “Old test” could also be referring to life as a test, like Killah Priest in the song B.I.B.L.E.
3 buttons, see somethin’ = Gain a higher perspective using your third eye and transcend the meaningless conflict. And this of course continues the video game theme.
That’s emphasis on genesis = Nicely wraps up both the religious and video game references. And acts as a call for a new beginning.
The chorus of “Adoration of the Magi” is ingenious as well: Why you ready to die? You just a baby Why them tears up under your eyes? You just a baby Keep your head up in the sky, you just a baby Quit chasing money, never mind, you just a baby Why you wanna be born again? You just a baby Why you playing in the streets? You just a baby
The hook incorporates the continuous themes of youth, innocence, life, death, birth and reincarnation. And I’ll let these images explain how clever the wordplay is…
Courtesy of Rap Genius
Body of Work
God is great, but it’s snakes on my soul plane
There are four references here, along with alluding to snakes in the music industry (because the song is about hip-hop).
1. Biblical reference
Referencing two movies:
2. Snakes on a Plane
3. Soul Plane
4. Referring to the theory of reptilian entities inhabiting the astral (soul) plane.
Yeah… Lupe dives deep.
Dots & Lines
And your reflection is your connection to more collections of more directions and paths If your reflection is a mask, then you’re reflective of mass To see yourself just look at me then split your reflection in half
With the first line, Lupe is saying to look within (your reflection), as that is “your connection to more collections of more directions and paths.” Self-mastery is the gateway to enlightenment.
In the second line, he’s saying that if you’re not authentic, or you’re entire identity is your ego (mask), then you’re merely reflecting what everyone else is doing; groupthink, sheep/herd mentality and succumbing to peer pressure when we’re all really unique individuals. Also, mass not only refers to the majority, but to organized religion as well (whose followers tend to blindly follow everything).
To see yourself just look at me then split your reflection in half – This is hinting at us all being aspects of each other and intimately connected. He refers to himself as “your reflection” which is quite interesting. Some quantum physics experiments point towards reality being a projection of our consciousness; so imagine a massive, ultra-realistic version of those online, multi-player video games. That may be life. So in that sense “you” are a reflection of “me” and “I” am a reflection of “you.” And if you really get down to it, we’re all unique parts of the same “mural.” And speaking of which…
Are we apps or are we bodies filled with apparitions? Operating applications, stuck inside an Apple prison
Questioning if we’re just biological technology, or technology being operated by some higher consciousness. Apps are usually used to describe applications within Apple products, like computers or iPhones. He’s also asking if we’re bodies being piloted by something non-physical, like a ghost in the machine. And then, Apple prison refers back to the company Apple as well as the story of Adam and Eve, who was tempted by the snake to eat the apple. So Lupe is questioning if that story (or whatever that story is actually talking about, because it’s allegorical) caused humanity to be trapped in a prison, or matrix (hint, hint).
Rewrite history, liberty needs a better bell Maybe harder irons and carbon fibers that never fail Smarter science mixed with a odd alliance of fairy tale
Obviously referring to the liberty bell and how history is written by the winners of wars, with hidden agendas. We need a new beginning, a better way of doing things. “Harder irons” = stronger bonds. And carbon fibers are long, thin strands that collectively form an immensely strong material. We, as individuals, need to be like these carbon fibers, to form a strong collective. This intertwinement of fibers also hints at something akin to… (guess what?) a mural.
Smarter science mixed with a odd alliance of fairy tale – In saying “smarter science” Lupe is advocating applying science to areas that benefit us. Instead of building weapons and technological militarization, we should be using science to explore the world around us and improve ourselves. “Odd alliance of fairy tale” mentions “Fairy Tale” which is an anime series with wizards, dragon slayers…etc. So Lupe is saying the world would be a better place if we used smart science, blended with some healthy mysticism.
Simple as a Buddhist monk in a temple standing in some heel groove with the abbot, practicing stillness Real still til he realizes his realness Defeat samsara achieve nirvana and brilliance
That first line creates a clear image of a Buddhist monk in a temple. A heel groove is an indentation made by standing in the same place (usually on a wooden floor) for a prolonged period of time. But it could also be a homonym for “heal groove” implying that the music of silence is healing.
Real still til he realizes his realness – Our realness (who we really are) can be found in the stillness of meditation.
Defeat samsara achieve nirvana and brilliance – Samsara is the continuous cycle of reincarnation, and achieving nirvana breaks that cycle, reuniting us with our true essence.
Is there a better way to end a song!?
Bringing It All Together
The messages that Lupe is conveying with Tetsuo & Youth, in my opinion, are that life is like a video game. Beginnings and ends are blurred together within the mysterious mural of existence. Everyone will struggle, and struggle is inevitable. But it’s up to you to overcome the obstacles in your path and transmute fear into love. It’s up to you to absorb the useful spiritual concepts, while transcending the aspects of religious control. Ultimately, it’s up to you to find inner peace in the stillness of who you really are; to “defeat samsara, achieve nirvana and brilliance.”
– Stevie P!
PS – I also made a video about 5 life lessons learned from Tetsuo & Youth. Check it out…
Video games are meant to be challenging. They are based on overcoming obstacles. Why? Because it makes it so much more satisfying when it’s all said and done.
The same principle applies to life in general.
What would a video game be without any challenges? It would be boring and absolutely pointless.
Would you play Super Mario Bros if all you did was leisurely walk to the right the whole time with no obstacles? Hell no! What’s the fun in that?
Would you enjoy playing Pokemon if you had unlimited master balls and rare candies? (I hope you got that one haha). It’s all about the journey, baby.
Think about movies too. Just about all movies are based on overcoming challenges and the progression of the main character(s).
We develop through struggle.
We need darkness to appreciate light.
We need clouds and rain to appreciate sunshine.
Everything is a learning experience.
Every situation is an opportunity.
Learn, move on, and persevere.
“The universe tends to unfold as it should.” -Random guy from Harold and Kumar
But seriously, that’s an awesome quote.
Whatever you’re going through at the moment is what you need most right now (in this game we call life) and an opportunity to better yourself and grow.
Here’s a personal example. I packed on the infamous freshman 15 (lbs) in my first 4 months of college. This was a major wake-up call for me. But instead of getting depressed about it or ignoring it, I used it as an opportunity. I started educating myself on health and fitness. And more importantly, I applied what I learned. I worked out consistently and made better food choices. This strengthened my body and mind, and helped me shed the excess fat I had accumulated. This has not only given me a plethora of knowledge and experience in health and fitness, but also created a snowball effect of successes in every aspect of my life since then. It was exactly what I needed, and I took advantage of the challenge presented to me. Overcoming that challenge made me a stronger person and greatly helped in developing my character.
“What you call a setback, I call a challenge, if I fall I know I’ll get back, it’s all a balance.” -Crooked I
So embrace your challenges. Embrace your difficulties. They are learning experiences on your way to progression and building a stronger version of yourself. Because life would be so boring if we just coasted through.