Every now and then you have one of those moments that blow your mind, when everything you thought you knew gets turned upside down, like at the end of The Sixth Sense when you realize that the whole time Bruce Willis was actually bald!
This can happen with song lyrics. For instance, for years I’ve been singing along to Ryan Adams’ “My Winding Wheel” as follows: “O bed of steel, be my winding wheel.” This made sense to me: the singer is promising his flirtatious lover that he’ll be home waiting for her and is prepared to employ some kind of block-and-tackle device to drag her back if necessary, though I don’t blame her for being reluctant given that a steel bed can’t be all that comfortable, not to mention the sinister bondage overtones.
I recently learned that the actual lyrics are “Or better still, be my winding wheel,” which certainly helps lighten the whole dungeon vibe. Still, until it’s made clear exactly what that winding wheel’s for, I think she should just stay clear, maybe get Ryan a restraining order and probably some elocution lessons.
Mishearing something is one thing (and thank goodness I’ve had never had any confusion over Ryan Adams’ other hits like “Cuts Like a Knife” and “Summer of ’69”) but having your whole outlook overturned upon the discovery of your error is something else altogether.
All my life, I’ve heard the Bible passage, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” and I’ve thought to myself, “Thank goodness I’m not rich because, wow, a camel through a needle? That’s tough. I mean, just coaxing the camel to get near the needle in the first place…”
This week, I learned that there’s not literally an eye of a needle. Instead, scholars believe that the “eye of the needle” was the name given to a gate through the Wall of Jerusalem for use by pedestrians.
Say what? A people-sized hole? Why, that’s positively camel-friendly! I bet camels breezed through there all the time: baby camels, camels whose growth was stunted from too much smoking, anorexic camels, camels that had undergone humpectomies (again because of all the smoking). I mean, if you could compel a camel to try squeezing through a sharp sewing object, I doubt it would take much to get one to hobble on its knees through a gate.
All this time I’ve pictured rich men loitering behind a golden rope outside the gates of heaven, like it was some kind of ultra-exclusive nightclub. “Sorry, you’re not on the list… Seriously, you think slipping a fifty’s going to get you in here? Excuse me? No, you go to hell!” Of course, the rich ladies probably get into heaven all the time, which doesn’t seem fair but what are you going to do?
I’ve always felt a little self-righteous knowing that, even though I have failed miserably in accumulating wealth in this world, at least those SUV-driving, giant-watch-wearing, portfolio flaunting rich dudes wouldn’t be hogging all the prime halos, harps and parking spots in the Eternal Afterlife. At the same time, I’ve tried not to feel too happy about this fact because blessed are the poor of spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Broke and miserable: a win-win afterlife scenario. I’ve also got a leg up on inheriting the earth, by the way.
But now I realize the rich have just as much chance of entering the kingdom of heaven as I do, plus they still get to enjoy more holiday cruises and wear more clothes made from endangered species during their time on earth. A few volunteer hours here, a charitable donation there – probably to the zoo for that new camel enclosure (irony!) – and next thing you know the rich man is in heaven showing his vacation photos from St. Kitts to the Good Lord on his iPhone, the latest version, not even on the market yet! And my kids will whine, “We want the new iPhone too. Why can’t we have new iPhones? All the other kids in heaven have new iPhones.” And I’ll think, “Thanks a lot, rich men and your stupid undersized camels.” And then I’ll think, “What the heck is my whole family doing in heaven?”
And then I’ll remember: never check song lyrics on your iPhone while driving.