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And in my best behavior…

I don’t know how artists do it – how they can bare souls to thousands upon thousands of strangers.

The stuff I choose to share about my thought processes and doubts is so surface level. But then you have a guy like Sufjan Stevens who writes a song about a serial killer then hits everyone with a whammy of a lyric: “And in my best behavior, I am really just like him. Look underneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid.”

What a bold, yet cryptic lyric.

The guy was brave enough to compare himself to a serial killer. And not just any serial killer, one that dressed like a clown and killed little boys. It’s eerie – isn’t John Wayne Gacy, Jr. supposed to be unique? People aren’t supposed to be like that. Yet here is this gentle, smart singer comparing himself to one of the most twisted minds acknowledged in the history of people. How can they be just the same? And what does that mean for the rest of us? Now obviously (at least I hope this is an obvious truth), Sufjan isn’t a physical serial killer. If we go to his home and look under the floorboards, we aren’t going to find the bodies of little boys. So how do they compare?

Well, Sufjan does say, “Look underneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid.” Poignant, but not the whole picture. We all have secrets, but if you’ll recall that at the very beginning of this blog I pointed out the impressiveness of an artist’s ability to bare their souls. If we get caught up in the line about secrets, then Sufjan isn’t really baring his soul, is he? So if you reexamine the song, you catch another personal lyric that isn’t just the bio of John, but another glimpse into Sufjan’s mind and soul. After a line about the buried dead, Sufjan stretches out this lyric: “Oh my God. Are you one of them?”

It is direct. It puts this from what could have been a third person narration until the end into a first person reflection the entire time. I picture this “Oh my God, are you one of them?” being asked to a loved one. Maybe a friend or a former lover. But there’s a painful regret there – like while our dear singer isn’t a physical killer, on maybe a more emotional or physical level he feels he has done some killing.This great man, ‘adored,’ has done actions that have philosophically killed an innocent person.

Which then gets me thinking. None of us want to think of ourselves as killers. But how many have we hurt – even when we were in our best behaviors? Are we all killers? It’s a scary thought because there is probably a lot of truth to that. Even today, despite knowing my flaws, I had someone tell me that I essentially do this to them. Essentially, I am a person on their best behavior. But I am cold. Unemotionless. I am guilty. What’s underneath my floorboards? What secrets have I hid? Because yes, in my best behavior, I really am just like him.

And oh my God…are you one of them?


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