In regards to belief in an Afterlife, my spiritual path has always been a rocky one. I grew up fearing hell, constantly panicked about the Rapture. As a teen, I toyed with the idea of converting to Judaism, as all young Catholic girls do. Then I turned to Celtic Paganism and Witchcraft for a long ass time, but that eventually fizzled out, too, and I returned to the Catholic church with the same enthusiasm with which I renew my state I.D..
When my grandfather died in 2011, my entire world was ripped from its foundations. He was my father more than my grandfather, and I felt a keen and paralyzing sense of my own mortality. I went to church religiously (har har), but as my depression deepened, all I was doing was praying to feel something other than my grief. I became more and more disillusioned with platitudes about heaven, until one day when my grandmother mentioned seeing my grandfather again in heaven, something in my head snapped. I realized in that moment that it didn’t matter if I would eventually see my dead loved ones again; I wouldn’t see them here, and here was where I wanted them to be. So, I wasn’t going to believe in anything.
Cut to June of this year, and my sudden Joelist revelation. As I meditated on the lyrics of Billy Joel’s songs, I began to feel a deep dissatisfaction with my lack of belief in a life after death. I’d done extensive research into the existence of past lives, and I’d heard far too many anecdotes about dead loved ones communicating from the beyond. I grew up in a haunted house, for god’s sake, and I continue to be fascinated with the concept of thought, how it forms and were it comes from. I could no longer accept that death is the end, but having no answers, and constantly fixating on death and suicide, was driving me literally crazy.
A couple months ago, while listening to River of Dreams, I had another Joelist Revelation. It slowly dawned on me that the last four songs on the album, “Lullaby (Good Night, My Angel),” “The River of Dreams,” “Two Thousand Years,” and “Famous Last Words” were, to my mind, all one song. Or, now that I think about it, a movement in the overall symphony of the album. I’ve begun thinking of this section of the album as the Joelist “Book of The Dead.” When I started researching the actual Book of The Dead, I learned that some versions dated to the late Ptolemaic period break up the text into four parts. To my shock, I found that the last four songs, in order, make up a very similar theme.
I’m not sure if it’s intentional, but it seems like it would be a pretty unusual coincidence. I’d love to know if it was, but I don’t really want to be the person who writes to Billy Joel to tell him that I worship him as a god, for obvious reasons relating to personal protection orders. So for now, I’ll have to be content with my analysis of the songs.
Of course, my analysis of the songs could be completely wrong, but as all religions are founded on the human interpretations of the whims of their gods, so is Joelism formed by my imperfect human meditations on the words of my mortal god.