Kansas: “Carry On Wayward Son” Catholic analysis of the lyrics

This is just my unabashedly Catholic interpretation of Kerry Allen Livgren’s Carry on Wayward Son. You’ll remember he also wrote Dust in the Wind. Kerry continues his spiritual journey as an evangelical Christian after a major stroke some years ago. I don’t know if his family has Catholic heritage to it (so to speak, though the family names speak strongly of this), but note the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the mantelpiece above the fireplace on the cover of the album. He’s thinking about it…

KANSAS: “Carry on Wayward Son”

Carry on my wayward son,
For there’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more [These advisers are angels, encouraging him to stay on course, looking forward in hope to heaven, his efforts being, however, to let himself be drawn to the living truth from on high. He’s just discerning this childlike simplicity, however, and is still counting a bit too much on his own efforts, as if he was his own savior. That only brings lack of peace, frustration, weariness, tears.]

Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond the illusion
I was soaring ever higher, but I flew too high
Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think I still was a mad man [Under his own efforts he did realize the vanity of his own efforts, that getting to know a negative truth doesn’t bring you positively into the peace and fulfillment of the living truth. It takes quite a bit of humility not to become so frustrated that one becomes bitterly cynical. He is encouraged once again in the fog by the angels to do what he needs to do, which is, paradoxically, not to count so much on his own efforts, but rather to let himself be taken up into the living truth:]

I hear the voices when I’m dreamin’, I can hear them say

Carry on my wayward son,
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more

Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season
And if I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don’t know
On a stormy sea of blurry emotion
Tossed about I’m like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune, [He has ignored, as we might well do, the voices of the angels and their advice, entrenching himself in chaos, thinking this will bring him to what he wants so deeply. But the angels are persistent in their advice to carry on, that is, not as he has been doing, but in such manner that his own efforts to save himself can just take a rest, in which case he no longer has to be so frustrated with himself and cry.]

but I hear the voices say

Carry on my wayward son,
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more

Carry on, you will always remember
Carry on, nothing equals the splendor [This is the turning point.]
Now your life’s no longer empty [filling ourselves with ourselves is emptiness.]
Surely heaven waits for you [because now he’s letting heaven draw him there.]

Carry on my wayward son,
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry, don’t you cry no more, no more [Fantastic. An anti-Pelagian heresy, pro-angels theological ballad. Thanks, Kerry.]

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Filed under Song analysis, Spiritual life

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