Friday Fun: Boss Top Ten, #3--"Adam Raised a Cain"

"Adam Raised a Cain" (off of Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978))
Concert Footage: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio (U.S.A.), 2014


The British Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton once famously called original sin, "the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved."  In other words, if you strip away the (somewhat convoluted) theological infrastructure surrounding the idea, you are left with the basic observation that we carry with us the baggage of those that came before us.  All of us are products of our environment, whether we want to be or not.  Some of those products are relatively banal, some are deeply wounding and leave permanent scars.  But all of us have them, and all of us struggle, to one degree or another, to get beyond them.

"Adam Raised a Cain," my favorite Springsteen deep cut (or maybe "deep-ish" cut), is a song about original sin.  Indeed, it says so right in the title--one generation after eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam's son Cain killed his brother Abel in a fit of jealousy and shame.  The sin that took hold of Adam was transferred down and propagated to his son.  And, because original sin is the Christian doctrine with the strongest empirical evidence, this story applies to both Adam and Cain and to (based on the biographies I've read) Springsteen and his father, as well as to most of us.

In the summer that I was baptized,
My father held me to his side,
As they put me to the water,
He said how on that day I cried.

We were prisoners of love, a love in chains,
He was standin' in the door, I was standin' in the rain,
with the same hot blood burning in our veins,
Adam raised a Cain.

I am constantly amazed how much I am like my mother and, in a different way, my father.  Fortunately for me, my parents are good and decent people.  Not perfect people, certainly, but good ones nonetheless, and so this reality cuts in my favor.  But to my advantage or not, it is something that has just kind of happened, without me having exercised a great deal of decision-making in the matter.

Many, many people are not nearly as fortunate as I was with regard to the parents' lottery, but that doesn't really alter the degree to which people end up like their parents.  In fact, I've noticed that people who have the most troublesome relationship with their parents are often the most like them.  We are tied to our parents with a bond that is very difficult us to break away from--a "prisoner of love, a love in chains."

All of the old faces,
Ask you why you're back,
They fit you with position,
And the keys to your daddy's Cadillac,

In the darkness of your room,
Your mother calls you by your true name,
You remember the faces, the places, the names,
You know it's never over, it's relentless as the rain,
Adam raised a Cain.

Part of the reason we are linked to our families so closely is because it is comfortable, and so we tend to default back to it in times of stress.  It's easy to find yourself falling back into the pattern that you understand, the role that you know how to play.  And people in families often expect you to play the particular role that you have always played.  And those roles are a product of the roles that they played in their family, and so on back and back.  It is very hard, many times, to get out from underneath these stories.

Also, the people that are closest to us know us the best.  This makes it hard for people to "re-invent" themselves, because those close to them remember all of "the faces, the places, the names."  This can be good, as it can ground you and prevent you from putting on a false front.  But it can also make it hard to have genuine change and growth.  If people will always see you as the person you once were, it is very hard to become the person you want to be.

In the Bible Cain slew Abel
And East of Eden he was cast,
You're born into this life paying,
for the sins of somebody else's past,

Daddy worked his whole life, for nothing but the pain,
Now he walks these empty rooms, looking for something to blame,
You inherit the sins, you inherit the flames,
Adam raised a Cain.

"Adam Raised a Cain," is not a positive song, and suggests that these burdens cannot ever be overcome.  I don't think that's true, but I think it can feel that way at times, and in any event it can be very, very hard.  All of us have a bit of Cain in us, knowing that we have taken on a burden from our Adam, and resenting that burden while knowing that our sins are ultimately our own.  Once again, like Chesterton said, this is part of the human experience.  All Bruce is doing is saying the words.

And adding some guitar licks.

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