Fallow Heart: Inner Self (Part I)

Hopping these dirty streets

The first compact discs I ever owned were Flotsam and Jetsam’s Doomsday for the Deceiver and Sepultura’s Beneath the Remains. My buddy Miguel and I maintained joint custody of both albums—an arrangement which hardly worked in my favor given that Miguel was the only one between us who actually owned a CD player. (Dank negotiation skills there, moron! You, sir, should be on Shark Tank.) Situated on the veritable knife’s edge between thrash and death metal as we were at that point, Doomsday represented our guttering interest in the former’s relatively quaint vocabulary, while Beneath the Remains exemplified the future tense of a new language we were seriously warming up to.

It’s mere coincidence that I happened to revisit the “Inner Self” video off of Sepultura’s breakthrough release within a day or so of the album broaching its 30th anniversary—promise! I do so somewhat  regularly, (the band’s “Dead Embryonic Cells” joint along with Kreator’s “Betrayer”—Mille happens to be one of the finer father figure that a kid from the projects could ever hope for—and Dio’s “Holy Diver” are just a few other classic videos that I diligently keep in touch with.) I happen to adore “Inner Self’s” feijoada laced take on Celtic Frost and it’s a blast to see the band in their prime, insouciantly winding up for a lethal pitch.    

That said, there’s a fascinating incongruence between “Inner Self”’s lyrics and the images sewn together through the course of its video. I’ve always (however casually) wondered about this incoherence. Backside-ollies, preening for the camera, Igor Cavalera’s extraordinary crosswalk-hop (which will never not be weird to me, damnit!), live performance video and fútbol, holy fútbol, doesn’t overtly jibe with the song’s treatise in which Max Cavalera describes a struggle for his own identity in a poisoned environment. Sure, there are a couple of frames of apparent suffering and indigence scattered about like meaningless parsley atop your hangar steak but they aren’t remotely intended to perform as the visual focal point.


Considered from an eastern philosophical grounding, the expression ‘inner self’ tends to perk up one’s ears. This is a space that exists as something between altar and circuit-board. The inner-self implies a hermetic, sacred system—it’s no wonder that the the words ‘alone’ and ‘holy’ derive from the same root. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the word ‘infection’ connotes an infiltrating sort of spoilage. I won’t bother with any exegesis regarding Sao Paulo’s class structure in the late ’80s, (though I have done a bit of research and the amount of land speculation, radial, metropolitan growth and precipitate concentration of wealth directly resulting in the ultimate marginalization of millions within the city is friggin’ eye-popping,) but the environment that one inhabits can be conceptualized as a syringe. Its aim is to inject the subconscious minds of those living within it with its own peculiar serum. Your environment has its own dialect and intentions but always desires access to your inner-self, your spiritual ‘pin-number,’ if you will. It’ll cut you down the middle and core you out for that code if given the leeway.


Max alludes to the surfacing of ‘contradictions’ and indeed, contradictions form small constellations within the body of “Inner Self”’s short narrative. He describes walking along ‘dirty streets, with hate in [his] mind,’ and I’m already bolt upright in my chair. I haven’t stopped and actually considered this song since getting into Dharma.

Guys, when we navigate our environment with hate in our minds, the environment’s obliged to be all-out shitty in return because our point of view radiates outwards from our psyches. Likewise, the exercise of hatred unquestionably binds us to the object of our avarice, right? We become stuck within a cycle.

Brahma, a Hindu creator-god was supposedly asked, “Who will come into union with You first: one who hates You or one who loves You?” Brahma immediately replied, “One who hates me because he will think about me more often.” And indeed, even while Max describes the impregnability of his ‘inner self’ he slips up and reveals that the opposite’s actually the case. Our hero’s tethered to the object of his hatred, insisting at one point, “one day you’ll fall and I’ll be waiting.”  What? Waiting around for that… Really!!? You’re going to let some unnamed asshat, (be it an individual or society at large,) subjugate you this way? The idea of plotting and ‘waiting’ for some ill-defined moment to manifest so that you can finally leap out, go, “Ah ha!” and have your revenge is a kind of psychological incarceration. You expect us to believe that you have the power to competently govern your inner self when you let someone or something that you describe as having “filthy ways” function as your de facto day-planner? Tomorrow? Hmm, let’s see Mr. Cavalera: wake up hungover and furious at me; stretch (so important,) juice and then practice scales for an hour; plot and seethe ’till your lunch date with Andreas; stomp sullenly to band practice shaking your fists at the sky like a lunatic (nice!); thrash, like, super good ’till 5:30 or so; talk about me incessantly for an hour or so afterwords while ignoring Paulo’s eye rolling and then have a light dinner…

Yes, of course we’re bound to feel anger, despair, malevolence and all other manner of malignant disturbances occasionally; we’re programmed with that functionality. Attempting to secure joy and inner peace while being hounded by turmoil might feel like a wild goose chase, but never forget: you’re the fucking goose, Chief. You’re a wild, fucking goose and absolutely worthy of pursuing.

Recognizing our emotions while denying them control over our actions should be the goal. ‘Walking these dirty streets with love in my mind’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as does the actual lyric and more than likely would’ve had my 13-year-old nose turned up in the air faster than Benedict Cumberbatch’s after he’s offered a Paulliac out of a goddamned Burgundy glass (!) but ask yourself this: between the person who walks those gnarly old streets with love in their mind versus the one who trods them with hate, who’s the more likely to actually tidy the place up a bit? When you honestly love someone or something, who benefits first and foremost? Answer: you do, you goose!

Eastern folklore often talks about Pretas. Pretas are ghosts with tremendous appetites who nevertheless go hungry because their mouths are either too small to eat or their necks are too slender to swallow.

In the song, Max craves a saner, more humane environment but is unequipped to properly digest such a concept in order to effect actual change. Hate or don’t hate. This is undeniably your choice. But understand your role in the environment and understand your environment’s role within you. Managed improperly, you craft a hall of mirrors that one can easily become turned around within. Love actually feels good and also affords us direction and control. Hate is your drunk buddy that you’re too nervous to stand up to. The one that insists on driving. The one that insists on driving your car.


What? There’s no light but there’s hope? Stop! Stop. Fuck, this is frustrating… Max, you understand that you’re using the word ‘light’ as a metaphor for the concept of ‘hope’ and then saying that while there is no ‘light’ per se, there is hope? Are you trolling me? Jesus. Also, ‘life’ does not betray in just the same way that a staircase does not betray. A staircase offers you passage either up or down it, your choice, friend. You cartwheel head-over-heels downwards into the damned foyer? Well, many factors may be involved in your, (let’s just say it,) no doubt hilarious nose-dive but the stairs don’t give the slightest fuck. They’re a vehicle. Their thing is simply transition, mind the bannister or don’t. Neither life nor death will betray you. Accept some responsibility!


Regarding the acceptance of responsibility, you know who can be counted on to ‘betray’ almost reflexively? Hint: it ain’t people walking around coursing with love. They’re too busy cheerfully tidying up those aforementioned streets. They’re too busy righting the axis of their environment. However, if you choose to go about your day with hate in your mind, then as my adopted dad would say, “you can’t deny, you can’t deny…Betrayer!” And the being you betray, first and foremost is yourself because you’ve ceded the very cradle of your authority, your birthright, and exchanged it for the source code force fed to you by society. Hatred is not a position of power. It’s a rodent within a wheel, exhausting itself, envisioning distant satisfactions but never actually embarking towards them. It can’t. It’s fixed in its terminus, cuffed to the object of its avarice.

Christ said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Light.” A Buddhist might respond by clapping the J-ster on the shoulder and saying something along the lines of, “Wonderful brother; so glad you’ve figured it out! I too am all those things.”

There’s no light? Max, you are the light. Once people begin to accept this concept, they can stop exporting all their joys and contentments to a future that they will never actually arrive at. They exodus the fucking wheel and the very notion of Heaven becomes absolutely silly. Why toil, suffer and die as a sort of downpayment on some fuzzily defined after party? Why not just create your Heaven here? Who told you that you can’t? I’ll tell you precisely who taught you that you had no right to do such a thing: the fucking source code taught you. And you don’t unlearn that code through hatred and despair. That there’s the hat trick, ladies and gentlemen. Our baser emotions are the webbing of the ruse itself and we’ve all been driven like chattel directly towards it. How to make that hard right and disembark from the fallow hearted herd? The directions are carved as if in braille within your inner self. You feel them; but only after a serious jag of deep Spring cleaning.

I’m not remotely done here, ladies and gentlemen. I’m just winding up. Follow me on Instagram at @fallow.heart

“You evoke light from the Universe. You call into being light and color and rigidity and heaviness and everything.” —Alan Watts

“Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.” —G.K. Chesterton

“They say in heaven, love comes first. We’ll make heaven a place on earth.” —Belinda Carlisle