Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
You’ve been out ridin’ fences for so long now
Oh, you’re a hard one, but I know that you’ve got your reasons
These things that are pleasin’ you can hurt you somehow
Don’t you draw the queen of diamonds boy
She’ll beat you if she’s able
You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet
Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can’t get
Desperado, oh you ain’t getting no younger
Your pain and your hunger, they’re driving you home
And freedom, oh freedom, well that’s just some people talking
Your prison is walking through this world all alone
Don’t your feet get cold in the winter time?
The sky won’t snow and the sun won’t shine.
It’s hard to tell the nighttime from the day
And you’re losing all your highs and lows
Ain’t it funny how the feeling goes away…
Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be rainin’, but there’s a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you
(let somebody love you)
You better let somebody love you…before it’s too late
Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Don Henley/Glenn Frey/Eagles
des-per-a-do: a bold or violent criminal; especially: a bandit of the western U.S. in the 19th century
It strikes me as ironic that the song “Desperado” was written by a secular musician and yet so beautifully describes the human condition. The lyricist identifies the destructiveness of self-indulgence, the deception of wealth, the covetous desires that blind us to the good things we already possess. We dislike being stifled by commitment and inconvenience, so we empty our lives of the people and things that might jar us from our self-centeredness.
“Don’t your feet get cold in the wintertime?” The songwriter implores. The subject of the song is trudging through the snow by choice, not so his feet will be cold, but because he doesn’t like the rules inside the house, and because many of the people he finds there cramp his style. So he wanders in the netherworld, cold and hungry, endangered by wild beasts. The lone wolf seeks peace but finds desolation instead. He insists on control and finds himself ruling over a wasteland.
Howard Hughes had everything going for him. He was highly intelligent, educated, driven, and enormously wealthy. His attention to detail helped him accomplish many feats of engineering, including the magnificent aircraft he built, many of which broke world records for speed and sustained flight. His renowned “Spruce Goose” was the largest aircraft ever built.
But Hughes’s personal designs became his downfall. His wealth, fame and success removed all the obstacles that might otherwise have prevented him from shaping his world according to his own preferences. He started to become eccentric in 1946 following a plane crash that nearly killed him. After his hospitalization, he ensconced himself in a film studio near his home, where he told his aides he wanted to screen some movies. (Hughes was, among other things, a film producer.) Hughes remained in the studio’s darkened screening room for more than four months without ever leaving. He subsisted exclusively on chocolate bars, chicken and milk. He relieved himself in the empty bottles and containers. He sat surrounded at all times by scores of Kleenex boxes, which he continuously stacked and re-arranged. He wrote detailed memos to his aides on legal pads instructing them not to look at him, to speak to him only when spoken to. Throughout this four-month period, Hughes sat immobile in his chair, often naked, watching movies continuously. When he finally emerged in the spring of 1948, it was discovered that he had not bathed or cut his hair and nails for weeks.
During the second half of his life, Hughes was completely overtaken by his obsessions. He insisted on using tissues to pick up objects in order to protect himself from germs. He constantly noticed dust, stains or other blemishes on people’s clothes and demanded that they remove them. At one point, he became obsessed with the film Ice Station Zebra and had it running on a continuous loop in his home. According to his aides, he watched it 150 times. For the last ten years of his life, he lived as a recluse in the penthouses of various hotels, being seen by no one other than his own small staff of aides, who obtained his food and supplies and carried out his bidding. No one doubts that he was a profoundly miserable man.
Was Hughes a desperado? Yes, if we take God’s laws into account. Ironically, the desperado is every one of us without Christ―forfeiting our future and paying a fortune in the meantime, all for the luxury of having our own way. Surely the Scripture is true: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). So great is our bent toward self-indulgence that even after we have discovered the error of our ways, many of us remain enslaved to the bidding of our flesh. It is nothing less than madness.
Whoever needs more convincing about this should take a walk down to skid row and see people languishing in the gutter―who have drunk away family, friends, jobs, houses, cars and health―and still they can be seen plodding to the liquor store for more. Drugs, sex, gambling, food, work that consumes a man’s every waking hour while his wife and children wither in his absence. There are a thousand varieties of bondage. Perhaps worst of all is the illusion of control that takes hold of those who are strong and sensible enough to roll with life’s punches and master the odds. Some of them are decent, law-abiding, compassionate people who give to charity and help others. They will have the biggest shock of all when they stand before their Maker without a Savior.
The verdict is clear: humankind’s need for salvation is more a matter of medicine than of law. Many see God’s judgment against sin as heavy-handed until they realize that God himself took his own penalty for it. And what is sin except a smear on the canvas of an Artist whose masterpiece has been millennia in the making―the largest painting ever undertaken, festooned with living creatures. Sin has turned it into a drawing of people living in disease and strife and cruel hunger. But God’s vision is for a world filled with joy, health, friendships and discoveries. A place where every desire is satisfied. One day, he will bring it to completion.