The song is based at least in part on theories put forward by Bill Hicks on his album 'Arizona Bay' (Rykodisc, 1997). As the sleevenotes say, "Bill had a dream that he would one day gather an army of Boy Scouts, arm them with crowbars and take them to the San Andreas Fault". The song works both as a tribute to Hicks (along with the 'Another Dead Hero' portrait in the sleeve and the samples on 'Third Eye') and an elucidation of MJK's hatred of LA's superficialities.

With massive and head-beating irony, 'Ænema' won a Grammy in 1998 for Best Metal Performance, at a ceremony held, naturally, in Hollywood. Some people just don't get it...
My personal analysis of Ænema, written while very stoned:

Part First:

I want an Armageddon

It would better than this circus

It's like a circus sideshow novelty, everyone watches, but they're a little embarresed to watch it.

Of course, like a sideshow, it's bullshit.

L.A. is the preacher, and everyone who follows culture and fashion and trends, anywhere in the world, is the congregation.

(foreshadows destruction, just a brief mention, wanting and expecting (Sodom and Gamorra? Noah's flood? more later))

Think this analogy: L.A. is the trendsetter. The music, styles, fads, big business, Hollywood, all start there. Culture isn't much more than that, so they have a monopoly (control?)

"The Latest Thing" starts in Southern California and then spreads all over the world from there. (that's why the Germans are stuck in the 80's)

The preacher/city's elite lead by example: frets for their looks, car, prozac, contract, pilot episode, etc. "You should have these concerns! These trinkets and luxuries are important!"

The congregation gets the idea of what their lives should be like. They join the circus. Follow it wherever the ringleader goes. I'd call that bullshit, wouldn't you?

"Beware! It'll happen" says the narrator.

This narrator has your attention now, listen to what he's saying, he sees what's going on. He whispers to those who'd listen that some see the end soon, death, destruction (described in detail, or maybe exaggeration) Some say it!

What the narrator feels on this is -

Part Second:

That's the bullshit as I see it NOW, now listen to how I've seen it WILL BE.

I fer one hope so. At least it would get rid of the fuckup mess we've created. It's a spreading, festering across the world controlling the willing, eager mob.

There's no way Mother Nature/God/Jesus/Allah/Higher Power/Creator will stand for this, he's gotta flush it down.

Look what we'll/he'll/she'll be flushing away!:

L. Ron Hubbard, retro, short-attention-span junkies, "hardkore niggaaaaaaas", etc.

I want to see it go, I'll dance while L.A. burns/sinks

I'm praying to God to rain, flood, flush Southern California away IT'S TIME TO BRING JUGDEMENT DOWN AGAIN! (as only tha big man can)

I can't imagine how Mother Nature could stand this, wake up!

(sounds of death and destruction)

SO:
The song is an analogy of how high fashion is just like people in a congregation following a leader. And surely God can't stand for this, his sheep straying from his teachings the same way he didn't stand for Sodom or the people of Noah's time.

Maynard's interpretation of Ænema, which is funnily enough, his own song:

"It's certainly a metaphor for change...on several levels. It's about actual physical changes in the earth which will result in spiritual growth, depending how you look at it. You can choose to see it as an apocalyptic scenario, or look at it like global awareness and realize changes in the earth are inevitable. The refrain of the song is kind of a joke. 'Learn to swim' is rather than just 'shit's hitting the fan, better learn how to swim,' but it can also be looked at as involving the whole collective environment and how all of us as individuals need to learn how to go into the deep dark waters."

courtesy of Maynard James Keenan himself and toolshed.down.net

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