Sunday, September 18, 2011

Music Makes Reality?

September 18, 2011

Good afternoon, friends,

In recent weeks I have been thinking with you about the way our culture teaches us to evaluate relationships. I object to a popular idea that the culture promotes, the idea that a relationship is “good” to the degree to which the relationship satisfies our wants/needs (or—perhaps more accurately—we believe that the relationship satisfies our wants/needs). You know by now that I think this idea causes no end of difficulty and contributes in a powerful way to human unhappiness.

Some of you noted, however, that in illustrating the attitude of the culture I cited lyrics from popular music 1960-2000 to support my thesis. This is 2011, you pointed out. Has this idea changed?

Clearly, I am blessed by intelligent readers. It was a good question and prompted some obviously limited research.

I began by going on-line to find the popular song most frequently used at contemporary weddings. I thought that lyrics to such a song would provide a fair sample of the culture’s current conclusions about serious relationships.

The winner? “At Last”, by Etta James (and by a substantial margin).

Here are a few selected lines from the lyrics:

“At last, my love has come along
My lonely days are over. .. .
I found a dream that I could speak to
A dream that I can call my own. . . .
A thrill that I have never known. . . .
And here we are in heaven
For you are mine
At last.”

From my viewpoint, the ideas in these lyrics are oldies simply recast in modern music fashion.

The singer presents himself/herself as inadequate alone—lonely, needing a dream, needing a thrill, and transported to heaven by possession of this person.

The bottom line (re-phrased)appears to be that you—whoever this dream-person is—make it possible for me never to be lonely again—to be in some perfect state forever (heaven?) where all wants/needs are satisfied.

We’re sure about that? And relationship gives ownership?

And if you think I chose a biased sample, compare the lyrics of “Someone Like You,” [Adele], “You and I” [Lady GaGa], “Stereo Hearts” [Gym Class Heroes], and “Without You” [David Guetta], all from the top ten of 2011.

Reconsider with me for a moment my definition of a good relationship: “. . . [a relationship] in which the well-being of both participants is respected and nourished.”

Then think about the lyrics from “At Last”:
“. . .And here we are in heaven
For you are mine
At last.”

There is considerable evidence that what we think is what we become.

Thinking with you about the expectations for relationships we develop when we sing lyrics like those.

See you next week,

Gay

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