“Hatred (A Duet)” by the Kinks: What is the ultimate kink? (With help from Frederick Buechner’s “On the Road With the Archangel”)


Sometimes I am amazed when I repeatedly stumble upon similar profound thoughts in unexpected places. One recent example is my stumbling yesterday upon the song “Hatred (A Duet)” by the Kinks, and then today something that Frederick Buechner wrote in his novel “On the Road With the Archangel.”

The chorus of “Hatred (A Duet)” is wonderfully catchy and invites our nihilistic heartfelt accompaniment:

Hatred, hatred

Is the only thing that lasts forever

In “On the Road With the Archangel,” the angel Raphael enters into a meditation upon why God allows demons like Asmodeus “the Destroyer” to exist, saying

I do not know why the Holy One permits such creatures to exist because I have never spoken of them in the Presence for fear that his forgiveness of my bad taste would consume me like fire. Perhaps the light of his glory casts shadows whose very darkness bears witness to its brilliance although the demons themselves would put it the other way round, of course, and claim that it is the darkness that is from everlasting to everlasting and the light of glory only the flash of a tear in the eyes of the eternally doomed. (p. 20)

So the “tongue in cheek” question raised by the Kinks via “Hatred”, and the serious question raised by Buechner via “the Archangel,” is whether love or the light of glory are the ultimate “kink” in the universe of “hatred”. What is norm and what is aberration, in the everlasting existence?

I think that humanity naturally recoils at the suggestion, which may provide some sort of an answer in itself, namely that if such oft morally depraved creatures as humans can conceive otherwise, that there is an otherwise. But the fact that “light dispels darkness before it” does not explain the existence of the “demonic” evils we experience. What then is the answer to Raphael’s question of God’s “permission” of Asmodeus? I’ll let Buechner answer via Raphael, who of his own question says,

But such mysteries as these are not to be solved by clever words. Even the angels can only stand dumb before them.

We can only stand dumb before them because essentially, we can only stand dumb before the Holy One.

I am Raphael, one of the seven archangels who pass in and out of the presence of the Holy One, blessed be he. I bring him the prayers of all who pray and of those who don’t even know that they’re praying.

Perhaps it is “hatred” that is the ultimate kink. I think that the Kinks hope so.

Comments, questions, are always welcome!

Original Content © Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity, 2014. Excerpts, links, and reblogging may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

6 thoughts on ““Hatred (A Duet)” by the Kinks: What is the ultimate kink? (With help from Frederick Buechner’s “On the Road With the Archangel”)

  1. Louis Ogden says:

    It is ironic that I ran into the same Kink’s song yesterday as well; however, I feel that you are reading way too much into its meaning. The Kinks (or I should say brothers Ray & Dave Davies) have been well known for many years as two brothers that cannot get along with each other. The song “Hatred” is about their constant feuding – nothing more, nothing less. Of course this is my opinion and you may feel differently but I think that you are making it overly complex when bringing it into philosophy or religion. It is a song that questions whether the inner turmoil of the Kinks is the possible reason for their creativity.

    • Louis, after writing the other reply to your comment I decided to do a google search on Ray & Dave’s not getting along and it seems that it may be much worse than I thought. They both will say they have love for each other, but they don’t really enjoy each other’s company or otherwise get along with each other. I could have sworn that I heard Ray in an interview with David Dye saying that they did get along, but I listened to it and it wasn’t there. And recent interviews with Dave seem to say otherwise anyway. But I still think they use it “tongue in cheek” to make a statement that having hatred to keep people together isn’t the best way to get along. Thanks again for the comment!

      • Louis Ogden says:

        Bryan, thanks so much for your thoughtful replies. I do not know how old you are or whether you are a Kink fanatic like me but I was 14 in 1964 when “All Day and All of the Night” and “You Really Got Me” were released and they REALLY DID GET ME! Those power chords were so fresh and new that I felt almost as if I had been socked in the gut. To keep things brief, I’ve been a fan now for 50 years and have followed their music and their careers throughout. There was always tension between the brothers but especially after reading Ray and Dave’s autobiographies, I was convinced it was real. They seem to have polar opposite personalities. Confession time – I am not qualified to discuss Buechner, C. S. Lewis, or even religion in general and I hope that this confession does not cause you to think negatively of me but I am an atheist. I am not one of the angry “new atheists” nor do I associate with them as I feel they are arrogant and rude to people of faith with their “holier than thou” attitude (unusual description)!

  2. Thanks for the comment Louis. I was almost going to add a note that the song was probably mostly about exactly what you say. I also think that they sing it “tongue in cheek” which I did mention so it is meant to be humorous. On the other hand, if you listen to the lyrics there is a part where they do mention the larger picture of society, religion, and politics and thy apply the same “tongue in cheek” approach. Given their “humorous” approach, I felt it safe to say that they “hope” that “hatred” is “the ultimate kink” which simply means that I think they are hopeful that hatred is the aberration in creation. A kink is something gone wrong. I think, being that they are “The Kinks”, that they have fun taking the “alternative” points of view!

    I tried to not get to heavy, partly because I am not a trained philosopher, but when I stumbled on Buechner’s musings of how things might look from “the dark side” I thought that together with the Kinks “Duet” I could present a sort of lighthearted attempt to think about some difficult questions. If you aren’t familiar with Buechner you won’t realize that he has a wonderfully dry sense of humor, and Raphael in this novel is quite the interesting take on an Archangel. The Christian apologist C. S. Lewis famously tried to mix theology with humor by viewing things from the demonic point of view in his “Screwtape Letters.” Admittedly this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but there is an element of fun given the alternative of reading more academic theology.

    So ultimately, I was a little heavy by presenting a sort of apologetic, which operates merely by raising the question of whether existence makes more sense from the view of what is the ultimate aberration or kink, a God of glory or a demonic darkness.

    I really appreciate your comment, because there is always much more that could have been said. And the “Kink Chronicles” of their feuding is always a fun topic. I don’t think that it didn’t exist, but I think they have played it up a bit! Remember, “Everybody’s in Show Biz.”

  3. Louis, I’ve only really followed the Kinks since the early 1970’s. If you have read the autobiographies of Ray and Dave then you certainly know more than I about their feuding, which I suspected and that was why I decided to do some more research about it. As far as your “confession” I by no means now think negatively of you. You mention that you don’t feel qualified to say much about C. S. Lewis, so perhaps you don’t know that he was a “confirmed” atheist while in the trenches in WW1, but said that even so he “never sunk so low as to pray.” But sometime when he was in his thirties he became a theist and then a Christian. I also really like the writings of Mark Twain, whose notoriety was partly due to his atheism, and I am fascinated by his life. So I realize that everyone is unique, no matter what they claim to believe theologically, and I am glad to have made your friendly acquaintance! I hope to keep hearing from you but I don’t know how much more I’ll post about the Kinks. Before this little run I did on them, I had only two posts about them in a year’s time! But if I do other subjects maybe you’ll find something interesting.

  4. Louis Ogden says:

    Bryan, thanks for your kind response and your understanding. So many people are judgmental and view us non-religious folk as immoral. I can understand why when I read the books and essays of the so-called “New Atheists” like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. I enjoyed their books but I also see their own intolerance toward people of faith and that is where I part ways with them. If these authors (of course Hitchens has passed) really want to be a force in societal change, they certainly do not understand human behavior. When someone is rude and condescending to me I don’t respond to them with affection. I’ve often thought that to create a more just and egalitarian society, then secular humanists, atheists, and liberal Christians need to join forces to create a group with one voice – power in numbers, so to speak, to create a voting bloc that can help to bring about social change. Their arrogance toward people of faith is not an effective way to build any kind of coalition.

    I was brought up in a Christian home, and since my dad was career Air Force, we attended the base chapels where we were stationed. Most often, the services would be what I would call “liberal Christian.” The ministers could be of any mainstream Protestant faith – Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, etc. but never of the hardcore, religious-right that seem to me to be just as arrogant and rude as the “New Atheists.” In short, my love of science is what brought about my atheism. In my worldview there is NOTHING “supernatural.” Some might be justified in calling me scientistic as I simply do not believe things that are not factual or not provable by the scientific method. Some believe that science and religion are two widely different spheres and science cannot, and is in no position to explain the existence or non-existence of a “superior being.”

    I’m getting too deep so I’ll stop here but our “conversation” was interesting and I have signed up to receive an email whenever you post so I’ll be seeing you around. Thanks again for your kindness!

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