“No Cars Go” by Arcade Fire and the human desire for some other “place”

In “No Cars Go” Win Butler & Arcade Fire express a desire for a place where “no cars go.” The song doesn’t say why such a place is desired. Maybe it is a self-evident truth for our time. What does seem evident is that the desire touches upon “spiritual” or “summum bonum” issues. In a few previous posts I have presented other thoughts related to the automobile and such issues based on some things the fiction writer Flannery O’Connor has written. Ralph Wood relates how O’Connor explored the issue through her character Hazel Motes:

(Hazel Motes’s) broken-down car serves as the single sacrament of his nihilistic religion, the true viaticum for escaping everything that would lay claim on him. O’Connor was an early discerner, together with Walker Percy, that the automobile, even more than the movies and television, is the great American Dream Machine. It fulfills our fantasies of individualist autonomy, enabling us to strike out for the proverbial territories whenever the limits of social existence press in upon us. As Motes’s only sacred space, the car serves as both pulpit and residence, enabling him to incarnate his message in a life of perpetual isolation and vagabondage. (Comment on the novel “Wise Blood” by Flannery O’Connor in Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South by Ralph C. Wood, p. 169 )

essex

Hazel Motes preaching from his pulpit

Flannery O’Connor wrote of the car as the vehicle that seemingly enables self-justification for nihilistic consumerist escape from our modern materialistic world, but which falls short of the desired escape.

Fittingly, Arcade Fire sing of the car, along with other vehicles of transportation, as only capable of movement within this world of seeming nihilism. The world does not seem to contain any place beyond our limited modes of transportation and their nihilistic presence. Their reference to “spaceships” seems to expand the realm of possible nihilism, just as the Soviet cosmonauts in the sixties reported that they did not “find God” in outer space.

So it seems that Arcade Fire sings of a “place” beyond the normal realm. Are they speaking of “heaven?” They sing of knowing about this place.

“…where we know”.

Is this “spiritual” knowledge?

A place we know of in which no cars go! They seem to be bearers of good news! But, they don’t say how they know, or where exactly this place is?

“…don’t know where we’re going”

Interestingly, they don’t know where it is, but they seem to know when it is, or perhaps when it occurs. It occurs in the time

“….between the click of the light and the start of the dream”?

What does their “answer” mean? Is it merely the time of deep sleep, before dreaming, when there seems to be nothing? In the final analysis, are they still subject to nihilism?

Or is this space in time of waking, yet in the dark, when making love can seem to exclude all other reality? Bruce Cockburn sang of this space in time in his song “The Coldest Night of the Year.”

When two lovers really love there’s nothing there
But this suddenly compact universe
Skin and breath and hair

I don’t believe that “making love” or human relationships are a small thing, but are they the answer to nihilism? Many seem to live as such, as expressed in “A Farewell to Arms” by Hemingway:

You’re my religion. You’re all I’ve got.”

So does Arcade Fire believe there is a real place that “No Cars Go?” It is hard to say anything definitive, based on this song alone. But can their longing for such a place mean anything in itself? Theologians like C.S. Lewis thought so, and developed an apologetical “argument from desire” for theism as opposed to nihilism.

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; book 3, chapter 10.)

Hemingway also wrote in “A Farewell to Arms” that “all thinking men are atheists.” But Pascal the religious thinker thought otherwise.

I conclude this song merely by noting that this early Arcade Fire song is a good one, and perhaps it is even somewhat Pascalian. Could the “click of the light” indicate the limitation of human reason, while the “start of the dream” indicates openness to the “reasons of the heart” that Pascal discovered? The more I think about the lyrics, with the call in the song to “little babies, women and children, old folks,” I am led to think that the interpretations explored above fall short of the sheer drive of the song toward an exodus type movement to another type of place. The use of “dream” may throw us off as indicating unreality, but even the Biblical prophets spoke of the coming of God’s new kingdom in relation to visions of young men and dreams of old men.

Joel 2:28-29
New International Version (NIV)
The Day of the Lord

28 “And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

(See Acts 2:16-18)

Perhaps “between the click of the light and the start of the dream” does not refer to the time in which this other place occurs, but to the revelational method by which one knows about the place, i.e. the Pascalian method of knowledge.

Below is a video someone put together for Bruce Cockburn’s song referenced above. By the way, Bruce Cockburn believes in the reasons of the heart and the movement of the Holy Spirit, and does not make relationships his religion.

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.

 

Blaise Pascal and the “Summum Bonum” (the highest good)

sketch of pascal © 2007 Thomas Christensen

sketch of pascal © 2007 Thomas Christensen

“All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different
means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going
to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended
with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this
object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those
who hang themselves.”

Aristotle held a very similar view over 1000 years prior to Pascal, along with Eudoxus, who was probably the originator of the formula expressed by Aristotle:

Every art or applied science and every systematic investigation, and similarly every action and choice, seem to aim at some good; the good, therefore, has been well defined as that at which all things aim… (Nicomachean Ethics, I.1 – see 10.2 for his discussion of Eudoxus).

For the sake of brevity, I have posted a video by Christian author Randy Alcorn which present’s Pascal’s answer to the question of what is our highest good. I will post in a comment some lengthier excerpts from Pascal for those interested.

If it seems good to you, please feel free to comment!

BMC @ Manifest Propensity, 2014

“Heart of Mine” by Bob Dylan – Some good advice regarding your heart health

Proverbs 4:23

English Standard Version (ESV)

Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.”

This song of advice to one’s own heart, contains quit a few cliches, but Dylan shows that sometimes cliches can be proverbs. If we are human, we probably will admit that we wish we had followed such advice, cliches, proverbs, or wisdom. Wisdom is learning to keep the “heart of mine” in the future.

Heart of Mine

Heart of mine be still
You can play with fire but you’ll get the bill
Don’t let her know
Don’t let her know that you love her
Don’t be a fool, don’t be blind
Heart of mine

Heart of mine go back home
You got no reason to wander, you got no reason to roam
Don’t let her see
Don’t let her see that you need her
Don’t put yourself over the line
Heart of mine

Heart of mine go back where you been
It’ll only be trouble for you if you let her in
Don’t let her hear
Don’t let her hear you want her
Don’t let her think you think she’s fine
Heart of mine

Heart of mine you know that she’ll never be true
She’ll only give to others the love that she’s gotten from you
Don’t let her know
Don’t let her know where you’re going
Don’t untie the ties that bind
Heart of mine

Heart of mine so malicious and so full of guile
Give you an inch and you’ll take a mile
Don’t let yourself fall
Don’t let yourself stumble
If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime
Heart of mine

Copyright © 1981 by Special Rider Music
Alternate live version from the album “Biograph”
Heart of Mine was from the album “Shot of Love”
shot of love
BMC @ Manifest Propensity, 2014

Thoughts on Bob Dylan’s “Modern Times”

modern times cover

“Taxi, New York at Night” by Ted Croner, 1947

I recently read a book called “The Dilemma of Modern Belief”. written in 1963 by Samuel H. Miller who was the Dean of the Harvard Divinity School. When I read the following I immediately thought of the cover of “Modern Times.” Continue reading

“Way To Blue” by Nick Drake – on the longing for a way

In a previous post on Nick Drake’s song “Tow the Line” I touched on the question of what may have been some of the deeper longings expressed in that song. “Way to Blue” is perhaps even more explicit regarding his longings for a “way.” Continue reading

“The Scientist’s Prayer” by Walker Percy

Walker-Percy

Walker Percy

Possibly you have heard of “The Sinner’s Prayer” – well here is “The Scientist’s Prayer” which is an excerpt from the novel “Love in the Ruins” by Walker Percy. Possibly some people may not like it, but I enjoyed the humor and truth of human nature that it conveyed. Also, my instinct is that Walker Percy wrote it knowing his own human nature, and I also enjoyed it knowing my own human nature.

The prayer of the scientist if he prayed, which is not likely: Lord, grant that my discovery may increase knowledge and help other men. Failing that, Lord, grant that it will not lead to man’s destruction. Failing that, Lord, grant that my article in Brain be published before the destruction takes place. (Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins)

BMC @ Manifest Propensity

Comments are always welcome! Thanks!