“Everything Now” by Arcade Fire (a new series of posts is starting soon!)

I have been quite dormant as far as posting regularly for the past several years. Well I’m newly inspired to post a series on all the songs on the new Arcade Fire album. Hopefully some people are still interested in this blog.

Of course the posts will consist of my best guesses as to what they are saying on the album. And certainly others may have their own best  guesses and think mine may be totally off. If so feel free to post your thoughts. And most important of all, I hope my thoughts can add to your experience of this phenomenal album.

“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.

 

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

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.” Continue reading

Wovenhand’s “Kingdom of Ice” and the Book of Job

When I heard this song I knew that the opening song lyric sounded familiar, and that it sounded very Job-like. Not too many years ago I would have found a Bible concordance and started looking for “horse” in the listings under “Job.” Nowadays google is much faster and the print much more favorable to read. The results are posted below, interspersed with the lyrics. Continue reading

Andrew Bird’s “Hole in the Ocean Floor” and the eager longing of creation for the manifestation of the sons of God

bp-oil-spill-Dave-Martin-alabama-orange-beach-shore-animals-peta-surf

I happened to be listening to this wonderful song by Andrew Bird today, and decide to try to figure out what it may be about. I discovered that the song was inspired by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that happened in 2010. Here is a link to the interview where Andrew Bird revealed his inspiration.

bird

When I learned this, and thought about his lyrics conveying the sound of “all God’s creatures…roaring again” due to another unfortunate act of man,  something that Paul of Tarsus wrote nearly two millennia ago came to mind. I believe that what he wrote in his letter to the first generation of Christian “saints” in Rome, demonstrates that ancient scripture does speak across time, with the concerns of the transcendent Creator.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (The English Standard Version of Romans 8:18-22)

Paul’s own knowledge of the groaning of creation was undoubtedly informed by several of the Hebrew prophets. Thus in Jeremiah 12:4 we read of the calamities that follow when man believes he does not need to answer to the transcendent Creator for his irresponsible actions upon the earth.

How long will the land mourn
and the grass of every field wither?
For the evil of those who dwell in it
the beasts and the birds are swept away,
because they said, “He will not see our latter end.”

While some calamities are true accidents, others could be prevented. Either way, it is no wonder that the creation groans in travail under the acts of men, while eagerly waiting for the revelation of the sons of God.

Hole in the Ocean Floor

I woke with a start
Crying bullets, beating heart
To hear all God’s creatures
Roaring again

Not a cricket was creaking,
Or a floorboard was squeaking,
And all the world was snoring again

There’s a hole in the ocean floor
There’s a hole in the ocean floor
Gonna stop bleeding alone

I woke with a start
Crying bullets, beating heart
To hear all God’s creatures
Roaring again…

Deepwater-Horizon-oil-spi-006

Please feel free to leave a comment!

BMC @ Manifest Propensity, 2014.

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