Wednesday, September 16, 2009

British Pop and Danish Philosophy

feel the rain on your skin
no one else can feel it for you
no one else, no one else can
speak the words on your lips
drench yourself with words unspoken
live your life with arms wide open
today is, today is where your book begins
the rest is still unwritten

People who are familiar with my random, short-lived obsessions for certain artists or songs might recall that around the time that I discovered the name of the song in that Pantene Pro-V commercial a while back, I developed an infatuation with Natasha Bedingfield. I've since cooled down a little, but another reason why I loved her hit single "Unwritten" was because the lyrics were philosophically enticing. There's a surface similarity between the free-spirit, "carpe diem" lifestyle that the song espouses and one of the foundational tenets of Existentialist philosophy.

Existentialism is a branch of thinking that arose in the mid-19th century as a reaction against Modernism, the Spirit of the Age. Existentialism says that one of the basic facts of life is that it cannot be understood or described in the general, abstract manner; it must be experienced concretely. This is a turn away from tradional approaches in philosophy, whose focus was on offering grand explanations of the universe as viewed from an outside perspective. Existentialism's ultimate subject matter is the existing, concrete, living, individual. It seeks to examine the facts of life from an insider's perspective; asking the traditional philosophical questions, but with a more subjective bent.

Existentialists believe that concrete existence cannot be explained in an objective, scientific, facts-based manner. Thus you must "feel the rain on your skin" because "no one else can feel it for you". In light of this, the individual and his decisions becomes of infinite importance. It doesn't matter what you should do, it's what you end up choosing to do that affects your life. In the absence of meaning and prescription, we end up creating ourselves each day one decision at a time. "Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten".

As we reflect into meaning of our own lives, "staring at the blank page before us", we can have different approaches and attitudes. The great Christian thinker, "Soren Kierkegaard", the first emo kid, and who Pyper calls the "favourite philosopher of anguished teenagers" developed the idea of "angst", or a sense of dread, insecurity, or even despair in the face of one's freedom to make one's own decisions. For Kierkegaard, the dread was a distinctly religious one, for our decision to choose Christ invites the possibility that we are wrong. To quote my favorite professor, David Aiken, "To sit at Christ's table is to run the risk that you are Judas".

There's also the absurd indifference of Albert Camus, as espoused in "The Stranger". In a "universe divested of illusions and lights", self-reflection becomes as pointless as existence in general, and thus in the end whether you make one decision or another doesn't matter.

Side comment concerning last weekend's VMS debacle: I find it fascinating that Taylor Swift's song "You Belong With Me" and Beyonce's "Single Ladies" were in the running for the same award. I can think of so many different ways in which these two music videos wouldn't even be in the same category. A few that come to mind are, "genre", "songs that don't blatantly exploit sex appeal", "songs that involve more than just three girls dancing in black and white", "songs in which the lead singer isn't wearing an asymmetrical outfit". Feel free to add some more.

No comments:

Post a Comment