Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Bright Lights, the Desolate Shores

Without thinking too much about it at the time, when I wrote the lyrics for Abba's songs the message I wished to convey tallies well with campaigns launched recently by humanist organisations in the UK, US and Australia: “There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Thus spake Bjorn from Abba in the Guardian. Suddenly the devastating anti-ecclesiastical implications of Dancing Queen become clear. He also reckons the teaching of agnosticism should be compulsory in schools, in order to guard against the dangers of indoctrination. He’s battling God-bothering headmasters over this:

The headmasters also put it to me that there were plenty of famous free-thinking, prominent figures who had gone to Christian schools. But really this just annihilates their own argument. These people learned to be free thinkers despite, not because of, their Christian schooling.

One of them is particularly topical this year, 150 years after the publication of On the Origin of Species. Charles Darwin may have gone to a very Christian school but it didn't prevent him from coming up with the "best idea in the world". Nor did it prevent him from abandoning his faith.

I don’t really follow Bjorn’s logic in the first paragraph there, but his vision of a post-religious world is intriguing. A world where everyone feels like Darwin did after he abandoned his faith. What a lark, eh?

Middle distance-gazing professionals gather in conference centres to discuss painless suicide techniques. Reclining in First Class on the Eurostar we eat Asian Fusion food from recyclable boxes and tap secret, bleak poems into our Apple notebooks. A thin couple consummates an illicit affair in a wintry Norfolk beach hut; they make cold love by the Bright light of a low-energy bulb then read each other Radiohead lyrics. A botox-bloated former lapdancer stabs a fork into her poached free-range egg and hums Does your mother know? The yolk dribbles over her perfectly pink organic smoked salmon. Geoffrey Hill stops worrying and enjoys his life. A defrocked priest hangs a framed print above his Ikea bed; it depicts the London Tube map. Fluorescent tubes buzz in the clinic. A headmaster explains that existence precedes essence. The pupils respect each other’s individuality then sing the new national anthem:

Sensitive, Seldom and Sad are we,
As we wend our way to the sneezing sea,
With our hampers full of thistles and fronds
To plant round the edge of the dab-fish ponds;
Oh, so Sensitive, Seldom and Sad
Oh, so Seldom and Sad.

In the shambling shades of the shelving shore,
We will sing us a song of the Long Before,
And light a red fire and warm our paws
For it's chilly, it is, on the Desolate shores,
For those who are Sensitive, Seldom and Sad,
For those who are Seldom and Sad.

Sensitive, Seldom and Sad we are,
As we wander along through Lands Afar,
To the sneezing sea, where the sea-weeds be,
And the dab-fish ponds that are waiting for we
Who are, Oh, so Sensitive, Seldom and Sad,
Oh, so Seldom and Sad.


That’s one of Mervyn Peake’s Rhymes without Reason. It is, I think, slightly better than Matthew Arnold.

7 comments:

worm said...

You are the dancing queen, young and sweet,
only seventeen
Dancing queen, feel the beat
from the tambourine

You can dance, you can jive,
having the time of your life
See that girl, watch that scene, diggin' the dancing queen

Nige said...

Bloody brilliant, Brit! And suddenly it all falls into place - Knowing me, knowing you, A-ha...

Gaw said...

Quite beautifully sad, too.

Ali said...

You could have worked in auto-erotic asphyxiation. Other than that, 10 out of 10.

Peter Burnet said...

Understandable as atheism may be intellectually, it's quite an aesthetic drop from High Mass in Notre Dame to the annual meeting of the Swedish Humanist Association.

Gadjo Dilo said...

Yes, this is quite exquisitely written, Brit. I'm a bit of a God-botherer myself but I'm wholly opposed to indoctrination, which is why I think "Voulez-vous" should be the new National Anthem:

Take it now or leave it (ah-ha)
Now is all we get (ah-ha)
Nothing promised, no regrets
Voulez-vous (ah-ha)
Ain't no big decision (ah-ha)
You know what to do (ah-ha)
La question c'est voulez-vous

Viagra online without prescription said...

Great lyrics indeed, the words are so inspiring.