Monday, July 7, 2008

"I'm filled to the top with fear that it's all just a bunch of matter."

The most interesting person I've become aware of recently is Australian pop musician Sam Sparro. The DJs on KCRW have been playing his song "Black and Gold" a lot lately. I think it is a compliment to say that the first time I heard it, I thought it was a new Gnarls Barkley song. In other words, it's as good as the best pop music being recorded today. But then I started listening to the lyrics. And I was shocked to realize that it is about why life is meaningless if evolution is true.

Here are the lyrics:

If the fish swam out of the ocean
and grew legs and they started walking
and the apes climbed down from the trees
and grew tall and they started talking

and the stars fell out of the sky
and my tears rolled into the ocean
now i'm looking for a reason why
you even set my world into motion

'cause if you're not really here
then the stars don't even matter
now i'm filled to the top with fear
that it's all just a bunch of matter
'cause if you're not really here
then i don't want to be either
i wanna be next to you
black and gold
black and gold
black and gold

i looked up into the night sky
and see a thousand eyes staring back
and all around these golden beacons
i see nothing but black

i feel a way of something beyond them
i don't see what i can feel
if vision is the only validation
then most of my life isn't real

'cause if you're not really here
then the stars don't even matter
now i'm filled to the top with fear
that it's all just a bunch of matter
'cause if you're not really here
then i don't want to be either
i wanna be next to you
black and gold
black and gold
black and gold


It's pretty clear that the "you" in this song is God. (Though the line "i wanna be next to you" doesn't quite make sense. Maybe be means "close to you".) It's a song about trying to find meaning in an unbelievably large cosmos of "black and gold" stars. It's an existential dread that recalls Pascal's Pensées: "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me."

The philosophical claim here is that if there is no God, then life is meaningless. That's a questionable claim, but it's not crazy -- a philosopher as great as Nietzsche would agree. But Sparro's argument is based on the assumptions that (1) a world that evolved is necessarily meaningless, and (2) evolution is necessarily incompatible with the existence of God. These claims are kinda crazy. I can see no reason to accept either claim. And the second claim is positively dangerous: pitting God against science is a dangerous game that has only hurt both sides of the debate.

But things got even more interesting when I saw the video for the song. I was assuming Sam Sparro was some sort of fundamentalist Christian. (And I wanted to see what the video's director would do with the odd line about being "next to you.) But, boy, was I surprised.

You can check out the video here.



This ain't no ordinary fundamentalist -- he has the mannerisms of a (so called) "flaming homosexual"! A quick Google search confirmed that Sparro is indeed an openly gay Christian: he discusses his orientations (both sexual and theological) in this interview. It turns out that he was raised a fundamentalist -- according to his Wikipedia page, as a child Sparro appeared as an actor on the James Dobson produced Adventures in Odyssey program -- but that he developed a more conflicted relationship with organized religion after realizing he was gay. (My favorite quote: "I was always kind of a non-denominational Christian. What do you call it when people clap their hands and say, 'Yeah'? I was a Gloria Gaynor Christian.")

How many gay fundamentalist pop stars do you know? And how many of those have written catchy pop songs about existential angst? Sam Sparro is one of a kind.


1 comment:

Tamaryn said...

I found him recently too and just love the guy to pieces. Have you seen his 21-century life video? It's also a great song.

Thanks for the interview link. I hadn't read it before.