Friday, 2 July 2010

Outside of the Inside

I've been listening (again) to one of my favourite songwriters, Richard Thompson, who is also one of the more famous Western adherants of Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam. This is one of my favourites, Outside of the Inside, from the 2003 album "The Old Kit Bag". Have a listen here.

God never listened to Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker lived in vain.
Blasphemer, womaniser
Let a needle numb his pain.
Wash away his monkey music
Damn his demons, damn his pain.

What's the point of Albert Einstein?
What do we need physics for?
Heresy's his inspiration
Corrupt and rotten to the core.
Curse his devious mathematics,
Curse his deadly atom war.

There's a message on the wind
Calling me to glory somewhere.
There are signs to deep for the dumb
Like perfume in the air.
And when I get to heaven
I won't realise that I'm there.

Shakespeare, Isaac Newton,
Small ideas for little boys.
Adding to the senseless chatter,
Adding to the background noise.
Hard to hear my oratory
Hard to hear my inner voice.

Van Gogh, Botticelli,
Scraping pain onto a board.
Colour is the fuel of madness
That's no way to praise the Lord.
Grey's the colour of the pious
Knelt upon the misericord.

I'm familiar with the cover
I don't need to read the book.
I police the world of action
Inside's where I never look
Got no time to help the worthless
Lotus eaters, mandarins, crooks.

There's a message on the wind...

He describes this song as "a Taliban's-eye view of the world" but adds that he's not a fan of any form of fundamentalism. This song suggests why and in his caustic way it serves as both a tribute and a critique. A tribute to those whose efforts have enriched our ways of seeing the world, and a critique of those who refuse to look. The works of Parker, Einstein, Van Gogh and Shakespeare, human as they were, give us little glimpses of heaven. Yet if we refuse to look, one day we may find ourselves in heaven and not even recognise it.

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