Owen Benjamin asks about whether it is okay to listen to songs written by evil people:
I want to know — and feel free to tell me your exact opinion, because I don’t know what the deal is with this stuff — is it bad for your soul, or your mind, or your life to sing a beautiful song you like a lot that was written with bad intentions, but you see something good in it?
Keeping with some of my hypothesizing from earlier posts, my answer would be no. Go ahead and sing along.
Music — and I’m talking about the chords and the melody and the rhythm, not necessarily the lyrics — comes from an emotional source. Often times, the lyrics can give us a clue as to what the emotional inspiration was, and of course, the music may or may not actually be successful in communicating the inspirational emotion.
But think about the emotions: is any one of them always evil?
I don’t think any emotion is inherently evil. Hatred gets a lot of hate, and you could make a pretty compelling-sounding case against resentment, despair, or vengeance, but even in these latter cases, there is always an exception every once in a while.
Conversely, every emotion can be evil in the right context. Nabokov’s Lolita is the literary proof that even love is not universal, that love can be not merely inappropriate, but evil, when not directed at the right object.
Very few songs can actually convey the emotion properly, let alone the context of the emotion. What precisely inspired the emotion in the song is rarely even evident, let alone relevant, to the listener. They hear and interpret the song in a manner that is contextually meaningful in their own life. Great songs are great in part because they are broadly emotionally applicable.
As an example, consider Vox Day’s submission, U2’s “One”:
Love is a temple
Love a higher law
Love is a temple
Love the higher law
Love is a temple = Ordo Templi Orientis, an occult order to which Aleister Crowley belonged. From Infogalactic: After spending time in Algeria, in 1912 Crowley was initiated into another esoteric order, the German-based Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), rising to become the leader of its British branch, which he reformulated in accordance with his Thelemite beliefs.
Love the higher law = The Book of the Law, the sacred text of Thelema, a pagan cult religion. From Infogalactic: The central sacred text of Thelema, written down from dictation mostly by Aleister Crowley. “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.” The law of Thelema was developed in the early 1900s by Aleister Crowley, an English writer and ceremonial magician.
Now, for full disclosure, my good friend Augustus Invictus is a (former) member of the OTO and a practicing Thelemite. I myself am not, but I do not share Vox’s aversion to the practice or the order, which, from the outside, appears to suffer from exactly the same kind of division between the sane and the insane that the Christian church as a whole suffers from, in which right-thinking Thelemites and right-thinking Christians are (outnumbered) natural allies not merely in terms of politics, but in pursuit of truth and meaning, to a far greater degree than right-thinking Christians and nominal, virtue-signaling MTDs masquerading as Christians, which seem to constitute the majority of self-identifying Christians at this time. I suspect that the vast majority of right-thinking Thelemites were raised in fake-Christian or pseudo-Christian homes, and adopted Thelema in hopes that it would be more sincere that the insincere Christianity they had come to associate with Jesus.
But I digress.
The relevant point is that, as Vox Day notes, the song is nonetheless beautiful (“particularly the Mary J. Blige version”).
Why is it beautiful?
I think it is beautiful because the music captures the overall content of the lyrics, which is not occult, but is grappling with the struggles of trying to make a romantic relationship work with heavy baggage.
Incidentally, this is something that some occult practitioners try to deal with, for the same reason that it’s an issue that atheists and Christians try to deal with: it’s a common and difficult kind of challenge of immense emotional and spiritual importance. It’s a human problem. It’s tragic and perhaps seemingly hopeless, and yet there’s the yearning to overcome it because the singer and his partner only have “one life.” That’s powerful.
And here’s the thing: just because Bono happens to be the world’s biggest douche-bag doesn’t mean he’s immune from feeling (and perhaps even capturing) real and meaningful emotions that we all experience. Nor does the fact that he happens to be the one putting them to music mean that by listening to his tracks, he will infect you with his dickishness, because frankly, the music just isn’t complex enough. It only captures the emotion, and not the context that might make it good or evil.
On the other hand, get a sociopathic Schubert, or a Dark Triad Tchaikovsky, and you might have a problem.
And of course, where you do have to be on the look-out is where they put the music. If they place emotional music that cues sympathy in a film that features dozens of cute, homeless Nicaraguan infants, and then try to use that association to get you to allow millions of Muslim men into your neighborhood, that’s manipulative in a way that most songs by themselves simply cannot be, even when they try (with a few exceptions).
So is it okay to sing along with a beautiful song, even if you think it might have been written with evil intentions?
Sing along. It’s fine.
Just don’t sing such a song — even a song written with the most pure intentions — where it doesn’t belong. If you sing along with Edelweiss at the local La Raza/Coexist Conference, or heaven forbid, sing Maybe I’m Amazed (one of my own favorite love songs) to an eight or nine-year old girl…
…you get the idea.
This Post Has 2 Comments
Jacob10 Nov 2018
I’ll admit I was somewhat saddened by watching the bear’s stream. I really liked U2, and certain songs really gave me the “feelz”.
I agree with you partially, in that Bono, despite his probably deeply disturbed psyche, will inevitably still face the same spiritual problems that us (hopefully) well-adjusted people can relate with, and that this is probably why we love his music.
I guess the devil’s advocate would then argue that his allegedly disturbed psyche would have some hypothetical spillover into how he deals with these common spiritual issues, which you mentioned. I’d say thats overly paranoid, and I’d say that I also find that explanation improbable even for more gifted individuals such as Tchaikovsky. That being said, I can respect that perspective, and I wouldn’t find any big reasons to doubt the validity of any psychological evidence of such phenomena that might pop up one day. As an example – I can’t say I’d appreciate any relationship advice from Adolf(obviously exaggerating), despite any authentic romantic attachment he might’ve had towards Eva Braum.
I think pop music, in general, is much more about the interpretation you put into it. Personally, I like U2 because it gives me nostalgia. Where the artistic influence ends and my subjective interpretations starts is an open question. Though on a personal note, I can’t listen to U2 anymore without creeping suspicions ruining the experience.
Nevertheless, I don’t think I’ll be telling my father, a huge U2 fan, about this
C.B. Robertson11 Nov 2018
Fair enough. If the knowledge of an artist’s nature makes the emotional experience of listening a bad one, that would be reason enough for me to leave their songs alone. Personally, I don’t have an issue with RATM’s “Sleep Now In The Fire,” (for example), despite disagreeing with their politics, because I can see a separation between an emotion of a song and the idea that inspired it, but that’s kind of a personal preference thing, not everyone will find that separation very compelling. Your mileage may vary, as far as enjoying the music is concerned.