A few days ago I told you about hearing “Chicago” at Friendly’s and being lost in a moment. Today I was visiting a nursing home and the same thing happened. A nursing home. Bizarre. I was gone for a minute.
My grandfather passed away last year. He lived for a few years before that in a nursing home. I found out before my visit to the home today that my dad, my sister, and I all dreamt about him (my grandfather) last night.
I’ve been thinking about Plato’s idea of the Beloved, and about how every decent pop song ever written exhibits the yearning for wholeness and completion that Plato locates in the Beloved. This is, perhaps not coincidentally, also why so many pop songs can be rendered as peans to what we usually mean when we say “God.” (Brian Wilson knew this when he talked about “Smile” 40 years ago). That’s really all I have to say about it; just that pop songs are almost invariably Platonic. Our relationship with the Beloved teaches us about ourselves, cultivates joy, and lifts us for observations of the divine. (Brian Wilson knew this when when he wrote “God Only Knows” and knew it again the first time Carl finished singing the first line).
The spiritual tension isn’t always expressed as sexual/romantic. Often it’s rendered in terms of what people usually mean when they say “platonic” in the first place. How right they are, as it turns out. All the Pink Floyd songs about Syd Barrett are about the platonic (in the popular and classical senses) friendship of Roger Waters and Barrett and then its loss, or rather Waters’ and the world’s loss of Barrett spiraling out from Barrett’s own loss of self. God, those songs are good.
I suppose you need this yearning if you’re going to make art. I suppose you need this sense of incompleteness…I suppose this is why art has become so personal and why didactic art or message art is usually bad. I suppose it’s also why you can hear and see yearning in art at all, that is, why you can receive it as such, why you can feel like you own it, why you can sing a stranger’s words and somehow still feel known and like you know. And so then art is in the intuitive, emotional knowing that we are not finished. That we lack. What it is we lack is something else. God or human other, lover, loving, love? But at least there is the knowing.