Prince Philip died today. So did some Rapper DMX dude. The day Michael Jackson died, Farrah Fawcett also died. Depending on your interest, one or the other meant more to you. In general, though, I would say Prince Philip was more famous than Rapper DMX, and Michael Jackson famous more than Farrah Fawcett, at least at the time he died. I wonder if they had a chance to reflect on it, would either DMX or Farrah would have complained, “C’mon man! Couldn’t you have waited one more day to die?”. To die in the spotlight rather in someone’s death shadow. Such a curse for fame. But does it exist?
Yesterday, I read the free sample of a book called The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren, and holy fuck! Talk about a book I would NOT recommend!!! That was like an anarchist manifesto full of false promises in the blindest manifestation I’ve yet seen of faith! I read it from a mention by legendary swimmer Michael Phelps, on a pretty good episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast with him and Grant Hackett, given I have the intent to sample at least a book a week as a resolution in 2021 I’ve yet to post. Michael described it as a book he’d recommend, introduced to him by former football great Ray Lewis, who I knew was more passionate about his faith than his football. Yet, I like to learn about approaches to finding purpose in life enough that I thought I’d give it a try, even one with the Christian approach if it came via Ray Lewis and I am not religious… and am not planning to become religious any time soon. But before I get on with things, I should redeem Michael Phelps with the other book he recommended, which’s sample I also read, and have put on my “to read in the future” list. That was The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, by Mark Manson. Interesting, the two books were about the same thing, how to focus your life on the things that matter most. One was just things in a prison cell, the other was things in the rest of the world.
Mikael Granlund, a 19 year old hockey player from Finland drafted 9th overall last year by the Minnesota Wild, just scored what may well be the play of the year on Friday the 13th of May, 2011!
On the IIHF World Championship semi-final stage against the Russians, at full speed stealing the puck in the corner, then walking around a player, then having that player chase him behind the net, Mikael scoops up the puck and puts it up and under the crossbar. He scored “lacrosse style”, as some like to say, to give Finland a 1-0 lead. But never mind my description. Have a look for yourself because words don’t do this goal justice!
Life is unfair, but death can be, too.
After a life time of achievements, a long public battle with anal cancer, and a “love” story that was never allowed to be completed, Farrah Fawcett died today (June 25 2009).
However, before Farrah’s body even became cold, news broke of the death of larger than life pop star icon Michael Jackson. Jackson collapsed in his home in the Holmby Hills district of Los Angeles at about noon Pacific Standard Time. He died of what is known as sudden cardiac arrest. That’s when the heart stops beating and quivers because an artery is blocked, which could be caused by substance abuse. “Substance” includes prescription drugs, with which Michael was suspected of having trouble. An autopsy is scheduled for June 26, which should be telling. He is survived by three children and two ex-wives. [ CNN story, CNN Larry King Live interview, CBC, June 25 2009]
Now, everything from Twitter to all the news network to Facebook and such is flooded with nothing, and I mean nothing, but the life and death of Michael Jackson. Nobody gives a damn about Farrah Fawcett any more, it seems. Just like that. Forgotten within hours with one piece of news.
Such a shame. Death can be just as unfair as life.
On a different note, though. Despite Michael Jackson’s death being a big shock to the world, the scenes I’m seeing on TV is of people dancing in joy, smiling and laughing to MJ’s music. They’re not crying like the memory I have of John Lennon‘s death, having been in Canada just months when it happened and having no idea who he was at the time because children were so deprived of information in Viet Nam. Lennon’s death was a completely mysterious phenomenon to me trying to figure out what was going on, seeing repeated pictures of all those people crying and pictures of this gentle looking man with those round spectacles.
There are many reasons why people would mourn the deaths of John Lennon and Michael Jackson differently, but I’ll leave that to you. It’s definitely interesting to analyze. I just didn’t expect what I am seeing of people “mourning” Michael’s death, though I am glad to see they are celebrating his life more than mourning his death. Below is a video of Billie Jean, my favourite Michael Jackson song to dance to, and I’m going to go do that like those other people.
In the meanwhile, though, give Farrah Fawcett a thought or two, eh?
And don’t forget all those protesters in Iran, who are dying without mention but whose cause is also now lost on the media for a while. It is about the worst thing that could have happened to them and their cause, to have a pop star steal the media from them. Michael Jackson is still impacting the world like nobody can!
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 8.2
Book and Theory Background
My basic paraphrasing of the concept is this. All the songs in the world could be fit into at least one of six categories providing an evolutionary benefit to humanity, often ultimately tied to our social nature.
The book and website offer far more detailed interpretations, of course, but I will expand on my paraphrasing with each post and the associated topic.
In a series of posts, I will describe each of the six categories in brief, one at a time:
I will describe what the categories are about because they are not as limited in scope as the category names suggest. I will then supply one of my choices and ask all readers to do the same if they so wish. In the seventh post of the series, I will offer the chance to put the song choices all together so readers can read the entire set on one post. I do this because it would be a long post to describe all six categories at once, but to have all the answers in one place might be nice.
This post focuses on Songs of Love
July 30th add-on in italics, from Dan Levitin in a summary article
Love songs serve as an expression of emotion, commitment, and honesty. They play a role in mating and bonding. Love provides an evolutionary advantage because it is altruistic, and corresponds with commitment, which leads to better care of children, which is an obvious fitness advantage. With altruism, the greater good comes before the individual, strengthening infrastructure.
Some may question whether there would be much to say in this chapter because intuitively, I don’t think anybody would say they couldn’t name a “love song”. But that’s a love song in their definition, or a romantic love song, not a song of love as Daniel defined it, backed up by some very prominent names. Indeed, the chapter opens with a quote by Frank Zappa that says “Romantic love songs are a sham that perpetuate a lie on unsuspecting young kids”.
Somehow, I don’t think it stops at young kids.
Frank further follows up with “I think one of the causes of bad mental health in the United States is that people have been raised on ‘love lyrics’.”
Polar opposite Joni Mitchell then jumps in to agree with “There’s no such thing as romantic love. It was a myth invented in ancient Sumeria, repopularized in the Middle Ages, and one that is clearly not true. Romantic love is all about ‘I’ this and ‘I’ that. But true love is about ‘other’.”
And if I were anybody, I’d have jumped in to agree, but I’ll just have to agree on my blog. Songs of love by Daniel Levitin’s theory, and in the purest sense of the word, are about intense feelings for another of any kind. That could be parental, friends, god (no caps on purpose), country, idea, etc. It is about something external and bigger than the self, and bigger than even we, never mind just me, like so many love songs are often about. And it is this something bigger and external to the self, the ideals we have in many aspects of life that develops pillars in our lives and society, that help create the social structure necessary for society and raising children (along the same belief that it takes a village to raise a child).
A note should be added here to clarify that while religion is also about something bigger and external to the self, it is about a search for meaning. Love songs are about the motivation and the doing, without that greater meaning of placement, using the something greater towards creating a favourable social architecture for increasing our chances of survival and evolution.
As for how romantic love songs fits into all of this, they are just a smidgeon of songs of love, and likewise, romantic love of love in the greater sense. The world is full of bad love songs, then, if you think of romantic love songs as representatives of the love song category, for the most part. They are still important, but think of it as strength in numbers rather than true strength within for the few. Many romantic love songs are just for the here and now, to get us there and hold us a bit until either another one comes along or something else comes along to help us. I don’t mean their popularity on the charts, but rather their relevance to us for a moment. They are also an “honest” signal harder to fake than language because it’s harder to hide an emotion via a song than in speaking a phrase. By the way, keep in mind we have only had recording devices to use songs the way we do today in about 0.0001% of our evolutionary history, so the honest signal theory that we sang the songs ourselves to communicate, comparing to speech to say something, applies well to our history. Most of our ancestors could not request or play a song for someone like we can today.
To defend his point that romantic love is just a tiny part of love in the bigger sense, Daniel Levitin presented a very compelling physiological and neurological argument of how romantic love is just a chemical high. In contrast, the idea of love being about the “other” and not the self, is what truly drives us to raise our children, who take far longer and far more resources to develop into a self-sustaining adult than any other babies in the animal kingdom. Romantic love songs only use the “conveyance” component of language, the easy one to get to the here and now, not the computational component that is much longer term. Romantic love songs are about the moment, not the long-term future.
Love, in the real sense of the word that is about the “other” and not the self, is easily just as deep as religion, and the chapter shows it with a lot of deep material touching everything from the psychological, physiological, neurological, philosophical, evolutionary and other aspects of love. It is not challenging to read for reading level required, but the ideas will take time to think about and absorb if you read it seriously. Religion only seems deeper because of its theoretical boundlessness, and because simple romantic love songs have made love seem so trivial. However, I don’t think anybody would disagree that love is what ultimately binds us all together most, and to that end, the Beatles may well have been right that all you need is love. Well, maybe not all as life might still be difficult if that was all you had, but for sure, love is the most imporant thing we need.
Audio sample of songs from the Love chapter in The World in Six Songs can be found on the website. No direct link was available, but click on the Songs menu option and appropriate page number range link carrying pages 229 to 289. Please note that not all songs are meant as samples of Love songs. Some are just referenced material in the book text.
Author Daniel Levitin chose
My choice for Song of Love is
Of the many songs I love as love songs, all are of the romantic love song nature that is but a petty part of the songs of love defined by Daniel Levitin in his World in Six Songs theory. It is really tough to think of a song that unites us all in a caring cause, for the future as much as now. However, I think this one does pretty well, talking about the world, the children, in a call to action (now) for a brighter day (future). I am just very saddened listening to it to see how far Michael Jackson has fallen from a pop star with the often cited Greatest Album of All Time in Thriller (MTV, even in Apr 2009), to someone who could write a song as this, to what he is now.
What is your choice for Song of Love?
Please leave your choice as a comment.
Lyrics and YouTube/audio link would greatly enhance your answer so readers can know more about your choice. They are not necessary, though, and not possible if no lyrics or version exist.
You can include songs you wrote as a choice, too!
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 10.1