October 17, 2019

"Living in a state of enquiry, neutrality and uncertainty, beyond dogma and grand conviction, is good for the business of songwriting, and for my life in general."

"This is the reason I tend to become uncomfortable around all ideologies that brand themselves as 'the truth' or 'the way.'... This not only includes most religions, but also atheism, radical bi-partisan politics or any system of thought, including 'woke' culture, that finds its energy in self-righteous belief and the suppression of contrary systems of thought. Regardless of the virtuous intentions of many woke issues, it is its lack of humility and the paternalistic and doctrinal sureness of its claims that repel me.... [M]y duty as a songwriter is not to try to save the world, but rather to save the soul of the world. This requires me to live my life on the other side of truth, beyond conviction and within uncertainty, where things make less sense, absurdity is a virtue and art rages and burns; where dogma is anathema, discourse is essential, doubt is an energy, magical thinking is not a crime and where possibility and potentiality rule."

So said the songwriter Nick Cave, responding to a fan who wanted to know if he thinks of himself as "woke" (reported at Consequence of Sound).

ADDED: That phrase! "where... absurdity is a virtue and art rages and burns." I saw it in 1993 in Amsterdam, when I traveled with a fountain pen and a notebook:

Amsterdam Notebook

That's a detail from this larger page:

Amsterdam Notebook

51 comments:

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Well, that's a fancy way to say fuck off and mind your own business...

Nonapod said...

Wow. I never knew the guy was so insightful. That has to be one of the most cogent and erudite responses I've ever heard from a rock musician. I liked some of his music. Red Right Hand is sort of a cool tune (it's the intro song to the Netflix series Peaky Blinders). But I have a new respect for him.

Mike Sylwester said...

What is a state of enquiry?

rhhardin said...

When you come to a fork in the road, take the road with the most gas stations.

Shouting Thomas said...

A songwriter has only two duties:

1. Write good melodies
2. Tell good stories

And, really, neither of these are duties.

wildswan said...

Only, if you have nothing to say then are you saying nothing? If I shouldn't listen, then should I listen?

PS There's a great PBS show "Country Music." Seems to say that country music was, all of it, about something.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Oh my. That's good squishie!

I have copied the quotation and shared approvingly and admiringly on my social media with the following personal comment:

I do believe that Jesus Christ is the way, but I also believe that he wants us to seek, find and abide with him in a 'state of enquiry' and also that he wants us to accept with serenity a world in which others must find him in their own way and in their own time. I believe that self-righteousness, no matter what the value system it is connected to, is the most evil force on earth because it cannot coexist with the humility that is necessary for learning, wonder, creativity, compassion, and true connection and understanding.

J. Farmer said...

I love The Mercy Seat by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Check out Johnny Cash's version while you're at it.

I do have one minor quibble with Nick's inclusion of atheism in the list, since I think it conflates a lack of belief in something with an affirmative belief. "I don't belief in god" is not the same thing as, "There is no god."

Narr said...

Updike (the self-described believing Episcopalian) had a character (in Roger's Version ?) muse that while doubt may make you wonder about the meat you're eating, it's certainty that pulls triggers.

Narr
Smart guy, Updike

grimson said...

If we had better and more engaging music and entertainment, people would not devote so much time and energy to politics. These people are failing us.

Limited blogger said...

Nick, simple Yes or No answer would have sufficed.

traditionalguy said...

This is where Bloom came in with the Western Cannon. He fought the woke assholes who want to erase all history so they can make it up or else.

Bill Peschel said...

I loved Cash's cover of Cave's "The Mercy Seat." The song's theme seems to align with his beliefs.

Question: Does it align with "cruel neutrality"?

Darrell said...

I can't see that fitting in a fortune cookie.

itzik basman said...

He sounds like he takes himself too seriously. Anyone who thinks they’re about saving the soul of the world does. And he doesn’t sound humble either, more like he’s humble bragging. And it’s posing to eschew all ideologies or views of the world. Kinda dumb too. We all see the world in particularly ways. We couldn’t live otherwise. Here’s a good if prosaic reason to write songs—to entertain and give pleasure to others.

Robert Cook said...

I'm not a fan of Nick Cave's music, but that's a great answer!

Danno said...

I went to Spotify to remind myself what Nick Cave and his band sounded like. Some weird shit. He is more of a narrator than a lead singer or frontman.

Danno said...

Blogger rhhardin said..."When you come to a fork in the road, take the road with the most gas stations."

Makes almost as much sense as Yogi Berra's "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

n.n said...

So, he doesn't think of himself woke, but drowsy. Good for him.

Tomcc said...

Now that is an impressive statement, particularly if delivered impromptu. Personally, I find it useful to have some convictions. In moral relativism is the decline of civilization.

Paul Ciotti said...

I wonder how the fan responded to being told that "woke" is a joke, just like any other dogma.

Patrick said...

"intentions of many woke issues, it is its lack of humility and the paternalistic and doctrinal sureness of its claims that repel"

This cannot be repeated enough.

Kevin said...

Atheists are the most religious people I know.

Martin said...

Gee, he sounds like the adult in the room.

ga6 said...

what ever sells....man

Ken B said...

Farmer
Yeah but tell that to the Dawkins/Coyne/Fernandistein crowd.
That kind of atheist holds conventions, gatherings, retreats, speaking tours. They put up billboards. There unfaithful is more consuming, tangible, and certain than the faith of most Christians.

Just an old country lawyer said...

God bless him.

daskol said...

The most discerning girl I ever fell for, way back in high school, her favorite band was The Birthday Party.

Marc said...

I like his version of 'By the Time I get to Phoenix'.

He has his dogma, though, however other it is than, say, the dogma of the Church: that he doesn't like to admit this is, however, a moral failing that he ought to examine; not that he's asking my advice, of course.

stevew said...

I have some Nick Cave in my library, it occasionally pops up in my rotation. Mostly fast forward (just mostly) when this happens, I generally find his music to be a dirgy buzz kill, regardless of my mood.

Interesting philosophy though, do like what he has to say about the woke ideology.

Phidippus said...

I like your drawings very much, Professor.

If you ever decide to self-publish a selection, I'd cheerfully buy a copy, especially if you autograph it ;-)

I may go back and read the article by the guy I never heard of, later.

Phidippus said...

Pants: "I believe that self-righteousness, no matter what the value system it is connected to, is the most evil force on earth because it cannot coexist with the humility that is necessary for learning, wonder, creativity, compassion, and true connection and understanding."

I say hear hear! Well said, and important for all of us to keep in mind.

One does not need to be a follower of Jesus to appreciate the wisdom of this.

daskol said...

Goth, never in style, can't really go out of it either

William said...

It's good that he wants to save the soul of the world rather than giving up smoking or losing ten pounds. It's important think big....I'm not a particularly religious person but I like to hear Allison Krauss sing some of the old time hymns. She really sounds like she believes in God. I don't have faith but I get a vicarious kick in listening to the music of those who do. It's almost like having a religious experience yourself without all that fasting and praying bother....Bach's music sounds like it's informed by God. There's no doubt religion has inspired some great music, but the music inspired by sex is catchier and sells better.....Stephen Foster had a terrible thirst and sold the rights for "Oh Susanah" for ten dollars. Back in those days, ten dollars paid for a three day drunk so I guess it wasn't a total waste. Liquor, God, sex, money. Music is just as likely to be nourished by garden hoses as by deep well springs.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

Artrageous!

n.n said...

Atheists are the most religious people I know.

Secularism, generally, often practiced with liberal license, which will rarely limit itself to the near-domain. A faith that conflates logical domains, often accompanied by a quasi-religion (i.e. behavioral protocol) for all seasons and reasons, and a legacy of strict ideologies that are infamous for making their intolerance known in cryptic bumper stickers and other symbolics. Theism also has its malpractice. Agnosticism, too. Principles matter.

Narr said...

I don't know Nick Cave from Adam, and all references to his work go right by me. His outlook struck me as quite balanced and humane-- artists, like anyone else, deserve the leeway to not care about things, and to create what pleases them, for reasons of their own.

Yeah, Farmer, imagine those @%$*&^ Atheists, holding meetings, and advertising, and going around like they're as good as anybody else!

Narr
Makes some folks mad enough to spit, or at least mad enough to fail to edit for sense

Fernandistein said...

...Fernandistein crowd.
That kind of atheist holds conventions, gatherings, retreats, speaking tours. They put up billboards.


As usual you're rather inventive and dishonest, since I've never done any of those things.

I just think that superstitions, religious and otherwise, are dumb ways to view or think about the world and humanity, just as Marxism is a dumb way to view economics and homeopathy is a dumb way to view physiology and medicine, and that religion doesn't qualify for an exemption from criticism.

I've never gone to any anti-Marxism or anti-homeopathy meetings either.

Does neutrality and uncertainty, beyond dogma mean that one is open to the possibility that sacrificing a goat will make it rain?

daskol said...

Art Rages is a great Goth joke. Took me a few seconds to get it and then I felt kinda stupid and terrible afterwards that I didn't immediately grasp it.

Spaceman said...

Nick Cave has some interesting music. Red Right Hand is used as a theme in Netflix's Peaky Blinders. Weird stuff.

daskol said...

Those drawings make me wish I could draw

Slip said...

Why do all doodles drawn by liberal boomers look identical?

wholelottasplainin' said...

Here's a nice pic of Van Gogh's Halloween costume:

https://www.reddit.com/r/halloween/comments/dhf31h/van_gogh_in_his_halloween_costume/

Valentine Smith said...

Never heard of him.

h said...

"Regardless of the virtuous intentions of many woke issues, it is its lack of humility and the paternalistic and doctrinal sureness of its claims that repel me...." Lack of humility and doctrinal sureness of its claims. These are the amazing points of this quotes. And it is why intelligent and ethical humans are put off by the wokeness. And the wokeness is driving some (many?) of them into the arms of Trump.

Known Unknown said...

"Into my Arms"

One of the most beautiful songs ever written.

rightguy said...

Nick Cave strikes me as a guy who considers himself an artist (and not simply a mainstream pop song writer) and he realizes (correctly) that writing about partisan political stuff is an artistic dead end. Bob Dylan realized the same thing in 1964 when he eschewed protest songs, referring to them as so much "finger pointing".

I don't know if Cave is any good as I havn't listened to him much. But he his attitude is exactly correct.

ALP said...

Finally - I knew you had noted the type of fountain pen you had in those days. Mont Blanc - pretty elite pen for a young lady!

M.K. Popovich said...

favourite song has always been Hamlet (Pow Pow Pow)... The Boatman's Call is a great album which I never want to listen to again (the saddest music), an amazing artist

Narr said...

daskol: those drawings make me wish Nick Cave could draw!

Narr
Morning, world!

Christopher B said...

J Farmer

I do have one minor quibble with Nick's inclusion of atheism in the list, since I think it conflates a lack of belief in something with an affirmative belief. "I don't belief in god" is not the same thing as, "There is no god."

Category error.

"I don't believe in God" is an agnostic.
"I believe there is no God" is an atheist.